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How do you know when it's time to stop following a dream and find another?

No one wants to be a quitter, but it also takes a lot of character to acknowledge that your capabilities will only take you so far.

When I was 10, I dreamed of being an olympic gymnast but I later realized that it was too late to build enough talent and strength to compete (esp. since I didn't have Superman genes). I've gone through a graduate program and 4 years of work experience that have given me professional stability in a career path that interests me but doesn't ignite my passion... should I throw in the towel, start over and say the past 4 years and grad school were just a bad investment, or just be content with my success and stability and refocus my energy on personal hobbies?

Tenacity is such a great asset, but sometimes we must accept that some things really are out of our reach. Everyone is talented in their own ways, but not everyone can be an olympian, president or a billionaire... how do you know when a dream is just a dream?

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    Feb 27 2013: Posted this in another thread...

    I can tell you what I do, actually have done several times throughout my life. I understand the feeling of being 'stuck.' That restless feeling that comes with questions like, "Is this all there is?" and "Why am I not happy?" and "I really don't like what I am doing now."

    When I get that feeling I start looking towards the 'horizon.' I can't explain that any better. But I start putting myself in new situations professionally and personally. If I do not like practice perhaps I should explore politics. Or maybe finance. All of this is done with hard soul searching and connecting what I enjoy with what I do.

    After doing this several times I have come to the conclusion that I am in training now, for what I am to do next. This little truth has held up through several career bending events. I could never do what I do now without having made certain decisions. Even though, at the time, I would never have pictured myself in this position. It was really more of an experience of walking through doors that opened at the right time. But you have to watch the horizon for the doors.

    I know that may be wackadoodle mystic stuff but it is the best I can articulate it. Be patient, watch for opportunities, and strategically place yourself in positions for future growth. Even if you have to pause in those positions for a while.
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    Feb 28 2013: I guess the dream will tell you when. Or you can listen to this
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    Feb 28 2013: Seems to me you have two or three different, interesting conversations going on here. But it's a little mixed up.

    It always seems worth saying that life is like nature, nature never wastes anything, and the education you have acquired will not be wasted, even if you change careers. For example, if you are currently an accountant and you are not passionate about it, and you decide to go back to school to become a biologist, surely you will use some of what you learned in accountancy in your biological pursuits, even if it's just what you know about record-keeping, for example.

    I would think life would give you constant clues about how realistic your goals are. For example, if you want to be a world-class athlete but you keep placing fifth or sixth in competitions, that's a clue you might not have well-placed ambitions. And yet, I suppose people can do poorly for a while and suddenly escalate to a higher level, and I'm not sure how you would predict that. It does indicate that you should enjoy the journey as well as the destination, in other words if you enjoy a sport whether you're placing highly or not, you could keep doing it hoping you will get better, but even if you didn't get better you wouldn't consider it time wasted. However, it's okay too if all that matters to you is the goal, then you have to keep watching the signs to see if realistically you can expect improvement, but you can also tune in to your intuition, perhaps your intuition is right and you will suddenly get better. Maybe the answer is you never know for sure if it's time to give up a dream, you only make your best guess.
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    Feb 27 2013: if the dream is to be redundant, it's time to find another….giggle….sorry couldn't resist
  • Mar 15 2013: There are may compromises in life. The ability to pursue dreams is bound by your means, your needs, your passion, your responsibilities, and your imagination. The decision to pursue as a hobby or a single all consuming pursuit might be one of these compromises. Pursuit of dreams often involve sacrifices. Are you willing to sacrifice the lifestyle you have worked to achieve in pursuit of this dream? Can your dream be built on your prior work? Are there other things in your life that might be the reason for the diminished passion? Will they still be there after you pursue the next dream?

    A stable lifestyle enables you to be in control of your life and pursue your dreams within limits. Throwing this away might prevent you from reaching your dreams and make you life miserable.

    It is a big decision. You might talk to someone that has reached the dream you seek and ask if they would do it again, or if they would give-up what you will give up to reach the dream. Might also be a good thing to talk about with a respected family member or friend to get a reality check.

    Only you can answer the question, but look at the decision from all perspectives before making an impulsive jump.
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    Gail .

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    Feb 28 2013: It is time to change it when it is no longer fun and/or inspiring.

    But just because you have "outgrown" a dream, doesn't mean that your effort is wasted. I learned a lot through my secret dream of being a concert pianist - though my parents wouldn't allow me to practice for more than a half-hour a day because we were so many children in such a small house. I learned that practicing in my bed before sleep - practicing only in my mind - cause me to play much better in far less time. Now I apply that little tidbit in so many areas of my life. I still enjoy my piano, but I don't pretend to be able to become a concert pianist - unless the concert is for friends and family.

    Please get rid of the notion that your efforts are wasted. Those with the most satisfying lives are those with the broadest base of knowledge (thus those with the most opportunities). Learning is never a waste. Settling is.
  • Feb 27 2013: I'd say so yeah. There's so much more to life than just the professional field/workspace. My dreams have nothing to do with my future job. (I'm a college student.) I dream about being the greatest dad the world has ever known. I think that means a lot more than just being famous. But whatever those dreams are, if they're not working out review them. Hold planning sessions with yourself. Set goals, measure your progress, evaluate where you are and where you're going. Sometimes you might need a course change. Nothing wrong with that. I'd just recommend dreaming about what kind of person you're going to be, not what you're going to do. Then you're not limited by money or situation.
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    Feb 27 2013: Can you pursue your now strongest interests alongside your work, either retaining your current hours or cutting back your hours? Many people cultivate a new career or entrepreneurial undertaking alongside other parts of their lives rather than dropping one and investing entirely in the other.

    At some point your budding undertaking may be at a level that allows you to switch entirely to that if you so choose.