Re-Prioritize Your Dreams

Never give up on your dreams, but don't be afraid to work hard to get there

Great, you have a dream, now what?

What are your dreams? How about your passions? Where do you want to be ten years from now? What do you want to do with your life? You would be surprised at the number of people who can’t answer that question. Some of you might be surprised that I can’t answer it myself. Not because I don’t know what I’m interested in, not because I don’t have things that I think know I’m good at – but because I don’t know how I’m going to use my inherit abilities and interests to become successful, make money, and do something I love. I’m willing to bet a lot of you all reading this are in a very similar place. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who recently graduated from college and is taking the initial steps into the career-world; it went something like this:

Me: ‘What do you want to do now that you’re done with school?’

Friend: ‘I’m not sure.’

Me: ‘Fair enough, well what do you want to do in life? What are you passionate about?’

Friend: ‘I don’t know. I want to make a difference, start my own business, not work for ‘the man’, inspire other people, do something good for society, leave an impact, build community, and love what I do.’

Me: ‘Sounds great, but those are pretty ‘broad’ ideas, how are you going to start a company with no money? Do you really expect to not do SOME work you aren’t going to love? How will your passions become a reality?’

Friend: ‘I don’t know man, I just know I have a lot to offer and want to make a difference.’

This conversation illustrates what a lot of us are going through as young twenty-somethings entering into the ‘real’ world. The huge success of young entrepreneurs in recent years (Mark Zuckerberg, Chad Hurley, Matt Mullenweg, to name a few) has gotten into our heads and has led us to believe that the sky is the limit to what we can accomplish. We’re all in search of discovering that next big thing. And, more importantly, and perhaps tragically, it’s put the idea into our head that anything less than doing exactly what we want is just mediocre. Each one of us wants to change the world, we want to break away from the ordinary, quit our mundane 9-5′s and embark down the path of a startup entrepreneur.

Our passions are both a blessing and a curse

Passions drive and motivate us to be all that we can be, but they blind us to the realism that everything isn’t going to happen in a day. One thing our generation lacks is patience, we are a generation of ‘instant results’ – Fast food, the internet, digital media downloading, these are all products of our need for instant gratification. We’ve become ‘spoiled’ in a sense that many of us have lost sight of good old fashioned hard work, determination, and above all, patience.

So what’s the point? I titled this post ‘Re-Prioritize Your Dreams’ because I don’t think anyone should ever give up on their dreams and passions. Doing what you love and having an integration of work and life is supremely important to a person’s well-being. Having dreams drives you, it motivates you, and it defines who you are.

My point, and hopefully the take-away for all of you here, is that it’s OK to re-prioritize your goals and aspirations. Maybe you can’t quit your job and start your own business today, but you can follow another passion and work on writing your first novel (like me) while you continue to work at your current employer, gain experience, and save money. Maybe you can’t change the world tomorrow, but you can start volunteering, reaching out to local non-profits and startups, forming connections, friendships, and partnerships. There are things you can do today, right now, that will set you up for the success you dream about in the future.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Never lose sight of your dreams, but take some time to sit back and look at the bigger picture – yes, life is short, but it’s not so short that you don’t have time to build your way toward your BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Be realistic about the opportunities you have in front of you, and capitalize on them. Odds are, if you are proactive and you have a little patience, you’ll get to where you want to be sooner than you think. Try new things and reach out to new people in fields you’re interested in (and even ones you might not be). You’ll form irreplaceable bonds and friendships, and increase your professional  network.

Think back to the conversation I talked about above – in reality, that dialouge wasn’t between a friend and I, it’s a conversation I’ve had with myself time and time again. But having a little patience and putting in the hard work will get you from wanting to ‘change the world’ to figuring out how to do it.


29 Responses
  • Andy Reply

    Matt,

    “Hi, I’m Andy…”
    “Hi Andy!”
    “And I don’t know what the hell I REALLY want to do when I grow up.”

    Yep, I can’t answer the question either. Curse of the entrepreneur? Too many ideas, too little time?

    I’ve read two of your blogs and already theme is emerging for me. Level-headedness, staying within the bounds of one’s emotions, and not getting too far ahead in thought or action. It’s a good thing and I sometimes wish it was more my style.

    I love this line: “More importantly, and perhaps tragically, it’s put the idea into our head that anything less than doing exactly what we want is just mediocre.” WOW! I’ve felt like that so many times over the past year or so. Reading about today’s young (peer!) business leaders, it makes me almost disgusted that I haven’t reached that level of responsibility, accountability, or …gasp!… fame. You’re right, it is tragic and something I and others like myself need to get over.

    I don’t think it is an awful thing to expect great things from yourself and to dream big. Even wanting to “be like” those business leaders isn’t awful. I’ll go one step further than you, however, and say that people don’t need to RE-prioritize their goals, they need to ACTUALLY set them, prioritize them, and come up with a plan to come back to them on a regular basis to re-prioritize them. The reason we’re impatient as a generation, and I would even say culture now, is that we don’t have to set small goals to survive and find out information (i.e. Go to library and check out X books on Y; take family to mall to buy new DVD and search for Z brand shoes). We have it at our fingertips and, quite frankly, we have a right to get irritated when we can’t have information NOW. We have the power and capabilities, so let’s use it. We aren’t used to setting the small goals, so we don’t worry about setting the larger ones with a process.

    I think we get impatient when we haven’t set real, relevant goals for ourselves or when the goals we have set exceed our boundaries. We don’t know how to lead others, so we certainly don’t lead ourselves, thus our goals and dreams never come to fruition. I wrote a somewhat similar blog on my site: http://www.oecii.com (sorry for the lack of customization and current dead links…). Actually, I wrote it last fall, but came back to it last week and disagreed with it. Inherently, we all know it takes hard work and time to achieve our dreams. We just want instant gratification because we haven’t set effective, methodical, and empowering goals.

    Related link:
    Gary Vaynerchuk did a video blog about the “Hustle 2.0″ which I liked. He talks about the same thing you did – keep your job and build your brand on the side. Here’s the link:

    http://www.viddler.com/explore/garyvaynerchuk/videos/44/

    Andy

    • Matt Reply

      Hey Andy – This is a great response and you add a ton to this discussion. I think the curse of an entrepreneur clearly is too many ideas with too little time. We have to get away from the broad ‘change the world’ state of mind to a more focused ‘how can I change the world?’ way of thinking. This is no easy task – many of us have no idea what we ultimately want to do with our lives, so it’s hard to really focus in. That’s why I say reaching out, meeting new people, trying new things, and re-prioritizing your goals is so important. You might not be able to change the world tomorrow, but you can start making steps toward where you want to be. Being able to remain proactive is what separates the ‘thinkers’ from the ‘doers’.

      We are constantly comparing ourselves to people who are the most successful in a given industry, and that isn’t realistic. It’s important to dream big and set high goals for yourself, but expecting to achieve all of those goals by the time you’re 30 just isn’t realistic. In most cases (excluding an isolated few) it’s going to take years to be where you want to be, and if you don’t end up exactly where you set your goals (because it’s inevitable that every single one of our goals most likely will not be met) – that’s OK. Re-focus, re-prioritize, and keep moving forward.

      Thanks so much for your response. I try to keep a level head, I think the blog and communicating with you guys is huge in maintaining my own level-headed-ness.

  • Andy Reply

    Matt,

    “Hi, I’m Andy…”
    “Hi Andy!”
    “And I don’t know what the hell I REALLY want to do when I grow up.”

    Yep, I can’t answer the question either. Curse of the entrepreneur? Too many ideas, too little time?

    I’ve read two of your blogs and already theme is emerging for me. Level-headedness, staying within the bounds of one’s emotions, and not getting too far ahead in thought or action. It’s a good thing and I sometimes wish it was more my style.

    I love this line: “More importantly, and perhaps tragically, it’s put the idea into our head that anything less than doing exactly what we want is just mediocre.” WOW! I’ve felt like that so many times over the past year or so. Reading about today’s young (peer!) business leaders, it makes me almost disgusted that I haven’t reached that level of responsibility, accountability, or …gasp!… fame. You’re right, it is tragic and something I and others like myself need to get over.

    I don’t think it is an awful thing to expect great things from yourself and to dream big. Even wanting to “be like” those business leaders isn’t awful. I’ll go one step further than you, however, and say that people don’t need to RE-prioritize their goals, they need to ACTUALLY set them, prioritize them, and come up with a plan to come back to them on a regular basis to re-prioritize them. The reason we’re impatient as a generation, and I would even say culture now, is that we don’t have to set small goals to survive and find out information (i.e. Go to library and check out X books on Y; take family to mall to buy new DVD and search for Z brand shoes). We have it at our fingertips and, quite frankly, we have a right to get irritated when we can’t have information NOW. We have the power and capabilities, so let’s use it. We aren’t used to setting the small goals, so we don’t worry about setting the larger ones with a process.

    I think we get impatient when we haven’t set real, relevant goals for ourselves or when the goals we have set exceed our boundaries. We don’t know how to lead others, so we certainly don’t lead ourselves, thus our goals and dreams never come to fruition. I wrote a somewhat similar blog on my site: http://www.oecii.com (sorry for the lack of customization and current dead links…). Actually, I wrote it last fall, but came back to it last week and disagreed with it. Inherently, we all know it takes hard work and time to achieve our dreams. We just want instant gratification because we haven’t set effective, methodical, and empowering goals.

    Related link:
    Gary Vaynerchuk did a video blog about the “Hustle 2.0″ which I liked. He talks about the same thing you did – keep your job and build your brand on the side. Here’s the link:

    http://www.viddler.com/explore/garyvaynerchuk/videos/44/

    Andy

    • Matt Reply

      Hey Andy – This is a great response and you add a ton to this discussion. I think the curse of an entrepreneur clearly is too many ideas with too little time. We have to get away from the broad ‘change the world’ state of mind to a more focused ‘how can I change the world?’ way of thinking. This is no easy task – many of us have no idea what we ultimately want to do with our lives, so it’s hard to really focus in. That’s why I say reaching out, meeting new people, trying new things, and re-prioritizing your goals is so important. You might not be able to change the world tomorrow, but you can start making steps toward where you want to be. Being able to remain proactive is what separates the ‘thinkers’ from the ‘doers’.

      We are constantly comparing ourselves to people who are the most successful in a given industry, and that isn’t realistic. It’s important to dream big and set high goals for yourself, but expecting to achieve all of those goals by the time you’re 30 just isn’t realistic. In most cases (excluding an isolated few) it’s going to take years to be where you want to be, and if you don’t end up exactly where you set your goals (because it’s inevitable that every single one of our goals most likely will not be met) – that’s OK. Re-focus, re-prioritize, and keep moving forward.

      Thanks so much for your response. I try to keep a level head, I think the blog and communicating with you guys is huge in maintaining my own level-headed-ness.

  • Sam Reply

    This is great advice. Usually, dreams are dreams because they’re not so easy to attain, and yet we still get impatient when we’re not as close to reaching them as we want to be. Especially in this economy, we have to be willing to be patient and take baby steps. It doesn’t mean forget about our dream, it just means being open to taking a different path.

    • Matt Reply

      @Sam – You’re exactly right. the idea of leaving the corporate world and embarking on the path of an entrepreneur sounds sexy and exciting, but to many of us, it’s not realistic, and it’s easy to get discouraged when we are ‘forced’ to remain in our current situation. But, as I’ve said in some earlier posts, I think a big part of this has to do with a person’s state of mind. If you are capable of understanding that patience is a virtue and good things will happen if you continue to work toward your goals, you’ll go much further. As you said, dreams are dreams because their not easy to attain, but (most, if not all) of them ARE achievable. Remain proactive and do what you can now that will add up to bigger and better things down the road.

  • Sam Reply

    This is great advice. Usually, dreams are dreams because they’re not so easy to attain, and yet we still get impatient when we’re not as close to reaching them as we want to be. Especially in this economy, we have to be willing to be patient and take baby steps. It doesn’t mean forget about our dream, it just means being open to taking a different path.

    • Matt Reply

      @Sam – You’re exactly right. the idea of leaving the corporate world and embarking on the path of an entrepreneur sounds sexy and exciting, but to many of us, it’s not realistic, and it’s easy to get discouraged when we are ‘forced’ to remain in our current situation. But, as I’ve said in some earlier posts, I think a big part of this has to do with a person’s state of mind. If you are capable of understanding that patience is a virtue and good things will happen if you continue to work toward your goals, you’ll go much further. As you said, dreams are dreams because their not easy to attain, but (most, if not all) of them ARE achievable. Remain proactive and do what you can now that will add up to bigger and better things down the road.

  • Sarah Pare Reply

    I don’t know…I think sometimes the blindness to realism, because of our passions, is really important. There aren’t many days I could continue to do what I do if I wasn’t totally blinded to the odds.

    The bottom line is that you can work your ass off and *still* never make it. Your passion keeps you hanging on.

    I do think re-prioritizing is good advice. Baby steps are always better than no steps at all.

    • Matt Reply

      @Sarah – I think you make a very good and very valid point that I didn’t consider when writing this pot. The blindness to realism can be a positive thing. As we are faced with extremely difficult odds, the ‘blind faith’ we have in our passions and dreams can drive and motivate us to try harder.

      I think where this ‘blind faith’ proves to be of negative connotation is our generations lack of patience, wanting everything to happen now, and in many cases, not showing a willingness to work hard toward something we want. As you said, it’s all about taking baby steps rather than to not do anything at all, or in contrast, ‘biting off more than one can chew’ – aiming TOO high and losing focus.

  • Sarah Pare Reply

    I don’t know…I think sometimes the blindness to realism, because of our passions, is really important. There aren’t many days I could continue to do what I do if I wasn’t totally blinded to the odds.

    The bottom line is that you can work your ass off and *still* never make it. Your passion keeps you hanging on.

    I do think re-prioritizing is good advice. Baby steps are always better than no steps at all.

    • Matt Reply

      @Sarah – I think you make a very good and very valid point that I didn’t consider when writing this pot. The blindness to realism can be a positive thing. As we are faced with extremely difficult odds, the ‘blind faith’ we have in our passions and dreams can drive and motivate us to try harder.

      I think where this ‘blind faith’ proves to be of negative connotation is our generations lack of patience, wanting everything to happen now, and in many cases, not showing a willingness to work hard toward something we want. As you said, it’s all about taking baby steps rather than to not do anything at all, or in contrast, ‘biting off more than one can chew’ – aiming TOO high and losing focus.

  • Eva Reply

    My problem is I feel like I don’t know enough to make my passions a reality. That’s a big excuse to tackle, because you can never know everything.

    But then that becomes a Catch-22 because once you know ‘enough’ you don’t have the advantage of blindness to reality.

    My blog is my baby step.

    • Matt Reply

      @Eva – I think you are making great strides toward educating yourself within your field, and your blog is a great example of demonstrating your knowledge in the realm of psychology, and you do a fine job of taking complicated topics and explaining them in ways that the rest of us can understand and connect with. Obviously, I don’t know all of your dreams and passions – but I would say just keep learning, keep growing, and find your niche. You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but you CAN become and expert on something. Keep doing what you’re doing – you are doing great!

  • Eva Reply

    My problem is I feel like I don’t know enough to make my passions a reality. That’s a big excuse to tackle, because you can never know everything.

    But then that becomes a Catch-22 because once you know ‘enough’ you don’t have the advantage of blindness to reality.

    My blog is my baby step.

    • Matt Reply

      @Eva – I think you are making great strides toward educating yourself within your field, and your blog is a great example of demonstrating your knowledge in the realm of psychology, and you do a fine job of taking complicated topics and explaining them in ways that the rest of us can understand and connect with. Obviously, I don’t know all of your dreams and passions – but I would say just keep learning, keep growing, and find your niche. You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but you CAN become and expert on something. Keep doing what you’re doing – you are doing great!

  • Grace Reply

    I think you’re right to say it’s okay to re-prioritize your dreams. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up, it simply means you’re taking a different angle, tweaking your passion, or maybe even the path to get there. I do believe however, that your life must be lived following your passion or else it’s somewhat devoid of “life.”

    There’s this quote I love about passion, thought you might like to hear it:

    “Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace… but we would be hollow… Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we’d be truly dead.” -Josh Whedon

    • Matt Reply

      Great quote Grace – throughout life we’re preached the mantra of “following our dreams” – so much so that doing anything less is seen as a failure. But with that being said, it’s ok to re-prioritize – if you can’t quit your job today, maybe you can start pursuing more freelance opportunities (just an example of the much bigger picture). I agree with you, if you’re not at least working toward your dreams and passions, what ARE you doing?

  • Grace Reply

    I think you’re right to say it’s okay to re-prioritize your dreams. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up, it simply means you’re taking a different angle, tweaking your passion, or maybe even the path to get there. I do believe however, that your life must be lived following your passion or else it’s somewhat devoid of “life.”

    There’s this quote I love about passion, thought you might like to hear it:

    “Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace… but we would be hollow… Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we’d be truly dead.” -Josh Whedon

    • Matt Reply

      Great quote Grace – throughout life we’re preached the mantra of “following our dreams” – so much so that doing anything less is seen as a failure. But with that being said, it’s ok to re-prioritize – if you can’t quit your job today, maybe you can start pursuing more freelance opportunities (just an example of the much bigger picture). I agree with you, if you’re not at least working toward your dreams and passions, what ARE you doing?

  • Kristin Reply

    Love the post! It’s so true. I think even as we start accomplishing our goals we also tend to forget that was a goal to begin with and move on to the next big goal without even relishing in the fact that what we just accomplished was so amazing.

    Recently I opened a Fortune Cookie to find the fortune inside to be “Success takes time”. While not necessarily a fortune predicting what will happen in my life, I found it to be quite good advice from a cookie. Now it sits at my desk to remind me to be patient. :)

    • Matt Reply

      We really don’t give ourselves enough credit, do we Kristin? Odds are, you’ve accomplished much more than you think – a good practice that I do and recommend to others is to compile a list of ‘accomplishments’ big or small, personal or professional. Keep a running list that you can reference and review when you’re doubting how much you’ve really overcome throughout your life. Cheers!

  • Kristin Reply

    Love the post! It’s so true. I think even as we start accomplishing our goals we also tend to forget that was a goal to begin with and move on to the next big goal without even relishing in the fact that what we just accomplished was so amazing.

    Recently I opened a Fortune Cookie to find the fortune inside to be “Success takes time”. While not necessarily a fortune predicting what will happen in my life, I found it to be quite good advice from a cookie. Now it sits at my desk to remind me to be patient. :)

    • Matt Reply

      We really don’t give ourselves enough credit, do we Kristin? Odds are, you’ve accomplished much more than you think – a good practice that I do and recommend to others is to compile a list of ‘accomplishments’ big or small, personal or professional. Keep a running list that you can reference and review when you’re doubting how much you’ve really overcome throughout your life. Cheers!

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