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15 Reasons to Start Following Your Dream Today

Follow Your Dream

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” ~Unknown

Do you have a dream? A wish? A desire?

Do you ever wake up and wonder: What would it be like to love life?

People can tell you “follow your dream,” but is anyone really doing it?

Not someone in a TV show or movie—a real, living, breathing, human, just like you?

Is it possible?

The Depression

Three years ago I couldn’t sleep. Night after night, I’d lie awake at 2am. My heart would pound in my chest.

The anxiety overtook me. I welcomed it. If I fell back asleep, the next time I woke I would head back to that place. The place I despised.

Fifty hours a week to a job that was slowly, inch by inch, sucking the life out of me.

I was twenty-six years old, but I didn’t feel twenty-six. I felt old, tired, and overwhelmed.

As I write this post, I remember that night. Staring in the mirror. I could barely look at myself. The breathing in my chest pushing in and out rapidly. Tears rushing down my face. I was a grown man, or at least I was supposed to be.

Allowing Fear to Stop You

I was so scared. I’d put all my work experience, degrees, and life into my career. Yet, I hated it.

I had gone all in—and I was losing.

I couldn’t argue with the tears flowing down my cheeks. Something needed to change.

Follow The Dream

I know what it’s like to feel depressed, lost, and burned out. But I also know what it’s like to follow a dream.

I’m now thirty years old, and my life is a lot different than it was four years ago.

Soon after that experience, I made a commitment to discover and follow my dream.

What’s my dream? I want to become a ninja.

Not a ninja in the traditional sense. It’s a childhood dream.

Over the course of four years I quit my job in America, moved to Japan, and now I train extensively in martial arts.

I arrive at the dojo at 7:30am Monday through Friday. Over the next year of my life I will train over 1,000 hours in Aikido (a martial art).

I’m living, breathing proof that it’s possible to follow a dream.

I’m thrilled to wake up each morning. I love my life in a manner I never knew possible. But this post isn’t about me—it’s about all of us. More importantly, it’s about all of our dreams.

I hope with all my heart, today is the day that you begin the journey to turn your dream into a reality.

15 Reasons to Start Following Your Dream Today

1. You’ve always wanted to do this.

When I think about the question: If you had a million dollars what would you do with your life? I can now say, “Exactly what I’m doing.”

You’ve always wanted to follow your dream—so start today!

2. You’ll experience things you never could have imagined.

I’ve taken Japanese tea lessons with fifty-year-old woman. I’m learning a new language. I eat foods that I never knew existed.

The pursuit of a dream will give you experiences you never thought possible.

3. You will become courageous.

At some point your dream will mean so much to you that you will stop at nothing. When the dream overtakes you, no matter what your fears are you will not allow it to stop you.

You will stare your fears in the face. You will become a courageous person.

4. You will become an inspiration to those around you.

By doing what I want to do instead of what others want from me, I have been able to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Focus on your dreams, not what others want you to do, and you will do the same.

5. You will realize the incredible things you are capable of doing.

When you step forward to pursue your dream, you will face challenges you never could have anticipated. You will allow nothing to stop you. You will shock yourself at your ability to plow through any situation.

6. You will like yourself more.

You will feel excited and energized by the life you are choosing to live. You will feel proud of what you are doing. And you will like yourself more for it.

7. Life will become beautiful.

As you realize your own potential, you will realize the potential in others. You will start to recognize the beauty that life, you, and others have to offer.

8. Your joy and happiness will become contagious.

When people are around you, they will feel better about themselves and life because you are living proof it is possible to live a dream!

9. You will connect on a deeper level with the force of the universe.

The pursuit of a dream requires an act of faith. You step forward and take action. When you do this, you will face experiences that will bring you closer to the force of the universe.

10. You will smile more.

Life is better when you smile more. If you follow your dream, you will enjoy yourself and this will happen!

11. It will give meaning to everything you do.

Before I started following my dream I would often wonder, “What’s the point?”

Now, I know the answer to that question! Every action I take brings me closer to my dream.

12. The food will taste better.

Yup, you read that right! When you step forward with your dream you will feel more alive and you will better appreciate all the beauty life has to offer. So, yes! Even the food tastes better.

13. Every day you will learn new things.

Every day I learn more Japanese, more martial arts, and more about myself. I’m challenged and excited. The deeper I get in my dream, the more I learn.

14. Your happiness will show on your face.

It’s true! When you are optimistic, excited, and happy, guess what? You are drastically more attractive.

At twenty-six I looked stressed out and overwhelmed. At thirty I look happy and excited because I am happy and excited.

15. You will love being around you.

When we pursue a dream, we are connecting with our heart’s desires. It’s a way of telling our soul “I love you.”

It’s pretty great to hang out with people you love—especially when it’s yourself!

What has stopped you from following your dream?

Photo by Hartwig HKD

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Profile photo of Izmael Arkin

About Izmael Arkin

Izzy quit his job as a middle school science teacher to follow his childhood dream: to become a ninja. Subscribe to his blog to learn the mindset, actions and principles to turn your dream into a reality. You can also like his Facebook page to get daily inspiration.

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  • Sarah Y

    This post is awesome! You truly describe what it feels like to be depressed, loss and burned out, something which I was struggling few months back. Thank you for the handy reasons to follow our dreams out there! Guess it is never too late after all.

  • Deep Wadhwa

    Inspiring… Heart touching..

    Thanks a ton for realizing me what’s exactly I am missing.

  • KSL

    Very nice article. “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching” is a quote attribited to Gerard Way. (

  • Rebecca

    This is so close to home on a big issue I am working on lately. I’ve struggled for years with feeling “stuck”, but wanting to be something so much more and do something so much different (career wise) than I’m doing.
    How do you get over the fear? Mostly, the fear of not having money to pay bills stops me. I have large student loan debts. How do I switch careers, or make a big change, when it might mean being financially unstable?! That terrifies me.
    I know I need to take a leap though – change my path. This is an inspiring post and so timely for me!

  • sherly

    i am feeling the same way. i need time to think what i want, who i want and what i wanted to be. nice article

  • Talya Price

    This is exactly what I am going through right now in my life. I want to follow my dream. I have woken up many nights in a cold sweat because I am not doing what I love and I am no happy where I am living. I am going to write all these things down. This is too much I am getting too many signals that I need to change my life.

  • disqus_HFirAbuiwv

    What if you are unhappy with your life but you have no dream to follow?

  • Lea

    My reason to follow a dream would be why not. Why wait any longer…

  • Tine Broen

    What if you are poor, and don’t have the money to follow your dreams ? What if you couldn’t afford to go to Japan ? And to take Ninja lessons ? Life is not always about choises… Unfortunately… Life is set upon money.. And for many people money can barely make life go around… and around… and around…

  • Neebers

    YEAH!!! NEEDED this tonight. Moving forward STAT. :)

  • Virginia

    Rebecca, it has been only a year since I made the leap and to risk everything. I left my stable career that I hated with a passion to freelance while transitioning into a new career. I didn’t fear it because I knew if I didn’t take the risk and the longer I stayed at doing something that makes me unhappy, the crazier I’ll get and will become more lost. Plus I’m not getting any younger so it’s now or never! Now I have a permanent remote job doing what I really enjoy!! It was a long painful process to get to where I’m at today. I too have and still have the large student loan debt and had a car loan. I moved back to my Mom’s home for lower rent and of course stopped spending on what I used to spend on which meant sacrificing my big international trips for awhile….that was the biggest thing i sacrificed but I know it will only be temporary. If you have savings that can last you a year or two then you can go for it. You say you’re looking into changing careers, if possible it is best to start to freelance on the side and build your network to get clients. As you freelance you’ll have that on your resume to find a more stable 9-5 job (if that’s what you desire). But seriously to have savings first would be extremely useful because you will be using your savings to pay bills while your transition into the new career.

    Hope you figure it all out and chase happiness.

  • Lisa

    I read “Fifty hours a week to a job that was slowly, inch by inch, sucking the life out of me… I felt old, tired, overwhelmed”… and I thought “I bet this is an ex-teacher”. How did I know? Because that description is me. I wasn’t in a position to stop working so I moved overseas again (my 8th country) to somewhere where at least it’s not 50 hours and at least the pressure is less, but this is a temporary stop-gap. But what to do when the recession has caused a difficult financial situation requiring a good income, and my qualifications leave this as the only option I can find? I don’t have ‘a dream’ other than to keep traveling, as I have always done but this either requires money I don’t have or a job like teaching which I can’t bear. I’m really happy you were able to follow your own dream though, and I hope it continues to fulfill you – thanks for your article

  • Deb

    Tine, I agree with you! You always hear about people following their dream, but they never give the details of how they dealt with their debt, or family, or other responsibilities. It’s always, “I just couldn’t stand it any more, so I moved to Japan and became a ninja!”. What did they do about their bills, their house, their pets, etc? While I don’t think money is everything, I can’t just call my mortgage company and say, “Hey sorry, I decided I want to follow my dream so I won’t be paying my mortgage anymore!”. The closest detailed comment I’ve seen is Virginia’s below where she states she had a year’s worth of savings to pay her bills while she pursued her dream.
    It’s wonderful to dream, but life is full of actualities. You know what they say: “Only the rich can afford to say ‘money isn’t everything’!”

  • Izmael Arkin

    Hi Tine.

    Thank you for bring this up as I’m sure so many other people feel similar. I agree with you (to some degree). Money is important.

    I made the decision to follow my dream starting in October of 2009 and I started saving money on that day. I wasn’t able to get to Japan until August of 2011… Why is that? Because I spent 22 months saving up the money to do it.

    I will throw this your way, you are correct. Money matters. So, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to develop a plan to start saving so you can give yourself that opportunity? Are you going to start developing your skills so you are more valuable to the marketplace (so you can make more money)?

    … or will you do nothing?

  • Izmael Arkin

    I had no idea you knew other people that had moved to Japan to become a ninja Deb :). I guess it’s much more common than I realized.

    Money is a huge deal, you are correct. So was the decision to purchase a home. If you choose to make a big decision, there are obligations that come with it. Would you disagree with that statement?

    I started saving money in October of 2009. And yes, I could have put that money into a home. But I chose to put it elsewhere.

    It is not luck. It is choices. Plain and simple.

  • Izmael Arkin

    Hi Tayla :).

    It sounds like the universe might be trying to say something to you.

    Here’s a question to ponder: What is the first step you can take today to start moving forward?

    I bet if you take it you will make the universe pretty happy :).

  • Izmael Arkin

    Hi Lisa :).

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. Lisa, I think you do have a dream. Maybe that dream is simply to travel. Or maybe it is more. But I do believe there is something out there for you.

    That’s pretty crazy, that you knew I was a teacher!

  • Izmael Arkin

    Awesome Neebers :).

  • Izmael Arkin

    At some point the mind shifts from: ‘How can I?’ to ‘How can I not?’

    That is beautiful Lea!

  • Izmael Arkin

    Then you need to make it your purpose to find your purpose.

  • Izmael Arkin

    Hi Sherly :).

    Taking some time to step away and answer such life changing questions is so important! I hope you give it them time it deserves.

  • Izmael Arkin

    Hi Rebecca :).

    Dealing with fear, and in particular financial stress is definitely not easy. There was a big mind shift I had when I first started this whole journey. Rather than seen my financial challenges as an impediment, I saw them as the first step in the pursuit of my dream. They became part of the journey.

    In other words, managing your finances and taking responsibility for them, can become your first step to moving forward with your dream. This would mean if you are paying down your debt you can be in the midst of pursuing your dream.

  • Izmael Arkin

    Hi KSL. That is a beautiful quote!

  • Izmael Arkin

    Hi Deep :).

    I’m so glad to hear this.

  • Izmael Arkin

    Sarah it is never too late!

  • Deb

    Izmael, no need to be sarcastic. I was merely using your circumstance (and article) to point out the “flaw”, as it were, in these types of articles. I see you responded to Tine’s comment in a much more sensible manner. You say you saved up for 22 months (almost 2 years!) to accomplish your dream. That’s wonderful and commendable, so why didn’t you put THAT in your articel??? Why not say, “Instead of buying a home, or purchasing material goods I saved every penny I could. It took me almost 2 years, but I finally was able to realize my dream”?? Your article, and MANY others, for some reason exclude that part. Yours,in particular, states you looked in the mirror and something had to change…fast forward to “four years later” you’re living your dream. Why skip the most important part – HOW YOU ACCOMPLISHED IT? You never share how you scrimped and saved to get from A to B. THAT’S the part we all need to hear. We all know how to dream. We’ve been doing that since the day we were born.
    Izmael, I’m not getting down on you. I admire you and your ability to recreate your life the way you dreamt it. I just wanted to point out how you could’ve touched more lives by giving the ‘nitty gritty’ details on how you, a mere mortal, accomplished it. Namaste, my brother. :-)

  • Rebecca

    Thank you Virginia! I appreciate your response – it’s a good reminder that looking for alternative routes to professional happiness (not just jumping from one 9-5 job to the next) can help be stepping stones toward ultimate success!

  • Rebecca

    You’re right! In the midst of my financial fears I forgot, I can *control* my financial destiny just as much as anything else. And if money is an issue I should tackle that first with a plan. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!

    Thank you for the response, this was incredibly helpful!

  • Mistar

    Wow, dude, if ever there was the perfect time for me to have read this, it is now…
    Thank you thank you for your insight and courage. To those who have fear about their circumstances, regret about their life choices and feel that there is no way out, there is always a way, it would involve compromise and the love of those around you, but there is always a way.

  • Truth

    This is an awesome article with enough details to motivate another to move forward. I don’t agree that there should have been a personal step by step plan of his personal goal in order for others to believe its possible. The key to following one’s dream is to stop making excuses about what you can’t do, put a plan in place, and take steps daily to achieve your goal. We all have obstacles. If you have a true passion work towards it and the universe will correspond to your needs. Peace n many blessings

  • Whysay

    I agree with Truth. This is a great article. Why would you want to follow someone else’s footstep in achieving YOUR dreams.

    Izmael’s situation at that point of time allowed him to use 22 months to save up. Not every one has the same situations. All these “nitty gritty” detail might hit someone else harder when they realize they’ll probably need more than 22 months to save up. Besides, this is his story, why are you trying to ‘point out’ how he can touch more lives? He tells it as he wants.

    People who have that drive and passion to achieve their dreams will find their way to do it no matter what. They don’t need ‘nitty gritty’ details. You want ‘nitty gritty’ details? Go buy a self help book.

  • anon

    So this is great and all, but what do you do when your money runs out and you are forced to reintroduce yourself to your home country with no money, lost or distanced relationships, no income or work history for the past year and no new marketable skills? You would have to be lucky or have contacts that others might not have in order to avoid a crashlanding.

  • imadreamer

    It doesnt matter rich or poor there’s ways to follow your dreams it takes small steps if you want to be a writer you don’t write a book and hand it to JK Rolling you “start at the bottom” an easy step to build your confidence to achieve more. Im sure this man did small things where he was living to become a ninja.

    PS thankyou for sharing this story you are a massive benefit to society

  • Aparnaa

    This one is indeed a very cool and fab article…even i have decided to follow my dreams..and i m facing problems with it..people consider u to be foolish when u try to do something which the people around u are not doing…

  • Kay

    My dream is to be a commercial photographer, and I want to go the art school for it. It’s been my dream since I was 13. I didn’t follow my dream before because of my own self-doubt and listening to people discouraging me, but the older I get (I just turned 24) and the different jobs I work; the more I realize what I really want to be doing. So I’m going to start building a portfolio for my application to art school. Maybe one day you’ll see my work in magazines. Thanks for writing this!

  • caroline

    Story of my life. One day I had an epiphany everything had to change. Began writing a blog and a book on dreams. I’m miles away from where I started. I agree with you, food does taste better :)

  • bob ab

    @truth and @whysay……

    Why not just let the author get a chance to respond before doing it for him?

    I think Deb made a valid point.

  • G


  • Eliz

    I loved the article. Congratulations for the courage to pursue your dream.

  • Christina

    Wow. I needed to read this. Woke up this Monday morning and couldn’t stop crying thinking is this it for my life.. Didn’t want face the world ie my job which I get paid well for. Have just enrolled in course and printed this out and will be putting it on my fridge. Thank you.

  • Faith

    Ehy, thank you.
    Because i needed to read something like this. Because nobody believe in me, nobody take care about my dreams. But I do.
    I’m 26 too, and I feel so old, and tired.. I know exactly how you felt in the past, because it’s the same for me now.
    So thank you. I will print your post and I will read it every time I’ll feel sad and demotivated.

    I’ll follow my dreams, I’ll follow the sun!

  • Timothy VL

    when i was 15 years old i’ve came to the same conclusion as you. I just can’t live in an world where my life is meaningless and worthless, while finding an answer on that question was really hard. After 1 year of thinking i’ve came to that conclusion: WHAT IF I FOLLOW MY DREAMS? and i’ve been thinking and thinking about what kind of dream i wanna follow, the dream i’m gonna follow is making my life living in japan. And after that i’ll keep on working to make that impossible dream a reality, but i became really hard to pursuit, because some people i know ( even my parents sadly ) keep on trying getting in my head. But my burning flame just keep on burning, and even today i’ll keep on pursuing that dream with an even hotter flame then yesturday. I may be far away but i never give up on my dreams!!!

  • jasmin

    tears came out of my eyes… i really needed it
    thanks for your words that will live inside of me….

  • kshitij

    best of luck ,,, frnd.. i am also gonna do the same…

  • Mr.Migazzz

    I know it’s a late response but I have a dream that sounds, quite complicated and almost impossible to reach: being an actor… Everyday after school, I make vines so that I may have the chance to be something I want, and to be honest is going kinda great… I just wanted to know if can it be possible, even if the dream is really and seems really impossible?

  • vatsal

    I am 21 year boy doing my degree studies…..but now I realise I want to be a stock trader …..I am into it but I cant give as much time as I should……..but I am afraid to tell this to my family as it is very risky job to be stock trader…. u cant garrente ur income……but I don’t thnk I can take any more …I am seriously thinking about leaving my studies and start studing about markets….