When Following Your Dreams Results in Failure After Failure


Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone tells you to chase your dreams and follow your passion. At some point, you’re brave and full of hope and decide to do it—quit your job, become an artist, apply for that dream job, and change your lifestyle.

It’s wonderful and empowering and exciting and all those things that make living worthwhile.

But what happens when you fail? When quitting your job left you broke, no one wants to publish your work, and your dream job turns you down? You are left feeling utterly defeated and a little bitter toward all those people who told you to go for it. It didn’t work. What then?

I’m no stranger to failure. I’ve tried so many times and had nothing concrete to show for my efforts. I’ve had to tell people, “No, I didn’t get it.”

Most recently, I’ve been hustling as hard as I can to get a job that will send me overseas in the development field to work for women’s human rights. Unpaid internships and grad school and applications and cold emailing have so far led to nothing.

It can be incredibly frustrating and leave me feeling hopeless, sometimes questioning if it’s worth following these dreams when I’m feeling so defeated. Like I said, I have nothing concrete to show for any of my efforts yet.

But a while back something happened that changed everything. And no, I didn’t get the dream job.

What happened was internal. I was sitting outside with a mug of hot coffee cuddled between my hands, a soft jacket pulled around my shoulders to combat the cool, autumn morning. Red, yellow, and orange leaves were raining down from the trees, spiraling to the ground. Painted clouds streaked the deep, brilliantly blue sky.

I could feel the sun on my face. And as I sat there, with none of my dreams coming true, I realized that it doesn’t matter if they never do.

I am alive, healthy, and free. I have people who love me. And I have the capacity to be grateful for this life and the ability to even contemplate following my dreams, let alone throw everything I’ve got into the fray.

I realized that even if my dreams never come true, I will be okay. It was so liberating. I will keep trying; I actually had a second wind after this realization. Because now I know that my life is full and worthwhile and beautiful even if I’m just sitting outside with coffee in the sunshine.

If you allow yourself to love everything, as simple and small as it may be, even if not all of your dreams are unfolding around you, there may come a day when your dreams do come true and it will be icing on an already magnificent cake.

The defeated feelings from failure come from letting all your hopes and happiness ride on the dreams coming true. If you allow yourself to appreciate the freedom and aliveness in just having the opportunity to try, the failing will be so much less painful.

You should keep chasing your dreams and following your passion. At the same time, you shouldn’t let yourself feel so bad if you’re failing.

Check with yourself and see—would it really be so awful if you just kept trying and things never quite worked out the way it does in your dreams?

Really think about it. How wonderful and fun and exciting is it that you can go off and chase those dreams? And how much more concrete and valuable is love in your life, joy in the simple things, and appreciating what you have?

If all your dreams come true but you neglected your relationships and forgot how to be grateful and happy with the little things, it won’t matter.

Let living fully be your passion. Chasing your dreams is a byproduct of that. Finding a way to make them come true is not the end all, be all.

Be fully immersed in your own life—your relationships with others and yourself, tasting good food, comfort and peace, enjoying a quiet morning with the sun on your face, laughter.

Failure isn’t so bad when you realize that taking the steps to make your dreams come true is a dream coming true in itself.

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