At the beginning of a new year, it’s natural to take stock of your life. Where are you relative to your long-term goals? Reviewing your life goals, though, can often paralyze you. That’s because the common wisdom is that to be happy you need to follow your dreams. Of course, that assumes you have a defined “dream,” which many of us can’t clearly articulate.
The focus on dreaming is a trap. A lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing.
The dreamers make plans and hope and talk about it endlessly. They have vision boards, write in journals, and meditate about their dreams. It feels good because you can pretend you’re planning your life. But dreams don’t come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.
So be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life.
Take action. That’s how most of us get clear on our dreams. We learn what works—or doesn’t work—for us. If you want to be a writer, start writing. Do it every day. See if you enjoy the process. If you don’t, you’ve learned something really valuable. Go on to your next dream. That’s how you’ll learn what you really want, and you won’t be just waiting for it to happen.