A Dream Deferred: Why We Tend To Push Our Aspirations To The Wayside

by Garrett Potts

We all have big dreams -- at least, we all start out with big dreams. Where do they go? Why do most of us trade them in?

I would argue we do not value and protect our dreams as we should.

We tend to undermine our aspirations in two general ways:

1. We trade in our true aspirations for temporary fixes that are readily available.

One of the most common ways we undermine our aspirations is by subduing the dreams screaming inside us. We do this by introducing external forces, which slows down the energy that causes us to act on our dreams.

We all had to learn Newton’s First Law of Motion in high school: “An object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force.”

So, how does this law apply to human psychology? More specifically, how does this law apply to us trading in our dreams?

We often face the temptation of subduing our screaming dreams by turning to substances, relationships and other forms of thrill-seeking behavior.

Turning to these external forces serves as a release valve for the passion bubbling inside of us. These operate as an external force to ultimately slow our roll. Our external fixes are the self-inflicted forces that interrupt our dreams in motion.

The truth is, we often don’t know what to do with the specific passions that come along with the way we are wired. Rather than face the trying battle of this lifelong revelation, we just want to be comfortable in the here and now.

Indulging in temporary fixes has an unfortunate side effect: It causes our dreams to wane.

As modern realists, we assume waning aspirations is the natural progression in life. This is not the reality. The reality is we are slowly killing our calling and subconsciously forgetting our dreams in an effort to find some sense of comfort.

In other words, rather than directing our passions toward the pursuit of our God-given purpose in life, we often expel the energy associated with our passions by investing it in temporary fixes, thereby mistaking the feeling of comfort for an insignificant dose of contentment.

Subduing our dreams may lead to finding comfort in the here and now, but it will never lead to sufficient, long-lasting contentment. I certainly believe there is more happiness to be found in this life when we devote ourselves to our God-given calling.

Isn’t happiness what we’re all after, anyway? You may be wondering, “If contentment is what we’re after, why do so many of us settle for comfort at the sacrifice of our calling?”

I wonder that too.

2. We prioritize the security of attaining “things” over the necessity of designing a life that caters to our calling.

We live in a materialistic culture. Our economy is based on the impermanence of goods and the perceived need to trade up as much as possible. This is a learned psychosis, and we call it “The American Way.”

The truth is, we do not need all of the latest and greatest things. In fact, if we choose not to give up on our dreams, many of the luxuries the world has to offer are likely to be the first things we sacrifice.

I’ll use myself as an example here. I discovered my calling could be best carried out through going back to graduate school and studying philosophy.

For me, that meant no more lavish apartment and hardtop convertible in the city because graduate teaching assistants don’t get paid like sales guys do. I was proud of my bachelor pad, but I needed to give up materialism for an education.

Nowadays, I live in a trailer I can tow home for the summers with my 13-year-old truck. The money I spent on one month’s rent in the city of Atlanta lasts over five months at my new campsite in Tampa today.

While giving up the finer pleasures may seem like a huge sacrifice, the truth is, the bigger sacrifice for me would have been to keep collecting nice things that made me feel good about myself instead of journeying toward my calling.

The idea of having security in things is a commonly held misconception, anyway. If anything, we are likely to become insecure as we gather things for ourselves because we are putting more and more distractions between our true callings and ourselves.

There is a way to live on less, with fewer things, and you, like me, might just sense yourself feeling a little richer as a result of the sacrifices you’ll make to pursue your calling.

Take my words with a grain of salt, but I have chosen to pursue contentment over comfort and feel all the richer as a result of this decision. Surprisingly enough, I even feel more comfortable this way.