How to Develop Your Dreams and Stop Yourself From Giving Them Up

by Karim Saleh

Has anyone told you that something isn’t possible because that’s not the way the “real world” works? Has anyone ever told you that you “can’t always have what you want”? Have you ever told yourself your ideas were silly and what you wanted to do couldn’t be done for any reason whatsoever? Have you ever given up on something because you didn’t see a way to getting what you want?

If so, I want to let you know you’ve definitely come to the right place.

But before we begin, I need to know… do you have a dream? Do you have a vision for what your life would look like if you had everything you ever wanted and were the person you wanted to be? (If not, it is important that you first have this vision. Start here.)

So what? You mean I have to sit here and just think about all the stuff I ever wanted and the person I want to be? What’s the point? That’s such a waste of time! I have things to do!

That’s precisely what I want you to do, and I’ll tell you why. In our minds we have this idea of who we are and it leads us to set all sorts of boundaries for how we live our lives, both emotionally and mentally. This type of mindset is limiting, and while we have this view of ourselves, it is incredibly difficult to discover a path towards our goals. This is a concept embraced by leading pioneers of our time.

Whether you believe you can or can’t: you are right.
– Henry Ford

You don’t have to know how to do something; you just have to believe it is possible or you will never find the answer you need. Without a vision for what you want, you will always find excuses to why getting what you want is impossible! (Now, don’t get me wrong, a vision alone will not make your wildest dreams come true, but it is a step in the right direction, and a necessary one at that.)

Why people don’t get what they want:

First, they aren’t willing to put in the real work required. This is due to having unrealistic expectations of what it takes to get what they want. As soon as they start they say “oh this is too hard!” or “I can’t do that” or any variety of reasons we can come up with so we don’t have to face reality. We all know we have no excuses. We all know it won’t be easy so first we must start by being honest with ourselves about the work our goals are going to take.

Second, they give up before they start because they think someone’s else’s idea of what can be done is easier to adopt and it takes the pressure off of them to make a decision. This happens because we don’t believe in ourselves enough. This is an invitation to push yourself and take control of your life. If you want something you need to get real with yourself. But don’t give it a half-ass effort and say you tried. I know it’s hard, believe me I do. This is your life and if you don’t take control of it I can guarantee you won’t get what you want. People often say “if it was that simple, everyone would do it”. If you have that attitude, what’s the point in doing anything? When you learned how to walk, you didn’t sit there and complain every second of it. You just did it. Most of us are doing the equivalent of mentally crawling. It takes time, but you will get it! Nobody said it would be easy, but everybody said it would be worth it.

Third, deep down, most people don’t feel or think that they deserve to get everything they’ve ever wanted. In situations like this, people will resort to self-destructing and self-defeating behaviors. Funny enough, we think this is normal because it is SO common. As a society, our standards are so low that self-destruction has been glamorized and made to look “cool”. For example: our relationship with alcohol. Few people can say they have never tried it, and it is literally a poison for our body (that’s why hangovers exist, our bodies are negatively reacting to poison in our bodies). Yet alcohol is a fundamental piece of our society. The way most people use alcohol could be looked at as self-hatred. In other words, if they did not use it as often they would have many more resources (confidence, money, time, better health) with which to pursue their goals. Every day you spend not moving towards your goals, you add more reasons to why you can’t get what you want within your own mind. You are better than that! The people who are putting in the time and dedication you don’t see all that much because they are out hammering it out or developing their skills. You are a product of your environment. If you want to be successful surround yourself by successful people.

Lastly, we do not get what we want to protect ourselves. Example: someone wants all the money in the world so they can do whatever they want. Magically one day they win the lottery and get all the attention they’ve always wanted. Finally they can be happy, right? Not so fast. Before winning the lottery, they didn’t take into account the paranoia involved with having that much money. Since they didn’t like themselves before (because they were looking outside themselves for happiness) they wonder if people really like them because of who they are or if they just want their money. How about all the tabs they are now expected to pick up? How about all the people coming out of the woodwork looking for money for this and that? Okay, it can’t be all bad right? How about the feeling you get when you buy new stuff? A house would feel nice. How about a new car? World wide trips? But, if you didn’t appreciate what you already had, none of it will be enough. The feeling of having something new and shiny wears off. How about the thoughts of how you should be happy now because you have the fame and fortune you’ve always wanted?

I recently read an interesting study done of Lottery winners in the U.K. The results showed that 55% of the winners are happier after winning than before they won the lottery, while 43 % said it had no effect on their happiness. 43% is pretty significant. It’s worth considering what the percentage of that 55% were protecting their egos and said in the survey that they were happier after winning because that’s what they were expected to be. What percentage just couldn’t drop the delusion? Are you lying to yourself about what makes you happy?

What do these things all have in common?

Cognitive DissonanceThese people have a self-image, which was not developed in a healthy way because their success came too quickly. When I say success, I mean that in a subjective context because this can mean different things to different people. Success could be the perfect relationship, winning the lottery, becoming famous, having the best shoes, or even getting everything you’ve ever wanted. Regardless of whether people have everything they’ve ever wanted, it is still never enough when they realize they aren’t as happy as they thought they would be. They think, well what else is there for me to do? What’s my reason to live? If these things don’t make them happy, they turn their attention inwards and start asking themselves questions like, ”What’s wrong with me?”

They may continue to look outside themselves for anything that will stop the anxiety. The feeling that they are experiencing is cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling one gets when they hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time. In this case, the person had the belief that if they were rich and famous they would be happy. But, even though they are rich and famous, they are not happy. This can be dealt with in a healthy or unhealthy way.

An unhealthy way:
They continue to deny reality and turn anger inward on themselves. They start blaming themselves for not being happy. They start destroying themselves through any types of destructive behavior, like drugs, alcohol, being reckless, suicide or less obvious methods of self-sabotage. They continually put themselves in situations that compromise their current stability. In doing so, they unconsciously push away everything that doesn’t fit their idea of themselves. They do these things to numb the anxiety until eventually their reality reflects what they think they deserve. This occurs because their self-image wasn’t given time to grow with their own expectations of themselves and they weren’t even happy to begin with.

A healthy way:
A constructive way of dealing with this is to question your beliefs and examine your sense of reality. In this case, it would be accepting you were wrong about your initial belief that money and fame is the source of happiness. From there you could go about addressing what it is that makes yourself happy. Instead of blaming yourself for something you couldn’t possibly have known because you hadn’t been exposed to the experience you needed, you can now be logical about it. You can see how this belief has limited your life to this point and can now use this energy to improve your life. If you don’t know where to go from here or feel lost, ask for help!

signThis is the main reason why it is important to have a vision for yourself and your life. It gives you a target to shoot for, and allows you to open up your mind to being comfortable with your new self-image. It is important to make this as real as possible. You must also experience it. You want to feel (and think) the way you would expect to if your vision were true. Unless you allow yourself to do this and take the time to practice it (meditation is a great way to do this), you will be faced with the above dilemma in the future. Our problems don’t disappear until we deal with them. It is better to address them now then to regret it later. The longer you go, the harder it gets to change behavior. Only you can do it. Nobody else can for you.

Four easy points we can take action on to improve our lives:

  1. Follow the trail: If you or anyone else has told you that something isn’t possible and you believed it you are selling yourself short. Just because someone is older than you doesn’t mean they have a better mind than you. If you are looking to be happy, then go talk to people who are happy. Go to those people who have great qualities and who you admire. Ask them how they got that way and how they developed that trait. Read books about people who have qualities you want. No one’s perfect, but you can model individual qualities after people. Successful people don’t happen by accident.
  2. No more excuses or complaints: You have to be willing to put in the work to get what you want. Let’s call a spade a spade. This has nothing do with anyone else. No more excuses or complaints. Every time you catch yourself complaining or making excuses for anything stop yourself. Now take a breath and put that energy into resolving the situation. Babies are allowed to complain, grown men and women can do something about it. This is one change that will have a significant impact on your life and is one of the easiest to change. You might be surprised by how much you do this once you start watching for it.
  3. Fire up the theatre in your mind: What should be the easiest exercise for us is actually one of the most difficult. “What do you mean you want me to dream about what I want? I don’t know what I want!!” You have to take time and look internally. Develop a vision of it that excites you in your mind. Take a pen and paper out and draw it out. Find out why you want that life and what it would do for you. How it would make you feel? Re-visit this each morning you wake up and every night before you go to sleep. The more you develop it, the larger the impact it will have. Don’t believe me? Try it daily for two weeks and tell me you haven’t seen a difference in your life.
  4. Get real: If you are looking for a magic pill, it doesn’t exist. That is true as a metaphor and in reality. Medications have some benefit and I am not discounting their uses. But, as an example, most of the antidepressants prescribed today are to make people feel better about the fact that they hate their lives. There’s no alternative to you putting in the work! We can’t live your lives for you. Medication is a tool, not a solution. Remember who you are, where you came from, and what you’ve always wanted, not what you are willing to settle for.

Further reading on the self-image: The book is called The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz and Dan Kennedy. It is an intimidating name for a great book and it is an easier read than the name suggests. I highly recommend it.

Leave us a comment and tell us how you are going to use this information! Keep us posted on your progress!

About Karim Saleh
Karim Saleh is a multifaceted medical student living in Ireland who is passionate about social ethics and personal change. His main goals in life are meeting extraordinary people and sharing his knowledge and experience for the benefit of others. He lives his life by "Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own." (Bruce Lee) He has big hopes and plans for the future, and big hopes and plans for YOU. Contact Karim at karisaleh@rcsi.ie

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian August 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm

One sentence from a paragraph struck me in particular, “What’s my reason to live?”

I think that everyone strives to find the answer for that question in some way shape or form. I think the people that don’t bother to think about or ask themselves that type of question end up in a mindless routine, going with the flow of life and drifting towards group consensus on decisions and heading in any direction that is the most emotionally stiumulating at that moment in time.

I love the article and I wanted to add just a bit; I think having a vision backed up with a purpose for your vision is what makes it move in the first place. I read an interesting anecdote the other day that talked about the value of hard work. The excerpt was from a story where there was a man and a woman gardening, the woman said to the man “Isn’t this glorious?!” And the man said “I’ve had better days,” to which the woman replied “It’s not the work itself that is glorious, it’s the purpose of the work.”

Having a vision is extremely important and you can supercharge it with a purpose. You have to figure out what motivates you. It’s only recently that I discovered what motivates me; love for my family. Wanting to be a role model for my younger brothers and sisters to follow their dreams pushes me to the next level when the voice in my mind tells me to give up, stop trying, it’s not worth it.

Love the article Karim, it takes you on an imaginational journey and then comes back full circle at the end of it. Keep it up!

Karim Saleh August 8, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Hey Brian!

Great to hear from you man! 🙂 I completely 100% agree with your comment about needing a purpose to fuel your vision. I think without purpose you will not get what you want and similarly without a vision you will not.

Discovering your purpose is what will fuel you until the end. The challenge is that if you ask most people what their purpose is in life they will stare at you and be like huh? (it’s happened) A vision is something tangible and exciting that can get people moving. But, it doesn’t at all take away from the importance of one’s purpose. In essence they are one and the same. What I mean by that is the purpose is the sense/feeling/knowing within you and the vision is the external manifestation of that beauty. Either can lead to the discovery of the other. In my experience, I found discovering my vision first easier 🙂

Thanks for adding in this critical information and for the kind words Brian. I hope to cover some of the concepts surrounding purpose in an article about the significance of intentions that will be coming up soon!

Hope your path on your dreams is going strong!

Kareem August 9, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Great read Karim! Id like to point out my favorite part of your article, that firing up the theater in one’s mind is extremely important to do on a regular basis, especially this part, “Develop a vision of it that excites you in your mind.”

Even a quick minute or two every day before setting out to do work that gets you closer to your goals (and then later that night again) is necessary to remind yourself of the purpose of the goal you’re pursuing, and more vividly, experience it and playback the end result of when they finally get there, how they will feel, and how they see it happening. This way the image of their dream stays fresh in their head, and keeps it from unconsciously turning into a chore, making the whole process intriguing enough for them to work at it till the end.

Keep it up and stay inspired! =]

Cam August 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

Thanks for your comment Kareem! I totally agree that keeping things like this away from being a chore is very important.

Karim Saleh August 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Hey Kareem!

Thanks for commenting and for sharing your insights 🙂 I also agree with making this an enjoyable experience.

Regardless of what we are going through in our lives, i believe we can still enjoy it on some level. Sometimes, dedicating yourself to a practice like we have talked about can feel like a chore. It’s usually that self-sabotage rearing its ugly head! 🙂

Once we have seen how powerful having and experiencing a clear vision is and the impact it can have on our lives, there really is no great reason not to do it. Growing as individuals is something we need to make time for, and the beauty of this practice is that we are designing our futures. What could be more exciting?! 😉

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein

Word.

Tracey June 17, 2014 at 11:53 am

Thank you for the article Karim.
I’m an up and coming artist, singer songwriter from Cape Town South Africa. I’m going through a bit of a quiet patch in my career which I find frustrating. Thank you once again for your article.

karim saleh June 17, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Hey Tracey,

Thanks for your kind words and feedback. 🙂 I’m glad to hear that you are staying strong and finding the support you need to help with the frustration. Your art form -like many art forms- is rooted in expression, so it can be challenging during quiet times when your work is so personal to you. Then again, that’s what makes it so rewarding as well. I hope you are able to keep your belief strong and things work out for the best on your path.

Charles June 8, 2017 at 11:02 am

This is powerful, please continue this good work, the articles are life transforming.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: