A lot of people have dreams and chase them. That's a pretty good thing.
A lot of people have dreams and don't chase them. That's a pretty bad thing.
A few people chase the right dream. And that's the best thing.
Growing up, my ideas regarding what I wanted to do with my life was constantly changing. Early on I wanted to be a chef. Then I wanted to be a zoologist. Then I wanted to be a professional hockey player. Then a journalist, actor, screenwriter, marketer, teacher, and musician.
The list goes on and builds momentum because I'm a dreamer, and there were a lot of things I thought I'd be good at doing. And sure, maybe there were some things on that list that I could end up doing for a living—but a zoologist was definitely not one of them. I like animals, but I'm terrible at anything to do with science. The closest I'll get to learning real facts about animals is watching TV shows like Planet Earth.
But what if I held tightly to this dream and kept chasing it? I'd be chasing the wrong dream to the detriment of myself and others. Because when we chase the wrong dreams, we waste the time, energy, and resources that we could be spending on the right dream that positively impacts the world when lived out well.
Many of us look back and laugh at the dreams we had when we were kids and think we've come a long way since then. But then you see reality TV shows of people who want to be famous singers and think they have amazing voices. But they just don't. They're wasting their and everybody else's time chasing their dream of being a popular recording artist. And then we all say they should be doing something else when we see those people. And they should be.
The problem is, many of us are less sensational versions of the people we see on reality shows singing off key (but still thinking they're the next Beyonce). Me? I had to stop chasing the zoologist, chef, and hockey dream, and start chasing the right dream: to be creative and inspire others to be creative in the context of faith. The question is, however: how did I know which dream was the right dream to chase?
As I've run on this narrow and windy path of dream chasing, here are three questions that I've learned will tell you whether or not the dream you are chasing is the right dream. (It helps to make a list of all the answers to these three questions and cross off answers as you go).
What makes you come alive?
When you get to do a bit of what you dream about doing and it excites you every time you do it, that's when you know you're on the edge of the dream you should be chasing. The first place to start should always be asking: what am I passionate about?
What doesn't make you tired?
I cannot express how important this point is. If it feels like it's a struggle all the time and you're perpetually exhausted chasing a dream, you need to consider why this is happening. If you really are cut out to chase the dream you're chasing, there will be a certain reserve of energy that you'll have that you won't get when you're chasing another dream. Another way of putting this is: what brings you peace? That is, when you're chasing this particular dream, there's a deep level of energy, stillness, and focus that's always present—even when things get difficult or stressful.
Where are the open doors?
If it seems like everywhere you turn to pursue your dream the doors and windows are closing or closed, it might mean that you're not meant to be chasing it. If the people that know you best and have your best interest at heart are telling you that you might need to reinvestigate, then you might need to reinvestigate. Another way of putting this is: where are the best opportunities? If what you're chasing is starting to pan out because there are tons of opening doors and windows, it usually means you're running in the right direction.
I'm guessing your list kept getting smaller as you answered these three questions.
Now look at what's left.
It's likely that the remaining dreams are related, and chances are, it's the dream you should chase. Or hopefully, it's the dream you're already chasing.
Then have a deep thought session and think seriously about how you can better pursue the remaining dream on your list.
Run after that dream.
And keep running.
Then see the awesome things start to happen.