The poet Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?” But what if your dreams aren’t deferred but just delayed a little bit?
Often, it takes longer than we want to reach our goals. Whether that’s because of life getting in the way or because we set an unrealistic timeline, it’s so easy to get frustrated and discouraged when dreams are delayed. How do you cope with those feelings? Where do you find the motivation to keep trying when it feels like you are getting nowhere?
Feeling Stuck Is Normal
I experienced this last summer. My dream of moving to Vermont was put on ice when a certain global event that must not be named reared its ugly head. With travel restricted across state borders and no clue how the immediate future might play out, I decided to stay in my hometown near my family instead.
While I think that was ultimately the right decision, I started to feel stuck. Some days, I even felt like a failure because I hadn’t been able to make my dream a reality. Even though the circumstances were completely out of my control, I still blamed myself. Does that sound at all familiar?
When your dream is delayed, it’s important to practice patience. That’s no easy thing, especially in a world where instant gratification is the norm. So how do you do it?
It’s About the Journey
First, try reframing how you think about your goals. Anything important takes time to achieve. Whether you are trying to get fit, learn a new skill, save up for a trip, or write a novel, reaching your goal requires incremental progress.
Sometimes, it feels like you aren’t moving any closer to your goal. You look at the number on the scale or the word count of your work in progress and get discouraged. You might even get so discouraged that you give up.
When that feeling hits, remind yourself that’s there is more to life than the big picture. Your end goals are important, but all the little steps leading up to them are also important. Try to enjoy your workouts for their own sake. Have fun doing something you enjoy without putting too much pressure on yourself.
As someone who has written more than one novel, I can tell you that the good part isn’t finishing the book–it’s the journey of discovery and determination on the way to that final page. Dreams can be powerful motivators, but the real work of living is done day to day, minute to minute.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People
Another way we drive ourselves crazy is by comparing our progress to others. Who cares if your cousin bought a house last month while you are still struggling to pay down your credit card debt? So what if you’ve passed some arbitrary milestone when you were “supposed” to achieve your dream?
There’s no universal standard for achieving your dreams. While some dreams might transform as you move through life, you are never too old to strive for a more remarkable life. Some of us are just late bloomers, that’s all.
Be patient and gentle with yourself–and don’t worry if you haven’t reached your goals by a certain age or seem to be moving more slowly than other people. Don’t give up… but don’t beat yourself up, either.