when it's time to let go

5 Things to Do When Your Dream Dies

I was, recently, with a friend who was going through a hard time. He had struggled in his career and had lost another job, which in turn made life harder on his wife and kids. He had hopes and dreams about what life for his family would look like, but the reality they were living was very different. Through tears, he said, “I feel like I’m watching one dream after another die.” It’s difficult when it’s time to let go of dreams.

Our entire lives we’ve been told to “chase your dreams,” “achieve your goals,” and “never give up!” But what happens when the things you’ve wanted are gone or fading away? A dream dies. Maybe it disappeared or you’ve lost the moment. You feel desperate and lost. Replacing your dream right away feels wrong. What can you do? What are the appropriate actions to take? Where can we find hope? Here are 5 things to do when your dream dies.

1. Grieve

A natural reaction to disappointment is sorrow. It hurts. But we shouldn’t feel guilty about being upset. Participating in the grieving process is an important first step to dealing with loss. Take the time to mourn the loss of a dream. Process the pain and what it means.

2. Re-energize

Looking for the good in your life is critical to overcoming the grieving process. Personally, I look to God in these moments for healing and direction. It renews me. Focus on your core values. Relaxing and reflecting on things you enjoyed before your dream died is a good way to remember your first loves. Pursue these old interests. Being in nature, reading, spending time with your family, or perhaps praying are excellent ways to re-energize.

3. Grow

You can take small steps, but just make sure you take steps to grow. Do one thing at a time to build yourself up. Maybe you’ve always wanted to get in shape. Maybe you want to do one good deed every day for another person. Learn something new each week. Say a prayer for someone every day. Make yourself better, little by little.

You can take small steps, just make sure you take steps to grow.

4. Recognize

Pursuing the little things can help us recognize a new dream, maybe many dreams. Little by little, we can learn about ourselves. Looking at the smaller details, the individual pieces of the puzzle may help us see the big picture. We see the corners of the puzzle, the integral parts of our lives that we can build upon. Family, friends, helping strangers, writing, listening, learning, building—whatever it may be—find what you love then pursue it with all you have. Your hidden talents may sneak up on you. Create a plan and recognize that if this one doesn’t work, there must be something better.

5. Keep it to Yourself

This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but countless social psychology studies have continually proven that those who share their goals are less likely to achieve them. The studies show that those who share their goals feel a greater sense of satisfaction than those who keep their goals quiet; it’s as if they’ve already achieved them. Those who keep their goals to themselves can feel a challenge is more difficult, but continue to persevere. If you feel the need to share your goals, share them in a way that keeps you from feeling that sense of accomplishment until you actually get something done.

Nothing worth having is easy. But, don’t be afraid to keep trying. The brevity of life should keep us motivated to pursue the little things, one day at a time. Maybe you’re not ready to give up on your first dream; maybe you just need to change your perspective. Focus on your values, look at it differently, change your attitude, develop your new dream, and persevere.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one dream you have for your life?”