Warning: This post DEFINITELY comes from a very personal place that a more cautious person would probably not post online so stop reading if you get secondhand embarrassment easily.
If you’ve ever felt like you were going to barf when someone talks about their purpose, their big dreams or their vision in life because you can’t even decide on what to have for dinner this week, then this post is for you.
I know how heavy it weighs on your heart if you feel like everyone you know has had a detailed life plan and purpose since they were 8 and you just don’t (like, not even at all).
This is something I have felt like a big old weirdo about from as far back as I can remember because I felt like I was the only person on the planet who was battling with this but over the last year or so I’ve talked to quite a few other people who admitted they had a similar struggle going on in their heads too and they felt really ashamed about it. While I hate to see people in pain, it always feels better to know that you’re not alone (especially when you feel alone). It also made me realize that this is a great topic for a blog post – since doing google searches on the subject only pull up lots of stuff that will make you feel worse.
Anyhow, let’s get into this hairy mess.
The only kind of BIG DREAMS I have are the ones where I wake up and Matthew McConaughey is not in my bed.
Dream Big! Play Big! Stop playing small! Find your purpose!
Your calling will find you! Get clear on your vision!
All you need to do is _______ to find your purpose!
Everywhere you look, there’s a message telling us how we need to push ourselves harder in order to grow, take bigger actions, play bigger and to dream bigger. That if we’re not already chasing after our lofty dreams and taking action on them every single day, then we are missing out, giving up and playing small. And if you don’t feel connected on a soul level to your dreams and purpose you haven’t been meditating or praying hard or long enough or it’s just not your time yet.
I’m sorry, but . . .
The message is that if you aren’t humming along feeling sure of what it is you want or are here for that you are doing it wrong (and that it’s actually soooo easy to do).
As someone who has been coaching for over 3 years now, I’m heavily immersed in the self-help world and surrounded by lots of people who 100% believe it’s essential and possible to to figure out and follow your dreams and purpose with a sparkling clear kale and yoga covered vision. In coaching, we’re all taught that the hard part is the action aspect – taking action on those dreams and visions. It’s really all about getting clear on your goal and then moving towards it no matter what.
But what if you are one of those people who aren’t dreaming big or don’t have a clear goal? Or if you’re one of those people who do want more and would dream big and play big but you don’t have the first clue as to what you even WANT? It’s hard to have huge ambitious goals to work towards if you don’t know what they are. It’s impossible to know what steps you need to take for your life, your business, your family or your future if you don’t have a vision and purpose. A freaking goal!
How can one take actions towards their purpose, their vision, their calling, their BIG DREAMS if they don’t know what the BLEEP they are? And why do those of us who are in this boat feel like the only person in the world who feels this way?
I know there are several of you reading this who DO feel this way and hopefully feel slightly relieved that someone else finally brought it up.
In all honesty, I don’t really dream big. I’m not playing big. I don’t have lofty goals and ambitions. I waver on what my purpose is day to day, year to year. I don’t believe we all just have one calling. I don’t have a plan for the next chapters of my life. I kind of wing things as I go and it totally freaks me out.
Thoughts about “Where am I headed?”, “What’s next?”, and “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” plague me constantly. Always have. It’s really annoying because since I work in the self- help kind of world, I’m supposed to have all of this stuff totally worked out, right?? HAHAHA! (Thankfully coaching people doesn’t require that you have all the answers.)
It’s such a strange thing to talk about in this realm, that anytime I admit these thoughts to someone in my field they look at me like I just told them I have a dead body in the trunk of my car. They think I’m totally crazy and they just want to get as far away from me as possible.
(Calm down. I don’t even have a trunk on my car!)
If you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you’re like me and feel like you’re a creepy defective anomaly among a world full of mom’s who know their purpose is to be a mom, entrepreneurs who have a clear vision of taking their brand to the international stage, and peers who knew from 7th grade that they wanted to be an engineer and then went for it, never questioning it for a second.
No, you don’t feel like a weirdo or that something is wrong with you? Good for you, but why are you wasting your time reading this? Go act on that vision you are so sure of!
As I said at the outset of this post, this is for folks who are feeling alone for not being clear on their dreams and purpose in life but I also want to share some of the reasons I’ve uncovered why this has been a struggle for me and a few things I’m doing to change it and / or accept it so that I can live my life without worrying about not doing it right.
The only VISION I have is the kind that allows me to take in all the gloriousness that is RHONY and GOT.
I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life worrying about this and feeling like something was wrong with me because I don’t have the clarity and drive that so many others around me have.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hard worker, detail oriented, reliable and creative and there are a lot of things I’m really good at. But ask me to choose one direction to head in, and I suddenly feel like my chest is being crushed by a ton of bricks or that I’m going to puke. I can’t. I won’t. Don’t lock me in.
The purpose, vision and dreaming big stuff all boils down to not really knowing what I want. And if I don’t know what I want or where I want to go, then how the heck am I supposed to go there? If I don’t know where I’m going, I could end up anywhere, so every choice I have to commit to feels wrong. (You too?)
I remember being a kid and people asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up or what I was thinking about majoring when I went to college. I never had an answer that felt even remotely right. I couldn’t visualize my life beyond a certain point – I remember feeling superstitious that because I couldn’t see my life at 20, living in the real world, working a “real” job etc that it must mean I was going to die before I was 20 (geez, I’ve always been morbid, huh?). I can’t tell you how many times I repeated that to friends (but somehow I hit 20 and have kept going, visionless and all!). And since everyone around me felt entirely different and had these big ideas and plans and goals, it reinforced the confusion I felt.
I only started to understand some of the real reasons I don’t have big dreams and I don’t have a clear vision / goal very recently. They are (in no particular order):
I’m turned off by the play big / dream big message out there. My life is more than a 6 figure salary, a fancy car etc. Play big / dream big seems to be messaged in a way that conjures up images of material things that prove success. I love me some nice things, but to me playing big / dreaming big is dreaming of being happy and that is more abstract. And when I get turned “off” by something, it’s like a massive wall goes up around me and there’s no obvious way out.
At least that’s the story I’ve been telling myself for decades. It’s kind of like when I don’t like someone. There aren’t a lot of people I don’t like, but the small handful that I don’t – oh man, my dislike is so palpable when I’m in the same room as them and there is nothing they can say or do to change my feelings about them once I get there. I am as hard and cold as ice. Probably harder, because I don’t melt. Wall up, no way in or out. Walk away!
What my solution to this is: I’m trying to remember that being so closed up isn’t benefiting me. Trying to stay more open. I’m an adult, I can create and make meaning the way I want to.
Somewhere along the way I stopped dreaming or allowing myself to dream. I can’t pinpoint what it was or where it was (it doesn’t really matter) but I internalized the idea that things that were really hard and not “fun” were rarely worth doing, that I’m not as smart as I think I am, that I’m fickle and get bored too easily to stay on one path. I need instant (or at least pretty soon) gratification. Work without reward leads me to burnout and boredom. I also fear getting too involved in something and wanting to back out.
Even the decision about having kids has always felt out of my reach – my answer wavered from yes, to no, to I just don’t know. Even as the clock is ticking and time is running out on that, that feeling of “should we or shouldn’t we?” is still kind of there and I’m not compelled towards either direction. If someone asks what my long term visions are for my business, I say I don’t know and I’ve been saying that since I started. Tell me to create a vision board and I will roll my eyes and say no. If you ask me where I want to be in 5 years, 10 years, what I want to be doing and what my life will look like, I don’t know. I’ve been telling myself “I don’t know” for so long that I’m not sure there was ever a time where I did know. There might have been, but it’s been silenced for so long that even hearing a glimmer of that voice is a challenge.
What my solution to this is: When my instinct is to think or say “I don’t know” in response to some of these big questions, I’m turning it around and asking “If I did know, what might my answer be?” This isn’t giving me some loud and clear cut answers that I wanted to have decades ago but I’m asking it because I know that we have to put the brain to work in order to get it to help us. If I say I don’t know, I’m not giving it anything to work with, but if I ask a question, I give my brain some work to do and it can go uncover answers for me while I’m living my life.
I react quickly rather than sitting with an idea for a bit. I may seem really wishy washy by all my “I don’t know” to life’s biggest questions, but ask the people closest to me to describe me and some of the words you’d hear are “opinionated” and “stubborn”. I may know not what I want but I am clear and vocal on what I don’t want. If I express frustration or unhappiness with an aspect of my life or business and you give me a solution, I’ll have at least 2 or 3 reasons why that isn’t for me before you even stop speaking, haha! It’s not my best quality, that’s for sure but I hold tight to it because knowing what I don’t want feels like I’m at least crossing stuff off the list in the hopes that what is left will be the “right” stuff.
What my solution to this is: I’m working on not reacting and saying no so quickly. I used to be really bad at saying no (I think we all are) but I’ve gotten so GOOD at it over the years that I spit it out sometimes before I’ve really had time to digest the possibilities. This means I’m shutting things down when really I’m in a place where I need to be opening up instead. Pausing. I need to pause and let the words and thoughts enter my brain for a bit. Instead of saying no automatically, I’m trying “I’ll think about it”. Being open to leaving things open ended.
The only PURPOSE I have is to find and create happiness where I can.
If you worry about not having purpose, a calling or big dream, one thing to realize is that this is not a horrible problem to have. It’s actually a luxury to be able to worry about this kind of stuff.
Let me explain that before you give me the middle finger.
To struggle with worries about purpose, vision, calling, dreaming big etc. means that all your basic needs are met. If I was out having to hunt for food and haul water for drinking, cleaning and cooking and keep a fire going all day just to have my basic essential needs met, I would not have a single thought about what my vision for my life’s work is. If I lived in a war torn country and had to flee for safety, I would not give a shit about playing big or what I was going to do in 5 years. Worries about purpose come along because we are fulfilled, secure, and satisfied in other areas and we have the freedom to look for “what’s next? What else is there?”
I am incredibly grateful, humbled and thankful for all that I have. My bills are paid, I’m healthy, my husband is healthy, we have a warm and safe home, we have heat, food on the table (so much food!) and we even have lots of extras that we don’t need – good wine, free time, vacations, hobbies, toys etc.
We even have the luxury of paying someone to plow our driveway when it snows, mow our lawn and pick up our trash – normal day to day stuff we used to do ourselves that kept us too busy during our free time to think about this purpose crap . Life is good, we’re safe and I recognize that blessing every day.
Know that if you are out there struggling and worrying about your own lack of vision, big dreams and soul consuming purpose, you are not alone.
I feel it too. And I have clients and friends who struggle with it as well. It’s just that most people don’t talk about it or they are dealing with much bigger problems that threaten their daily wellbeing, safety and security.
It may not be much of a consolation but if you don’t have a plan, a clear vision, big dream or know what purpose you’re on this planet for just know that it’s really ok and that there is nothing wrong with you.
If this is a subject that weighs heavily on your heart, here are a few last reminders and takeaways to keep in your back pocket:
- It’s ok if you’re not dreaming big. Remind yourself that if you are worried about this stuff it’s partially because shit is good and you have the luxury to worry about it.
- If you’re not dreaming big, but want to and feel like “I don’t know” is your go to whenever questions about what you want come up, try asking “If I did know, what would it be?” Put your brain to work. As a reminder of this, I made a new desktop wallpaper for my laptop that I would see everyday. It says “What is the story that I’d love to see unfold in front of me?” and “If I did know my purpose, what could it be?”. Just seeing this every day reminds me to stay open and more kind to myself.
- Go easy on yourself. At the end of our lives, no one is going to come to your wake and talk about how big your bucket list was or how early in life you figured everything out. Instead they’re going to talk about your heart, your soul and how you made people feel.
- Try not to react so quickly with “no” and try not to wall up around people or ideas that don’t sit well with you initially. Try to remain open. And if you’re closed off already, take baby steps towards opening back up. You never know what opportunity, hobby or person you might come across that could help you see things differently!
- Spend as much time as you can doing things, spending time with people and taking in experiences that provide meaning for you. You decide what that even means.
- Please remember that you are not alone. Lots of other folks are struggling with the same feelings you are but they just don’t talk about it! I’m sending you love and a big hug if you are going through this.
Lastly, does this resonate with you? Does all the vision, goals, dreams purpose talk make you want to barf too? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
I read your blog on not having a big dream. Didn’t enjoy it. Yes many are confused but your article did little to comfort or provide an positive suggestions. I just think you were doing all a favor by writing this unecessary viewpoint.
Hi Ralph! I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this post! My purpose with sharing this wasn’t so much to provide positive solutions for this struggle but more to let others know they aren’t alone in feeling this way by sharing some of my own challenges-since this is something that I still am battling personally. The only solutions I have for this particular “problem” are to try to stay open and to also accept that even the struggle is part of the journey. If I had all the answers to solve the purpose question, I would have written a different blog post. Hope that clarifies my intention for you. Have a great day!