These days, there’s a lot of talk about dreaming. Now, more than ever, finding your “dream job” seems to be a God-given right for anyone with a brain and an Internet connection. We feel entitled to finding work that matters. But the truth is few actually find it.
Gen Y, the generation just entering the work force, is famous for its unwillingness to exchange their ideals for a paycheck. I am a part of this generation. For us millenials, passion is primary, but pursuing a dream is extremely difficult.
Why? Because many of us struggle with the hardest part of realizing our calling: Knowing what it is in the first place.
I’m sure there are people out there who know exactly what they were born to do. They’ve had a vision for their life since they were six years old. I’m sure people like that exist. I’ve just not met any of them. Most people who have a dream struggle to articulate it; they don’t know what it is or what it should look like. If they do, it’s little more than a vague notion.
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Beware of absolute clarity
Do you know what your dream is?
When people ask me that question, I stutter and trip over my words. Words like “sort of” and “kind of” abound. Insecurity rears its ugly head. And I feel like an absolute fake.
The other day, I was on a call with a young woman who was passionate about getting involved in social work — she just didn’t know where to start. As the discussion continued, she confessed that she didn’t know what her calling was. Was this her dream or just another idea? Due to her own inexperience, she was hesitant to name anything too specific.
Experience leads to confidence, and until you’ve done a few things, it’s easy to hold back from committing to any certain path. It might, after all, end in failure. A calling is an accumulation of a person’s life’s experiences, skills, and passions. It’s what you were put on this earth to do, so you should be a little cautious in naming it.
There are major implications to identifying a dream and chasing after it, so take your time in coming to the realization of what you were made to do. A little hesitation is natural. I’m wary of people who can name their dream immediately without having had any real experience with it.
Although you do encounter those rare cases of a person knowing what they were meant to do since the age of five, most people struggle with this.
If you tell me, “I want to be an author” but have never written a word, I’m skeptical.
If you say, “I was born to be a carpenter” but have never lifted a hammer, I’m doubtful.
You may like the idea of being a writer or the image of being on a construction project, but you haven’t done any actual work. You don’t understand the cost of your dream, of putting yourself out there, risking failure before you get your first “yes.”
The moment of truth
The hardest part of finding your calling is naming it. And it should be. This is your life’s work we’re talking about. But this line of thinking, of questioning yourself and wondering what your dream is, can paralyze you.
You can get stuck doing nothing.
I know a lot of people who do this. Of course, they’re not really doing nothing. They’re working at Starbucks or in corporate America. They’re living in their parents’ basement or a loft in the city. It doesn’t really matter; the bottom line is they’re biding their time until “real life” starts.
The problem is these people are procrastinating their dream and putting off their calling. They may say they’re waiting for the right time, but don’t buy it. They’re wasting their life, at least an important part of it. You can always be doing something to further your calling.
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So I propose an alternative, something in between doing nothing and picking the wrong dream: Make a seasonal commitment.
Choose something that strikes your fancy, based on the possibility that it could be your dream. In other words, experiment. Not in a flaky, non-committal way. Pick something, and commit to it for a season. Call it a seasonal dream, if you want.
This will give you experience, broaden your skill set, and teach you the value of commitment. Most likely, this is how you will find your dream. Not by waiting around, but by doing something.
There’s one thing you can be sure of: you won’t find your dream by standing still. Finding your life’s work will not be easy. You will have to work at it. It will require action and reflection, and that’s how awareness is grown. Which is what will lead to the realization that this thing you’re doing, this all-important something, just might be what you were born for.