Following your dream isn’t always an easy road. Anyone who’s tried it will tell you it usually involves a lot of hard work, difficult decisions, and some sacrifice.
The road often isn’t a short one, either. It can be filled with dead ends and detours, forcing you to backtrack, or find another route. Sure, there are shortcuts, but they usually don’t end up where you wanted to go in the first place.
So if success is the ultimate destination, how do we know when we’ve arrived? This might seem like a simple question, but with all the winding pathways, I’ve found it’s easy to get lost. Here are just a few of the obstacles that can get in the way:
Missing the Narnia Exit
I’m probably not what a lot of people would consider a ‘successful’ person. I only have a basic day job for paying the bills, I don’t own a house or car, and I’m not interested in having children.
Yes, I could have a better job than I do right now. In fact, I have had a much better job. I made way more money, had benefits, and was moving up the corporate ladder. But I chose to leave it all behind.
I hated the three hour commute, and was becoming increasingly miserable with the ongoing office politics I had absolutely no interest in. Besides, while on the surface, it looked like I had a career going, in my heart it had always just been a job. Writing was what I had always really wanted to do.
A lot of people don’t understand this. They see my day job, lack of house, car, baby, etc., and seem to judge my life on these facts alone. They’re not interested in the books I’ve published, my wonderful relationship with my amazing, supportive husband, or my long term plans. Where I see a gateway to a magical realm, they see only the inside of an old wardrobe.
This shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. The mindset of ‘success now, happiness later’ is so prevalent and insidious, it becomes difficult not to give in to things like…
The more time we spend at a job, the more it becomes a part of our identity. Strangers ask the inevitable question: “So, what do you do?” and we find ourselves answering with our job title instead of the dream we’re really working toward.
It’s a slippery slope. The more time your job or career takes up, the more difficult it is to squeeze in work on what really matters. The next thing you know, you’re questioning whether you’re really a writer at all.
The outside world doesn’t help either. Those people who are judging you purely based on what little they know of your current situation can make you wonder whether you wouldn’t just be better off throwing in the towel and focusing on a socially acceptable career. Next comes…
Crisis of the Faith
“I’ve been working so hard… If I were going to be successful, wouldn’t it have happened by now?”
“What if I keep working on my dream like this for another years, and nothing happens?”
You get the idea. When we’re taking a risk to follow our dreams, we want tangible results now. We want to feel like life is fair, and to know that everything we’ve sacrificed is going to pay off. (That’ll show those people who made us doubt ourselves!)
Unfortunately, life doesn’t usually work that way. Even ‘overnight sensations’ are often people who have been slogging away for years without notice. Yes, it sucks, but that’s the way it is. This is where we need to decide whether we’re going to give up and move on, or settle in for the long haul.
My husband likes to tell me, “If you give up now, your chance of failure is 100%.” And I know he’s right. *sigh*
So what’s your definition of success?
My long term goal is to make a comfortable living from my writing. My bad habit is to beat myself up for not being there yet. I don’t care about not having a traditional career, a house, or a car. Those are other people’s hang ups, not mine. I love to write, and as long as I keep at it, I’m succeeding at moving closer to my dream.
This is what I need to remember when these challenges arise.
What about you? How do you define success? How does it sustain you?
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