Somewhere along the way, and I’m not sure exactly when, we lost our drive to do better; to be better.
We are products of the world we were brought up in. A world that celebrates mediocrity. A world that has done away with friendly competition and replaced it with a “participation awards” mentality. A world that has gotten so stuck in the cookie-cutter “American Dream” pipeline, that we’ve quite literally forgotten what it means to live.
Go to high school. Get your diploma. Go to college. Get your degree. Get a well-paying job. Have a stable relationship. Get married. Buy a house. Have children. Raise them right. Retire...die.
It seems as if over time we have streamlined life. We’ve poked and prodded, and chipped away here and there to create a formula for success. A formula that through trial and tribulation, has been optimized for efficiency and effectiveness and drilled into our minds so deep that we subconsciously go about our days without ever really realizing we are succumbing to it.
Let me preface by saying I too fell victim to this societal standard. I graduated from prep school. Went to college. Landed the dream internship. I spent my days working hard under the notion that it was all for my future. I graduated. I got my degree and numerous academic awards to go with it. And then as I was about to walk across the stage and shake the hands of my school’s President and the various Trustee’s, something happened. Something clicked.
As I stood there waiting for them to call my name, I thought about how I didn’t have a job lined up and I wasn’t in a serious relationship with anybody and I had no idea what I was going to do come Monday morning, I realized that that’s how it’s supposed to be. There is no predefined “next-step,” though decades worth of societal expectations would have you think otherwise.
Life is supposed to be this crazy, overwhelming, scary, heart-pounding adventure, isn’t it? And some might think I’m crazy and living in some romantic fantasy world, but isn’t that the point?
When you look back through history and reflect on the people who really lived; the ones that changed the world, or invented something revolutionary, or traveled to and discovered unknown places, etc. Do you think that they dreamt of financial stability? Or a house with a picket fence? Or a husband/wife to come home to? Probably not.
I’m not saying that all of those things aren’t important, because they absolutely are. But they are not worthy of a dream. Dreams are meant to push limits. They’re meant to motivate. To inspire. To give you something worth fighting for when life’s got you pinned. They’re meant to make you feel alive.
Without a dream, you’re simply wandering through life only to arrive safely at death -- and where’s the fun in that?
A dream is not financial stability, or a picket fence, or a loving spouse; those are simply byproducts of living your dream.
Stop succumbing to the pre-defined, safe, lifeless formula that we’ve disappointingly accepted, and start writing your own.
Dare to dream. Dare to live.