What’s the Motivation Behind Your Dreams?

This post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

You’ve got dreams for the future. Maybe they seem a very long way off—you want to own a yacht some day. Or they seem far-fetched—you want a six-figure salary. Or they seem like a lot of hard work—you want to be a doctor.

Whatever your dreams are, it’s worth thinking about the motivation behind them, because so many of us end up chasing the wrong dreams, for the wrong reasons.

What dreams are you working towards? What do you secretly wish for? Keep those dreams in mind as you read on…

It’s not about the money

I want to kick off with this one, because I know a lot of people (me included) find it easy to dream they’ll “make six-figures” or “be a millionaire”. But really, money is a bit of a disguise for what we really want.

When I dream about having lots of money, it’s not because I want to see a huge figure in my bank account, or because I want to have stacks of notes under my mattress. I don’t want money for the sake of the bits of paper, coins, and numbers—and I’m sure you don’t either.

Money is only useful because of what it can get us. I don’t know exactly what money represents for you, but perhaps it’s one of these:

  • Security: never lying awake at night worried about the bills
  • Opportunity: being able to take off on a round-the-world trip
  • Freedom: not being tied to a day job
  • Luxury: being able to have things which make you feel special and pampered.

None of those are bad or wrong things to want. The fact is, though, that just “making lots of money” isn’t necessarily the fastest way to get there.

If you really dig deep into the motivation behind your desire for money, perhaps you’ll find that what you really want is freedom—you’d be much happier if you quit your job, worked in something you loved, and actually had less money as a result.

Money can be a more problematic dream, though, when it’s tied up with motivations like:

  • wanting to impress people – maybe your parents or your friends
  • feeling that you won’t be “successful” until you’re rich.

Where do these dreams come from? They’re not really you, are they?

Chase your dreams, not someone else’s

I’m sure you’ve felt under pressure at some point in your life to live up to someone else’s dreams for you. Perhaps your dad wanted you to go to medical school, or your mom pressured you to get married and have kids.

The thing is, your motivation needs to come from inside, not from the outside world. You are the only person who can decide how to live your life—and you are the only person who can say what “success” really means for you.

I’ve struggled to let go of dreams that I held for the wrong reasons. For a long time, I was convinced that my life would somehow be magically perfect if only I could get a novel published, by finding an agent and then a publisher. Over the past few months, I’ve realized that this wasn’t really what I wanted. (And I wrote about letting go, in Why I’m Giving Up On My Dream.)

I wanted to get my novel published by a big publishing house because:

  • that’s what most writers seemed to want (I heard a lot of people talk about the same dream), so I figured I should want it too
  • I thought it would impress my writing friends.

Those aren’t good reasons for having a dream, though.

Maybe you’re thinking that one of your dreams is a bit like that. It’s something you’ve clung to because you thought it’d make other people happy, or you thought you “should” want it.

Is it time to let that dream go?

What’s your real dream?

This probably isn’t something that you can answer in a couple of minutes, but I’m hoping it’s something you’ll think about over the next few days.

What’s your real dream?

Deep down, what is it you’d really like to do? Who would you really like to be?

You might not find those questions easy to answer. Maybe you don’t think you have a dream, or maybe your dream doesn’t seem like it’s big enough or exciting enough—or it’s too big, and it scares you.

Your dream is perfectly valid—whether you want to climb a mountain, raise a family, write a novel, or simply live a quiet life.

So long as it’s your dream (not one that someone else has pushed on you, and not one which you’re holding in the hopes of impressing others), then it’s fine to want it.

If you’re feeling brave enough to share, or if you want a place to brainstorm, jot your thoughts in the comments box below and let us know what you’re dreaming of…

Ali Luke blogs about writing and life over at Aliventures. If writing is one of your dreams, check out her post Eight Secrets Which Writers Won’t Tell You.

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  1. Good point about the money – if money is a means to end for you (and you aren’t just interested in hording it), then focus on that end. There are other paths to security, freedom, quitting a job you hate, etc.

    Ironically, I know too many people (myself included, at times) who have reached a solid level of financial independence only to realize that we’re not sure what to do when we get there. Money is just a tool, for the vast majority of us. If you want to build a birdhouse, you don’t collect 50 hammers. You get one and start working.

  2. I want to start a real life intentional community of therapists who specialize in PTSD treatment – I want us to have our own flats/houses a shared organic farm, run on alternative energy sources with lots pretty shade trees… I have all mapped out… one day just wait and see!

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