Everyone has dreams that they wanted to follow at one time or another. Unfortunately, many of us haven't thought about these dreams since childhood. At one time, we were cheered for dreaming of being pilots, astronauts, and princesses. Then, as we grew up, we were told to "be more practical" and pursue a regular job with a regular paycheck.
For most people, however, the dream never died. It just went to sleep – lying dormant in the back of your mind and heart, waiting for an opportunity to arise again. And then that opportunity comes. Your job didn't work out, you're bored with your life, or something else happens that makes you wonder about what could have been. So the dream comes out of hiding, but you don't follow through.
Fear of the Unknown
Fear of the unknown is probably the most obvious reason so many of us let our dreams die. Almost everyone fears the unknown – it's more comfortable to have the job you know (even if you don't like it), than it is to risk starting something completely new. It might surprise you to know the United States ranks 12th among developed nations in terms of startup activity – and a lot of that has to do with people who are stuck being "comfortable" with the life they're already living.
Further, the Gallup study linked above found that business closings now exceed business openings in the U.S. Considering that employer businesses are a foundational part of the country's economy, it's clear that many workers today just aren't willing to leave the security of their current jobs to follow their dreams.
You Don't Know What You'd Do
Many Americans are unhappy with what they're doing, but don't know what else they'd rather do. Sometimes this is due to lack of time – a 40-hour work week with a family and other obligations doesn't leave you with much time to brainstorm or make decisions about the future. Other times, you have so many ideas that you don't know how to narrow it down to just one. You may even have a final idea, but not know if it'll make money or if you'll be capable of handling the different demands associated with running a business.
There are ways out of each of these situations, if you're really interested in committing to your dream. First, don't tell yourself that you missed your chance just because you're older and have a family. Studies suggest that business success increases with age up to age 40, when it levels out. Take the time to assess where you stand in terms of your business ideas, expertise, and skills. If you need help filling any gaps, organizations like the SBA and Score may be able to help.
If you aren't confident that your idea will work, there are a number of different steps you can take to test your vision before putting everything on the line. If possible, start small – ideally, while you're still working your day job – to get your feet wet before scaling up. Make individual crafts to sell on Etsy and gather feedback before launching a commercially-produced line to be sold at major retailers. Launch a bare-bones trial version of your app or software product to get the ball rolling before you seek funding.
Whatever issue you face, there are solutions – and there are other entrepreneurs out there who have overcome similar hurdles. Learn from their example. Don't let excuses stop you from taking the plunge and following your dreams when there are so many great resources that can help you make them a reality.
You Don't Have Enough Savings
Many Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and if you're one of them, it's easy to see why you don't feel you have enough capital to start a business or pursue your dreams. In a Gallup poll, 68% of those surveyed said they felt lack of savings held them back from starting a business. However, there are many ways to get the money you need for your larger goals. The key is to attach enough importance to your dream that you actually follow through on these different options.
American society is built on making people believe that they have to buy things in order to be happy. When you realize that simply isn't true, you'll find more than enough money to set aside for your dreams. You can also seek funding from others, whether through institutional loans, crowdsourced funding or equity stakes taken by venture capitalists and angel investors. That part-time process mentioned above can help as well, as doing so will help you make small moves in the direction of your dreams before taking the larger leap.
You're Afraid to Fail
This is easily the biggest reason most people don't follow their dreams – even if it's not something they know themselves. Whether you want to start a business, move to another country, or found a non-profit, you're probably terrified of failing. You don't want to risk your family, friends, and colleagues laughing at you or thinking you're foolish. I have two little secrets for you, though…
First, your friends and family will probably be too busy admiring your courage to laugh. And those that do make fun of you are usually doing so to hide their own jealousy. Don't let that hold you back. Everyone wishes they could follow a dream, but few people do. You can be one of the few that actually goes for it, no matter what the people around you have to say about it.
But it's also important to remember that failure isn't the end of your dream. Many business owners - myself included – have failed at ventures, picked ourselves up, and tried again. The lessons we learned helped us be much more successful the next time around. While failure is never fun, it's necessary, as it's through failure that we grow. If you look at it that way, your failures are actually extremely valuable – they're the catalysts that'll help turn you into the success you always dreamed of being.
In the end, only you can decide whether or not to follow that long-dormant dream. There are a lot of reasons not to. However, as they say, at the end of your life you won't regret the things you did. You'll regret the things you didn't do. I'm choosing to live a life without regret and pursue my dreams to the fullest. Care to join me?
What holds you back from following your dreams? What can you do to overcome those things? Share your thought in the comments below, then commit to taking action to make your dreams a reality: