The Number One Dream Killer: Doing What Works

[Note: This is the 2nd article in the series How to Make Your Dreams a Reality.]

I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life doing what works. I can’t count how many times I’ve used this excuse to stall pursuing my dreams.

  • I went to college because that’s just “what works.”
  • I go to a job and sit in a cubicle for 8 hours a day because “it works.”
  • I don’t work on the weekends because I feel I need to reward myself for a week’s worth of drudgery. I have to say… “it just works.”
  • I do the expected things. I try to make art because I’m supposed to be creative. I read because I’m supposed to learn. I dress a certain way because I’m supposed to be cool.

It’s not working.

I’ve previously written a lot about the importance of following your own path and not living life based on a template. The truth is, it’s damn hard not to. The few of us renegades that have evolved past living based on conventions and social norms are trying to keep our heads above water. But the mainstream, the sea of “what works,” seems to keep pulling us back under.

The mainstream isn’t working for me (in fact, I can’t remember a time it did). Common sense isn’t working for me anymore either. I don’t need to do things that are common. I don’t need to do things that make sense to other people. I don’t need to go with the grain. I don’t need to take the path of the most resistance. I don’t need to follow the leader. I need to follow myself.

Doing what works is killing our dreams because we have this expectation to follow a pre-planned life.  All throughout our schooling we’re taught the same things. We’re given a template for life that just doesn’t match up with what we really want.

It doesn’t match because it’s a template.

We may never find the job of our dreams. We may never find anyone who can answer our deepest questions about life. We may never have anyone show us how to live the lives we imagine.

We won’t find it because it’s not us. The only one who can answer those questions is really ourselves.

So if we want to make our dreams a reality, we have to stop doing what works. We have to abandon the mainstream and embrace the unstream. This means that we have to:

  • Take risks and possibly make a fool out of ourself once or twice (or 200 times).
  • Make things up as we go along and generally have no idea what how we’ll get to where we want to go. We just know that we can’t settle for anything else.
  • Listen to our hearts. See with our hearts. Feel with our minds.

All of this is hard because it’s so easy to do what works. It’s so easy to follow the path that’s already been paved.

It’s not as easy to do what’s never been done. It’s not as easy to follow your dream of becoming a blogging entrepreneur on collectible 16th century mushroom lamps when no one else has ever done it. It’s not as easy to create a job for yourself, when you could just as easily fill out an application for one that already exists.

So if you want to make your dreams a reality. You’re going to have accept the fact that you’re going to have to be your own boss. Instead of following the rules, you make up your own rules.

Following the unstream

This past February I started this blog. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had experience as a web designer, but I barely knew what a blog was. I found a lot of hype online about making money from blogs and I got excited. I thought that maybe this would be my ticket out from the 9-5 grind. Then I got a reality check. I found that most blogs never make any money. Even more discouraging was the discovery that most blogs that make money, are about how to make money online! People are willing to pay money to learn how to make money. But people aren’t as willing to pay for information on a blog. That’s why it’s a blog. It’s supposed to be free, right?

I realize that in order to make a living blogging, it takes a long term investment. It also takes a willingness to accept a lot of strange looks when you tell people you’re trying to start a business blogging. People will doubt you. They’ll think you’re crazy. They’ll tell you that you don’t know what you’re doing.

And you know what? You probably don’t know what you’re doing. I didn’t. I still don’t. Life is a messy business and trying to have everything figured out in advance is likely to bring more stress than it relieves.

Knowing what your doing has to no longer be a determining factor in the pursuit of your dreams. I don’t know what I’m doing. All I know is that I’m not doing “what works” anymore. I’m doing what works for me. I’m following my own heart, my own path to happiness, wherever that may lead me.

I’m trying my hardest to overcome the voice of practicality. It’s difficult sometimes going to a 9 to 5 and running this blog at the same time. But I would rather be doing that, not knowing when my dreams will be realized than accept just doing what works.

If you’re off the beaten path, you may be lonely. But that’s a good thing. Because when you know you’re treading uncharted waters, you’re following the compass of your heart.

For more ways to not kill your dreams subscribe to Illuminated Mind.

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