When Our Dreams and Reality Don't Match

I am a firm believer in following our dreams.  It was the essence of my quote in my senior year high school yearbook 31 years ago and I am still passionate about helping people achieve their dreams.  Sometimes, our dreams get dashed.  What do you do when you believe in something with deep conviction and passion but it doesn’t happen?
It’s time for some processing.  First, take time to grieve the loss of the dream.  It’s important to acknowledge reality and give reality its space.  Feel the sadness associated with the loss.  Notice what it feels like in your body.  Set aside some time every week where you can feel the hurt, pain and sadness of the loss.  Keep track of your thoughts.  Harness them so they stay true to reality.  Sometimes our minds can wander off into story creation world.  These might sound like, “I’ll never have anything in my life that makes me happy.”  “I’ll never find my passion.” “I’ll never be successful at anything.”  “I’ll never find my life partner.”  You know these thoughts, huh?  Most of us have them when we are hurting.  Unless you have 100% accuracy with predicting the future you cannot possibly know what is going to happen in your life.  Put a stop to the thought.  Don’t entertain it.  Every time the story pops into your head shut it down.
Ask yourself where you have some control in the situation.  If it’s a loss that you don’t have control over (a job, a relationship, a life) look at the areas where you do have control.  You can look for other employment.  You can get training to pursue a better fit.  You can, when you’re ready, get back out in the dating world.  You can cultivate the relationships you have with those who are alive.  You make choices of how to take care of yourself in healthy ways despite the loss.
Remember that you have some control.  You are not a victim of your circumstances.  You can decide your next steps.  Allow time to process the loss and get back in the game.  It might be an entirely new game.  That is simply a part of living in an ever changing world and our need to yield to reality.

Failing at Perfection?

While watching the Seahawks/Green Bay game last Sunday, a thought hit me.  These guys are the best in their division.  They train nearly every day to be the best.  They eat, sleep and breathe their profession.  Wouldn’t dedicating themselves to football result in perfect or nearly perfect games?  The obvious answer if you watched that game, or any for that matter, is no.  So, why do we expect perfection of ourselves when the professionals in any given field are not perfect?
Perfection is actually an unattainable achievement and yet we get really down on ourselves when we miss the mark on any goal or expectation we have.  Does beating yourself up help you do better?  Generally the answer is no.  There are always exceptions but eventually the exceptions implode.
So what is the goal or expectation you have missed that you are now beating yourself up?  Evaluate the goal or expectation.  Is it realistically achievable?  If you’re not sure ask a few trusted people what they think.  It might help to get some outside perspective.  If it is achievable, what is keeping you from reaching your goal?  Is it a negative belief about yourself along the lines of “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t deserve to do well,” “I never reach my goals so why should I think it will happen now”?  Start by challenging the negative belief when you notice it.
Are you trying to reach a goal alone? It usually helps if we have others either joining us or encouraging us along the way.  Back to those trusted people in your life.  Invite them to be a part of your “team” cheering you along or maybe even joining you.  Don’t have trusted people in your life?  Find them!  We were not designed to live life in isolation.  Get involved in a group and find people you connect with and, over time, can trust.
Be gentle with yourself in this process.  We can be so hard on ourselves, expecting perfection, and when we miss the mark we berate ourselves.
If you are hitting walls in this area, meeting with a coach, counselor or support group could help.