The Truth About Dreams Vs. Opportunities

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The truth about dreams vs. opportunities

 

When I announced that I wasn’t selected to Live off Groupon for a year, I had a lot of very sweet people ask me if I was okay. As in, “are you surviving the emotional trauma of not being selected for this opportunity?”And without hesitation, I could say, “Yes, I’m completely fine.” Sure, I was a little disappointed—I knew I had done a good job, and that I could’ve rocked the assignment—but sad? Upset? Wistful? No, not in the least.

In fact, my reaction reminded me of a friend who was an actor in New York. I asked him how hard it was to wait for those roles he really, really wanted, and he said, “You literally have to get to the point where you’re working so hard, that you don’t remember what you auditioned for.” He recounted the time he did land that dream role, and when the call came through, he had to remind himself who was calling and why.

He realized the difference between dreams and opportunities.
His dream was to make a living as an actor, each audition was an opportunity to make that dream happen.

A few years ago, I knew what I wanted in life, but I had no desire to work for it. I knew I had some talent, I’d had people tell me they thought I could “make it”, and I had all the internal tools to get what I wanted, but I wanted it handed to me in a neat little package. So, when opportunities arose, I saw them as the means to make my dreams come true. I had nothing else to fall back on. When those opportunities passed me by, when I was said “no” to, I took it personally, as an affront to me and my aspirations, because it’s all I had going for me.

And then it hit me. No one will make my dreams come true but me. No one. I had a choice to either stop dreaming or get to work. So, I began to work. And work, and work, and work.

Suddenly, opportunities became stepping stones instead of walls for merciful benefactors to hoist me over. Not only could I now say “no” to opportunities if they weren’t completely in line with my end goal, but opportunities could say “no” to me. And guess what? It didn’t hurt or wound because I figured out that opportunities don’t make me…I MAKE my opportunities. And even without being selected to Live off Groupon for a year, or being asked to write that guest post, or having an article rejected, my dream hasn’t died because it’s an organic thing that doesn’t stop being when there’s a hitch.

So why does it matter in the grand scheme of things?

Your dreams don’t matter if you’re not willing to work for them
Who cares if you want to win a Tony if you’re not willing to take a dance class? Who cares if you want to take over the blogosphere if you’re not willing to write. every. day. or open yourself to the community mindset of this neck of the interwebz? Who cares if you want to be a designer but you don’t pour over color charts, bookmark your favorite designer’s portfolios, or render that first sketch? No one will hand you anything just for being your talented self (though yes, talent does help). If your dreams don’t matter to you, they won’t matter to anyone else.

Your life will be filled—FILLED—with opportunities
But will you be ready? Can you show up for that last-minute audition with a prepared routine? Will you be ready to dash off that 300 word essay at a moment’s notice? Whip out your design portfolio when you just happen to run into that textile big-wig at a bar? When you’re not ready, opportunities carry more weight…they are the be all to end all, they are your LAST CHANCE. Don’t wait for that last chance…be ready now.

When you don’t see an opportunity, make your own
One of the coolest things I’ve learned in the last year is the power of ASKING. It’s okay to ask…to ask for that guest spot on a blog, to ask to sit in on a class, to offer your services for free to that business. “No” is not such a harsh word when you learn to never equate “no” with “stop”. Make it happen, don’t wait, get out there, pound that pavement…catch my drift?

I wanted to share this with you all because I am super excited about the next six months of my life. I feel like they will be full of fantastic opportunities, new steps, and hard, hard work. Please continue to join me for the ride…I’m glad to have you along.

We can always hop into the back seat later and make out.

photo by Christian Beyer // cc

16 Comments

*starr fish

Great timing for this guest post, just before the New Year when people are fired up to make changes in their lives! We should be fired up to make our dreams happen year round, thanks for the reminder!

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Kalei's Best Friend

Insightful post!. Those epiphanies we get in life are somethin else aren't they? I so agree only we can make those dreams happen.. Others can give us ideas as to how to attain them but bottom line, we are the ones who can make it a go!.

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OneKindWord

There used to be a poster at my gym that read, "If an opportunity comes take it, if an opportunity doesn't come make it." Going after your dreams is hard work!

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Lindy Mint

I've been exploring this concept a lot too. It's so easy to have dreams, yet no means or plan to get to them. It's also easy to hang on to those "dream opportunities" and then get soul-crushed when they don't work out.

I like the idea of working so hard you can't remember what you did. That is soooo reality.

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willbikeforchange

Great advice! I think it's also important to remember that not every opportunity is going to be what you want right away, but that doesn't mean you should turn them down. So what if you can't be on Broadway right this second – community theater's a place to start! This job for the government isn't personal essay writing, but it's a lot more writing than you'd be doing in any other position. A series of small steps towards your goal is a lot easier and more likely to be successful than a giant leap. Makes less of a mess when you fall too!

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Meaghan

I read this and thought, "Who the hell is this brilliant chick?"

Fantastic article! Thanks so much for sharing.

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Brooke

Whew! Just in the nick of time ~ I needed that. I was about to resign myself to another dreadful year in a job I hate, because I'm a lazy dreamer. I think I'll try working on something I love instead. Thanks.

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