Letting Go of the Societal Pressure to Pursue Your Dreams

August 31, 2019

I had a fascinating discussion with my colleagues a while back. It started when one of them asked, ‘What did you guys dream of becoming when you were younger?’

As children, most of us dreamed of becoming artists, doctors, teachers and so on. Yet here were were, working as financial research analysts for this big multinational corporation. Nobody dreams of doing this job, not because it is not interesting or valuable, but because nobody knows it exists.

Since early childhood, the obscure idea of ‘pursuing your dream’ has been planted in our minds. It has infiltrated our upbringings. It is a question we get asked at school by our teachers and at home by our family members, ‘What do you want to be when you are older?’

I am no longer working that analyst job. After working there for four years, I resigned this month to continue my postgraduate studies. When my friend found out, she immediately asked if this was me ditching the corporate life and finally pursuing my dreams. That made me think: was it my dream to further my studies? Not really. Was it my dream to work in a field more suited to my interests? I don’t know. The word ‘dream’ feels heavy, it almost sounds TOO big.

Whether it’s in the movies we watch or the books we read, we are constantly being told to pursue our dreams. This is undoubtedly a good message for young children and adults. However, when we link that dream purely to a career path or field, that is when it becomes risky. If you have always wanted to be a doctor and are now practicing while loving what you do – then perfect. But there are countless number of reasons people take up a job OTHER than to pursue their dreams.

All this ‘pursue your dreams’ business that was drilled into us as children has now put pressure on the working adults we have grown to become. Now we have to find fulfillment and satisfaction from our work because that was our driving force for the past decade. It seems like the fulfillment should not come from our lives, relationships, hobbies or passions, but from our work -which is not always possible or practical.

Reality is that dreams can change over time. Someone who spent 10 years studying and working in the design field could get up, look around, and realize this is not for them. Or that this is not paying their bills. Or that the work they are doing is not as satisfying as they thought it would be when they made the decision to do it at fifteen years old.

It is time to start reflecting on this. Is there a lack of satisfaction and fulfillment in our workplaces because people are just resenting the fact that they are sitting here in an office instead of being out there ‘pursuing their dreams’?

Letting go of this societal pressure to pursue your dream is the first step to save yourself from feeling dissatisfaction in your work and life. It is important to do what feels right to you, not what people think you should be doing. Even if that means working a ‘boring’ corporate job to pursue your creative passions on the side or being a stay at home parent because your dream is to raise good children. It is perfectly fine to not even have any dreams besides living a good life and being a good person. It is time we stop putting so much importance to the notion of pursuing dreams, and instead focus on being happy and fulfilled individual on our own terms.

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