I want to be loved. I want to be fit. I want to have a job I’m proud of. We all have hopes and dreams, but sometimes we take too little action to make them come true.
What is it that gets in the way of taking the actions necessary to fulfill our dreams? How do unfulfilled dreams and a lack of action affect a person’s experience of life?
The pursuit of a goal can give your life purpose, energy, hope, and excitement, but it can also bring anxiety, insecurity, and overwhelm. Sometimes, simply acknowledging what you want can arouse feelings of longing and despair. Some choose to avoid those uncomfortable feelings by disengaging from their pursuit. Avoidance might resolve the discomfort in the short term, but in the long term, refusing to participate in your pursuit of happiness, and facing the mixed bag of feelings that come with that pursuit, can leave a person feeling stuck, depressed, or empty.
It would be wonderful to have all of the energy and excitement of the chase without the fear and self-doubt. The more you want something, the more it matters to you, the less likely you will be relaxed about it.
There are many reasons a person may become afraid to do something they want or need to do. Here’s a short list:
- If a person is attempting something they’ve never done before, they might fear the unknown. Will they like it or will they hate it? The real problem underlying this fear may be that the person doesn’t believe they can survive hating something, even briefly, or believes they’ll be stuck in this hateful experience forever. In most circumstances, this fear is irrational.
- If a person is a perfectionist, they may not be able to tolerate the discomfort that comes along with learning something new. The only way to learn is through trial and error–by being able to make mistakes. This can be challenging for perfectionists.
- A person can put too many limitations on identity. “I was bad at sports in high school, so I can’t join the office softball team now.” It can be comforting to think you know everything about yourself, but it’s also limiting. It can stop a person from expanding who they are and what they’re capable of.
- Because a person has failed at something before, they’re afraid to fail again. It’s not the failing that’s the problem; it’s how a person feels about failing. If failing led to self-loathing and depression at some point, of course a person won’t want to feel that way again. However, inactivity and stagnation may end up leading a person to those same feelings. If a person came to see failure as a learning experience that can lead to success, they might be less afraid to try.
- For some people, fear doesn’t arise from the actions they need to take, but from the judgment or ridicule of others. In some critical and unsupportive social environments, any attempts to improve oneself may be met with hostility, including attempts to recover from addiction or return to a healthy body weight.
- People who lack self-soothing skills, such as encouragement, forgiveness, acceptance, and self-care, generally have a more difficult time recovering from disappointment than those who have those skills. It is important to learn the skills to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” —Norman Vincent Peale
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Rena Pollak, LMFT, CGP, therapist in Encino, California
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