10 Mistakes To Avoid When Chasing Your Dream

Boy Reaching for Stars

“We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming—well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.” ~Amy Tan

Pursuing dreams…

How you wish it were a smooth ride. Right?

The twists and curves you’ve encountered may have left you full of negative thoughts and doubting your ability to succeed.

In fact, you may be accepting your situation as fate and settling for defeat.

But don’t give up yet!

To keep your dreams alive, you must avoid making certain mistakes. You must realize that you’re the pilot, and you can take charge of your dreams and fly to places you’ve never been.

My Dream

After five years of spinning my wheels teaching in Kenya and dealing with mandated curriculums that didn’t make sense, I decided to do something bold.

I packed my suitcase and moved to Botswana in pursuit of my dream—starting my own business. A friend living there had told me Botswana was the best place to live in Africa because the people were friendly, the economy was rich, and it was less populated.

Was I scared? Sure.

Did I care? Nope.

I envisioned a successful life, being my own boss, and living the dream.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Sometimes moving is the best therapy for a new beginning.

I lived with a host family for three months while applying for a business permit.

A little after three months, my time was up. I had to cut the cord with the host family and move out. The business permit processing took a little longer than anticipated.

With no money coming in life got hard. I hit rock bottom. I was broke and broken.

I ate caterpillars to survive.

I had no money, and my savings had run out.

I had no place to live.

I had no family around.

But I refused to give up. I refused to lose hope. I refused to let the feeling of despair ruin me. I refused to let the pain inside win the battle. A voice inside kept on saying I would make it.

One day, I was taking a stroll when I saw a swimming pool that was not being used; a private members club owned it.

So I asked the manager if I could use the pool. (Remember, I didn’t have any money). I figured if I could learn to swim, I could turn around and offer swimming lessons for a living.

He agreed that I could use the pool if I paid the club a percentage of my earnings.

I lived on the good will of friends who loaned me money to pay for the club membership. A friend offered me free swimming lessons, which took a little over four months. I then became a swimming teacher and my clients were club members, adults, and kids.

Nothing lasts forever, even the harsh life I’d known all so well. Finally, I was living the dream I had left teaching to pursue—coaching on my own terms.

Through my experience, I’ve learned some huge mistakes to avoid when chasing your dream.

 1. Letting discouragement overwhelm you.

Take the risk. Are you going to be scared? Oh, yes, you’ll be petrified. Remember, it’s not going to be a straight path. Take mini steps and be consistent with your work.

Even if you don’t reach the goal you’ve set, you’ll learn, grow, and perhaps even find new opportunities through the process of stretching yourself.

Believe in yourself and the possibility of your dreams coming true, without letting discouragement rob you of the faith you have in yourself.

For me, instead of letting the work permit delay and lack of money discourage me, I opted to change the course of my dream.

2. Denying your current situation.

If your current situation is not ideal, don’t live in denial. If you do, you won’t be able to deal with the obstacles you’re currently facing. Doing nothing won’t change your situation or bring you any closer to your dreams. Before long, you will hit the wall and crash, and possibly fall into a depression.

Instead, accept the situation you’re in and then work toward changing it. You have more power than you realize. Trust and believe in yourself. However small the change happens, be grateful.

3. Dwelling on the past.

Holding on to a painful past will fill you with doubts when you’re trying to pursue your dreams. You won’t be able to handle obstacles that arise and you’ll spend your energy on worries and regrets.

You’ll be afraid to make decisions because of past experiences. You’ll hold yourself back from claiming opportunities when they arise.

So, let the past be gone but cling to the good memories, and when things are rocky look at the past and smile. Let the bad be a learning experience, let learning produce growth, and let growth bring you closer to your goal.

4. Procrastinating.

It can be deadly.

I procrastinated the first three months I moved to Botswana. I wasted time and money on vacation, clothes, etc.

Time wasted cannot be recovered. It’s just like a river; once you touch the water flowing past you, it will never flow back toward you again. Do what you’re supposed to do, when it’s supposed to be done.

5. Neglecting your body.

Don’t ever forget to take care of your body. Treat it like a temple. If you don’t, you will get sick, mentally and physically, and this will prevent you from working toward your goal.

However hard you’re working take time off to exercise, and don’t forget to eat healthy foods. (Don’t starve yourself. Eat what’s edible; it won’t kill you.)

Don’t forget to pray. It’ll nourish your soul and give you inner peace.

When I hit rock bottom I walked two miles or more every day, and by the time I got back home I was refreshed.

6. Waiting for help to chase you.

Knock on doors.

Will doors be shut on you? Sure, more than you can count.

Sometimes we ask for help anticipating getting our way. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

I didn’t wait for friends to find me; I went out and became a friend. From that friendship, I was able to join the club, find a place to live, and teach swimming lessons.

If doors close, go in through the window.

If that means changing the course of your plan, please do so; change will not mean losing your dream.

7. Taking it personally when people judge you.

They will judge you by how you look, what you eat, and how you live. When people judge, it has more to do with their own fears and insecurities than you

Turn a deaf ear to these judgments. Feel proud of the journey you’re taking.

8. Dwelling on the negative.

It’s impossible to only focus on the positive, but dwelling on the negative all the time is like a bomb waiting to explode. Your thoughts will hold you hostage from making progress and your mind will be filled with doubt.

Allow yourself to feel the negative. Cry if you have to, but don’t let it take over you.

Releasing your negative feelings will leave you at peace and you will be able to focus on the positive even in tough times.

A positive attitude will help you decide the best strategy for achieving your goals.

9. Comparing yourself to others.

Comparison leads to jealousy and envy. It can kill friendships if not tamed.

Celebrate the success of others instead of being jealous. Let them know you admire them.

Turn the focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have and be grateful for it.

10. Trying to get approval for your dream.

Your dream is a vehicle, and you’re the driver. Don’t let the passengers map the road for you.

Stop trying to win over the people who don’t believe in you and criticize you.

Only seek help from those who support your mission and encourage you, because they will cheer you on along the way.

Hold fast to your dream.

Gear up to fight the storms.

Keep that banner shining.

Never give up, and never give in.

Stand up and face the fear, baby!

Your dream is counting on you.

Do you believe you can pursue it?

Boy reaching for stars image via Shutterstock

About Ann Davis

Ann Davis is on a mission to help you identify your life’s purpose so that you can live the life you’ve always wanted. Download the FREE GUIDE NOW. Discover your true talent and make it profitable.

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  • Great post Ann (though – caterpillars?!!!). I continue to chase several dreams, and I think all of these points you raise are important – for example, although I never expected as in (6) for help to chase me, I used to find it quite difficult to ask for help and support. Drawing on my network has helped me in many ways.

    I also think (as you know!) that looking after your body is critical – it’s really only when things go wrong that we notice how important it is, so the better we can keep it in tune, the more likely we are to be able to achieve everything we want to.

    Wishing you many years of happy dream chasing (and catching)!

  • Ann Davis

    Ellen, Thanks for your comment. Yes caterpillars (Gonimbrasia belina) it’s a delicacy the locals in Botswana’s devour with pride. It was hard at first, but then easy….
    As an introvert I know #6 was hard- glad you are can relate.
    You nailed it on taking care of the body.
    ……always chasing the dreams…

  • Dear Ann,
    Thank you for the inspiration and the useful reminders. Your story brings to mind a quote by American author Julia Cameron: “I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow.” 🙂
    Your No. 8, Dwelling on the Negative, has been a difficult one for me. One thing that has helped me a lot is creating and constantly using this mantra: “Neutralize the Negative. Promote the Positive.”
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • Iva Ursano

    This is a beautiful article! Thank you so much for sharing your story. For me it’s about looking fear in the face and sending it packing!! It’s stopped me long enough. Not anymore. Good for you Ann!!

  • Ann Davis

    Linda, Thanks for your mantra under my belt “Neutralize the Negative. Promote the positive.”


  • Wow, this is such a powerful post, Ann. The part where you said “Are you going to be scared? Oh, yes, you’ll be petrified.” resonated so strongly with me! I remember almost having a panic attack when I’d first decided to take the plunge after years of thinking about it. So glad to hear that you stuck it out and are finally living your dream — it’s such an inspiration!

  • Hey Ann,

    Great inspirational post with some lessons to follow. There isn’t just one that stick out to me because they all resonate. These tips are great to make a habit for your life. Especially when you run into obstacles that can be the reason why you would give up your dreams. Thanks for sharing Ann and I hope you’re enjoying your week!

  • Lynnie

    Great tips, Ann!! Thank you. I lived in Kenya for a couple of years. Amazing country. 🙂

  • Laura J Tong

    This is such an inspirational post Ann. Firstly with your own story which is amazing – you found such courage and resourcefulness – good on you!

    And among your superb points, two lines alone will keep me chasing dreams no matter how rocky things get:
    ‘Remember, it’s not going to be a straight path’ and ‘If doors close, go in through the window.’ I’m going to keep these to pull out often, often, often. Thanks Ann – this is an excellent post.

  • andreastill

    Ann,what an inspirational story! Taking others’ comments and judgement personally has been my biggest downfall to pursuing my dreams. I’m only beginning to recognize how their words morphed into the negative thoughts in my head that stops me doing what I ought to! Powerful indeed – thanks Ann 🙂

  • Ann Davis

    Thanks Iva for your comment. Just do it!

  • Ann Davis

    Hey Sherman, I appreciate your comment. If one would keep their eyes focused on the dream the obstacles would be easier to overcome. Have a great week too.

  • Ann Davis

    Lynnie, Thank you for commenting. I was born and raised in Kenya. I have made home whenever my heart takes me.:)

  • Ann Davis

    Laura, Thanks for your comment.
    Never give up!

  • Ann Davis

    Andrea, glad to see you here….thank you.

  • Ann Davis

    Sumitha, glad you followed your dream too. Thanks for the comment.

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  • jen

    thank you, this is an amazing post, very helpful. never give up. God bless to great people like you who give advice from their own experiences.

  • Ann Davis

    Jen, Thank you.Stay blessed.

  • John Anderson

    Wow what a story of perseverance. It is very cool that you were able to see opportunity even amidst your struggles. Thank you for sharing.

  • Ann Davis

    Thanks John for reading the post and commenting.

  • Sarah Blinco

    Beautiful story and great tips, thanks for sharing 🙂

  • tanvi

    such an inspiring experience..i would like to give my sentiments of gratitude to you for igniting the fire of passion with positivity..keep rocking like this..looking forward to much more

  • Ann Davis

    Thanks Tanvi for your kind word.

  • Ann Davis

    You are welcome Sarah.

  • Shanker

    Hi Anna,

    You’re bold, and are bold beyond imagination. As a man, I envy you! Not sure whether I can emulate you. I’ve my own dreams but scared because of earlier my failures and humiliations. One possible reason could be that I’m not getting strong feeling about my dreams, nor does my feelings last. So, the hesitation remains.

  • Ann Davis

    Hi Shanker, Thank you for your comment. I was bold then, I think the older I get the more I tend to wing things around-though I still follow my guts…..just do it. I will cheer you on- should you fail, guess what , at least you tried and do it again! Don’t give up.

  • Shanker

    Hi Anna,
    Thanks! One question on your present position. You’ve stated ‘Starting your own business’ as your dream. Then, is this ‘teaching swimming’ a Stop by? For us, ‘Own Business’ usually means manufacturing or trading of some material. Is it not your initial idea too?

  • Melody Macken, nz

    Ann Davis, you are quite simply the best.

  • MēChícaLøcā

    You made me believe that nothing is impossible and you made me want to feel the fear and do it anyways. i’ll do it and nothing will stop me! Thank you for your inspiring story 🙂

  • Henry Ian Octobre

    Very interesting and great article. Pursuing your dream takes time and sacrifice. But once you’re there, its very humbling and you tend to remember the sleepless nights, certain times that you want to give up on your dream because it has brought you to your knees, loved ones criticizing you regarding following a false dream that’s not going to happen. It was all worth it once you are there. Great job Ann.

  • QuietGiant

    Wow! This is great. Thanks Ann:)

  • Ann Davis

    QuietGiant, thank you!

  • Ann Davis

    Henry, I’m glad I did what I did then because that’s why I’m where I’m today. It was rough then and doubt crept in too.

  • Ann Davis


    Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Ann Davis

    “Thumbs Up”

  • Caravacio

    Thnak you very much. you are such an inspiration

  • prateek

    You’re post is very inspirational… I’m in my last year of high school and after reading this I think I’m not gonna waste any time and just start my animation firm

  • Gian

    It was really helpful! Thank you Ann 🙂

  • buildcastles

    What is your favorite Country? Mine is Peru : )

  • Bee Wize

    Yes great article. I too am chasing an impossible dream in a over capacitated field but some how the little voice keeps telling me, keep pushing.

  • Chin

    Nothing is impossible unless you believe it to be! You will achieve your goal, and i personally believe you will!!! Keep going!!! Sending you all the positive energy and light needed to capture and conquer this goal and many others!!! =)

  • chin

    I agree Ann, thats why i believe it imperative to write down your top 5 goals for life and focus on those things while not letting outside distractions seep in… perseverance and faith, a part from hard work and restlessness, are two main constituents in capturing and conquering your goals!

  • Chin


    As a person very dedicated to encouraging/promoting self-help and self-empowerment, I really enjoyed your take on conquering your purpose-driven-dreams for life! You truly did a great job discussing some of the key components of living in your purpose, and obtaining a successful life. And, might I add in the most undogmatic and unpretentious way that following the 10 steps you have provided in your writing, you not only become fulfilled you also become a great contribution to the world (when you are working in your purpose), and that is nothing short of fantastic (much like this article)!

    Sending positive light, and fearless energy your way, but most importantly, sending the divine wisdom to pursue anything your heart desires and conquer all your dreams in life!

    Thanks for sharing Ann!!! KEEP GOING!!!

  • Dropping Knowledge on you.

    Wow. Came on this at the perfect time. Thanks Ann.

  • Tara

    Thank you for sharing. Very inspirational. Definitely gives me somethings to reflect on in my life.

  • Mag Chen

    to be honest, this is very inspirational but not practical enough for me to chase my dreams. of course theres no straight answer. BUt i think the main keys is 1. being practical and real (like what r the necessary steps which u have practically dissected into 10 good steps) and 2. courage (includes not being lazy and taking the easier path. In my opinion my main problem is money, something that supports your living. If that is already dealt with everyone can have their dream – most actually, trying to be abstractful if that’s even a word, so for me I decided to go to school, get a degree, find a job, pay back loans, so OLD by then right? or if i go the other “dream” path -> drop school, live by the penny, disapprovals/disapptment from family, do my thing but feels like i’m going downhill, still in the game, and suddenly an exponentially rise to success if you haven’t quit yet. i think i need more inspiration. but the above were great advices..

  • Great article

  • RobUlitski

    Thank you Ann! This is just what I needed today. Incredible story!

  • Alison Wise

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you! I too needed to read this today and I LOVE how you listed practical lessons… they’re 100% spot on.