Dreams, Approval and The Paradox
I wanted to make my parents proud.
We all do. Whoever denies this one is lying.
I especially wanted to make them proud on the occasion of leaving my well-paying “successful” and “oh so safe” career that I’d built over a decade following my hard-earned education to start over by pursuing this crazy, highly-likely-to-fail, mind-boggling dream of writing and building a brand and a business of my own.
Ha! That was a safe bet alright. Putting all my money on zero-double-zero at the roulette table in Las Vegas would have made a much safer bet in hindsight!
Here’s the first lesson, and brace yourself because I’m done sugar coating this truth:
Just because you get all excited about your little dream and go off and take the first one or three hundred steps towards building it does not mean anyone else will feel the same. Not your Mamma! Not your Daddy. Not your grandmother to whom you feel especially close. Not your favorite aunt. Not your children. Not your best forever friend or whatever the silly BFF stands for. Maybe even your beloved sweet heart at first.
Your pet: now that’s a safe bet. I let you have that one. Dogs especially get very excited whether you are coming home from the store or pursuing your dream at long last.
As far as these fragile things called dreams are concerned, however, your first mistake is sharing them. You must keep your dreams locked up in your sanctum for as long as possible, as Firoozeh and I talk about in my show: On Not Sharing Your Fragile Dreams.
Now that your dream is safe, start questioning your very unreasonable expectations that others should support you. Who says?
Where did you get this crazy idea in your head? Get it OUT of your head!
Why does their support or love matter when you are fully capable of doing this on your own? If you aren’t capable on your own, say goodbye to your dreams now and pick up knitting or something.
Why in the name of heaven are you expecting such astronomical levels of understanding from the people around you? This is absurd!
Is It True that Parents and Friends Should Support Your Dream?
1. Is it true that your friends and family should jump up and down just because you finally signed up for dance classes, or started your blog after ages or even wrote a best-selling book? Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely be sure that this thought in your head that they should act this way is true?
3. How do you react when you think that stressful thought? Are you your most fabulous, creative, brilliant genius doing what you love or are you an ounce less?
4. Who would you be without having this crazy thought that your family and friends must support you or react a certain way?
Note: These principles work best if you are interested in being free and not being “right”. If you want to feel “right”, this blog post isn’t for you.
If you want to pursue your dreams and your heart’s yearning relentlessly and you want stop carrying the weight of this nonsense – because whatever you *expect* from others is just that: horrific nonsense – along the way, then good of you to come here. I’ve found the way and it’s yours for the taking, baby!
In my little world. not only did my family not understand me and my calling for a long time (some still don’t), they would worry about me, worry sick as if I had announced a plan to go to the jungles of South America to explore the freaking Amazon River.
They have deadly giant bugs in the Amazon; it is worry-worthy and I have zero interest in real life dangerous crazy situations! Starting a business and pursuing a dream is not worry-worthy.
Worry is the worst substitute for “I’m proud of you!” or “I’m happy for you!”- to which I generally like to say, “Stop it! I am FINE! I am just building a business for God’s sake, not fighting a deadly disease!!!” but the second worst substitute is total silence.
Total silence when you start a business without ever having a clue how do to so. Total silence when you do the scariest thing in your life and are dying for encouragement. Total silence when you finally take a chance at real happiness. Total silence when you need to hear something.
But here’s the catch, my darling reader: Parents or loved ones or friends do not do what we want them to do. Ever! So stop expecting them to do so.
Just Stop It! If you have any trouble with this simple concept, allow Mr. Bob Newhart tell it to you.
Yes, I know. It seems harsh but it’s not half as harsh as carrying that expectation, however secretly, in your heart and embark on what is sure to become bitter suffering and disappointment, the weight of which is sure to crush that precious dream in all its irony.
Why? Because others do not do what you expect them to do (sorry about that) but they wish to do. They do as they please in accordance to the way they see reality.
You can equally do precisely as you please and if pursuing your dream pleases you, then by all means, pursue it like nobody’s business! Now that is the power and beauty of true freedom.
Your dream is your deal, darling. It’s your business. And Only Yours. Honor your dream and protect it from these awful pressures and expectations because that’s the death of dreams.
Do not put these astronomical expectations on your loved ones just because you took a step toward your dream.
Learn The Language that Celebrates Courage
I’ll give you another tip. This is not a territory that our society is familiar with. Those who come to you and congratulate you and support you and tell you how courageous you are are in the minority. Embrace them! Count them among your best role models!
Make friends with them. And remember you have the power to choose and un-choose your friends as well as the power to draw boundaries with your family.
Drink the support and love that they are willingly giving you. And thank your lucky stars that they exist because they are a rare breed.
If your family and friends and loved ones are already in that breed, fine. That’s a great coincidence.
If not, leave them be because it’s not your business to turn your family or loved ones into that breed. It Won’t Work!
You have woken up inside.
You have started to move toward an idea, a dream, a vision.
You have dropped your excuses and taken one bodacious step toward something that is in your heart and not in your head for once.
You have honored the thing that lights you up inside.
You have looked fear in the face and said, “Screw you, pal! Get out of my way! I am sick of being hostage to you!”
You have embraced vulnerability.
And somewhere in this magnificent process, courage watched you take these steps and decided to walk right beside you for the rest of your journey.
You want your parents to understand this????? Or your friends? Are you for real? Does this even look like the person you were before?
They do not even have the right words to say even if they wanted to understand it.
Nobody teaches us this language of being happy for our friends and family when they step out of the ordinary path and take a bold step, however small, toward their dream and passions.
I did not learn this language until I realized how badly I was dying to hear it myself. By then, I had a hole in my stomach caused by my own stupid disappointment about which I warned you earlier. But it’s filled now to the brim. I filled it by giving the encouragement out on every single occasion where I witnessed this act of bold courage in anyone, be it complete strangers, acquaintances, friends of friends, my fabulous clients, readers or even my own family.
The path to freedom is to celebrate your courage and to drop your expectations to hear this kind of thing. Then it’s a beautiful surprise when you hear it. Unexpected music to your ears.
For those of you unfamiliar with the language of celebrating courage, here is what not to say to someone who has just taken a step to pursue their dream:
“Oh but are you sure?”
“I just worry about you.”
“Have you really thought this through?”
“What if it doesn’t work out?”
“Do you have a backup plan, just in case?”
“You are just not the risk-taker type.”
“I wish I could do that too.”
And other inconsiderate variations.
Here’s what you can say to celebrate the courage of those who take these bold steps, but say it only if you mean it:
“I am so happy for you!”
“I am so proud of you!”
“This can’t be easy. You are amazing!”
“I am just thrilled for your success.”
“It takes guts to do this. Good on you!”
“I am in awe of how you have faced your fears in doing this.”
“You inspire me to do the same for myself.”
“You give me hope to do the same for me.”
“I love how this lights you up and makes you happy.”
“I celebrate your courage.”
But most of all, if you want to be generous beyond the person’s wildest imagination, you take their hand, look them in the eye, and say to them, “I believe in you.”
And if nobody has said that to you, my constant reader, remember that the only thing that matters is that you believe in you, but for what it’s worth, I believe in you too.