When Dreams Don’t Come True

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When Dreams Don’t Come True

It happens—and more often than we’d like. Sometimes dreams don’t come true, no matter how hard we work towards them. So, what then? What do we do when what we’ve been dreaming of and striving toward fails to materialize?

Perhaps we should start with what not to do: Dwell on it.

I’ve been (so incredibly) guilty of this. Oh, when I think about the time and mental energy I’ve absolutely wasted simply wanting things to be different, it just makes me ill. The truth can hurt, especially when it flies in the face of what we’ve been focusing on for so long. But denial does nothing productive. It just wastes our resources—internal and external. It can be painful and difficult, but acceptance truly is our ally. The sooner we can accept the reality of any situation, the more quickly we can take action to change it.

Here’s what comes after that‪…

Own only your part of it.
It’s easy to fall into the habit and trap of blaming ourselves. But everything is never in our control. Instead, focus on looking at the situation more objectively. Think about why things ended up the way they are. Then, carefully consider what you may have been able to do differently. Use this information to empower you to move forward.

Allow yourself to feel so you can heal.
Sure, it’s important not to dwell on the current circumstance. But it’s equally important to adequately grieve the genuine loss of what you wanted and likely worked very hard toward. You’ve suffered a loss. That hurts. Don’t shove that pain down. Instead, allow yourself the opportunity to feel it, so that you can (really) move past it.

Dream a new dream.
What’s done is done, but that doesn’t have to be an entirely bad thing. Instead, embrace this as an opportunity, the chance to dream a new dream. Set yourself up for success by learning from what happened last time. After all, you’re no longer starting from scratch. And what a wonderful relief that can be. Savor this truth as you put a plan in place to move forward toward new goals.

Devise a plan to get there.
As you recover from the loss of one dream, don’t leave achieving your new dream to chance. Be purposeful. Plan it. Create your own GPS system to get you there: Goals to work toward, Purpose and prepare to achieve them, Strategize in advance about what to do when things don’t go quite right. (But now, I’m getting ahead of myself because that’s the next step.)

Craft a contingency plan.
No one knows the future, but there’s one thing we can all count on: Things will never go completely as planned. Plan for this. Consider in advance what you can do when hurdles inevitably pop up. This can be as small as knowing in advance what you’ll say to yourself in the moment or as big as knowing who you can call on for help. A contingency plan can make the difference between stopping entirely and pressing on towards your goal. Don’t get going without it!

Commit to keep going.
None of us know what we’re truly capable of until we actually do it. So, don’t sell yourself short. Keep going. Remind yourself of all the times you’ve conquered challenges in past. Then, commit to making this time one of those success stories, too.

Strive for sustained momentum, not spurts of movement.
Okay, here’s the kicker: Any movement is often a good thing. You’re never truly stuck unless you’re completely static. But a slow and steady pace is often much more efficient—and far less tiring—than bursts of efforts and energy. The latter just isn’t sustainable for very long. Watch your efforts and how you work. Be mindful of and make efforts to avoid burnout wherever and however you can. It could well make the difference between attaining this new dream or finding yourself back at the top of this list.

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