It’s okay to give up on your dreams

When did it become unacceptable in society to admit the fact that ones dreams and reality don’t always match up. When did it become the thing to tell people to “never give up on their dreams”. It seems to me like though most of human history the majority of people have known that life isn’t fair and that hard work doesn’t always mean success. Your average serf or peasant had to accept the lack of control over their own destinies and cling to whatever little joys life afforded them. I’m not saying they were happier necessarily (wars, famine, plagues) but I think the skill of accepting things is quickly becoming a lost art. The Buddha who spent his life trying to understand the nature of suffering decided that unfulfilled desires are at the core of suffering.

The other thing that really bugs me is how society perceives the act of giving up. It is seen as a weakness, not a strength to accept that some things just aren’t meant to be and look for happiness in other ways. Giving up always has negative connotations. We tell dying people who are torturing themselves with chemotherapy in order to buy a few more months to “Stay strong and don’t give up.” Even people deep in the trenches of the suffering tell themselves and others to not give up. Somehow the idea of discussing the fact that a person might be better off accepting reality has become taboo (with cancer, infertility, or even career dreams). I’m not devaluing hard work. Its important to work hard in every aspect of your life and a lot of times if you work hard enough at something you will achieve your dream. But a lot of people who devote the majority of their energy towards one single goal will often achieve their dream and then “wake up” to the rest of their life realizing their single minded pursuit of one goal left a lot of collateral damage in its wake. Then there are sometimes when no matter how hard you work you can’t achieve your dream.  You can sacrifice so much in pursuit of that dream, refusing to give up, that when you finally realize that its not going to happen for you there is nothing else left.

In the end, no one should be telling anyone else how to live their lives. Nobody should say “don’t give up” because they have no idea what “not giving up” may cost. On the other hand telling someone its time to give up on their dreams is never helpful and never well received. Instead of telling people what to do we should be wishing others the strength to handle life’s challenges and the ability to find happiness no matter how things turn out.The decision on when and if to walk away from a dream has to come from within and you have to learn to shut out all the negative messages that society will hurl at you.

I gave up on my dream of having a child. I didn’t give up because I was weak or I didn’t want it badly enough or even because the work was too hard. I have found immeasurable strength in my new found ability to accept that things don’t always work out how you hoped and in the knowledge that you can be happy anyway.


6 thoughts on “It’s okay to give up on your dreams

  1. This is so very well said. In my humble opinion, it takes a hell of a lot MORE strength to be able to walk away from something you want so badly when you know that continuing to pursue it will only diminish your enjoyment of your life. It’s a lot easier to stay in the pattern of chasing the unattainable. I only hope that I have the strength to be able to choose happiness for myself at some point if we can’t make this work.

  2. Love this post. I don’t know how our society got caught up in this “all dreams can come true!” fantasy, but it’s really not doing anyone any favors – certainly not our young people. Yes, we want them to have dreams and goals and work hard, but we also need to teach them how to handle adversity and failure and moving on. I work in a university and I hate how it gets drilled into kids’ heads that they NEED an university education to succeed and if they just work hard enough, they’ll achieve anything. Bullshit. Sometimes all you get coming out of university is a crummy retail job and a huge pile of debt.

    I also find it offensive when people tell you that you can overcome a medical problem if you want it badly enough, thereby putting the blame for the inability to be cured directly on the patient. And don’t even get me started on those who say you’ll become a parent if you want it enough…grrrrr!

  3. I love this post. I think the “never give up” line arrived at the same time as the “you can achieve anything if you try hard enough” line. Both of which are total BS if you ask me. I always find it an incredibly thoughtless thing to say – refusing to admit the realities of a situation and putting pressure on someone who is already in an unimaginably stressful situation as it is. Acknowledging what we can’t achieve -both to ourselves, and to our wider community – is one of the hardest things to do. So it should be admired and celebrated, not judged.

  4. I completely agree… although I must admit I don’t like the phrase “give up” itself. I prefer to think of it as… moving on? refocusing? changing direction? Although maybe I’ve just brainwashed by the relentless message that we must remain positive, lol.

  5. How true. I completely agree that we have a weird taboo against “giving up” but sometimes the universe takes your life in a different direction – sometimes “giving up” is really just readjusting for your new reality. Also, life is all about choices – I made a decision that continuing to bleed money to try and get into another financial suck situation (having a child) was detrimental to my mental health, the potential future child and my future as a human. I don’t see that as giving up, I see that as making a hard decision. If there was any hope that I could have conceived a child with my own eggs, I would have endured all the needle sticks and surgeries and heartbreak, but when it came to the money, that’s where I lost, and not because of the money, it was because of what the money and the future implications of that money meant. I suppose if I just did things willy nilly and didn’t consider the circumstances, I would have been knocked up at an early age and never had to worry about IVF in the first place.

    Of course, this applies to many different situations – I always wanted a house, but where I want that house has changed considerably. How much I would spend on that house. When I would be married. What I would be when I grew up. I guess we should look at dreams as the fun part of life – we get to change them whenever we want. Their OUR dreams after all. We follow them until they no longer work for us, and then we come up with new ones 🙂

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