To relentlessly pursue our dreams and aspirations is perhaps something we've all been encouraged to do at one point in our lives. After all, we hear it everywhere — in the media plastered on billboards, or on inspirational TV ads, from self-help books, from shrinks and counselors, from our families and friends, name it! Even fortune cookies on most occassions! And many of us go through every single day of our lives either finding out ways to chase our dreams or simply dreaming about it. Bottomline, we each have one.. and basking in the glory of achieving our dreams is an experience we all wish to have one day. How we decide to get there is another story.
I, personally, have probably heard every cliche there is on adversity and resilience. And admittedly, I'm a big believer in ambition and faith — which all points us towards the direction of chasing rainbows. I believe in sacrificing precious elements of my life in order to achieve a goal or in picking myself back up repeatedly if I get knocked back in attempting to reach for it. It's not a brand new concept and is actually quite simple. Unfortunately, very difficult to implement. Nonetheless, try and try until you die… that is what I say.
However, though that is what I say, every time I take on a chance that will bring me one step closer to my intent, there will always be a nagging voice at the back of my head going “Are you sure this is all worth it?” Intuition answers back a tad too quickly, “Of course it's worth it! It's my dream, it's my aspiration! It's absolutely worth it.” But is it really?
Sure, numerous sacrifices are involved in pursuing a dream — not rocket science, isn't it? We all have to work hard for something that we truly believe in. The question remains: Is it worth it?
Up to what extent is it allowable to push for an ambition before reality steps in to intervene?
Aaaah, reality. Where exactly does realism fit in when it comes to dreaming and aspiring? They say that dreaming has no bounds as it stretches beyond our wildest imaginations. I beg to differ — I reckon that dreams only stretch as far as when reality stars to sets in.
In the ideal world, we go after our dreams, we toil hard, we sweat blood and tears… and eventually, with a bit of luck and prayer, we reach it. Unfortunately, in the real world, dreams and ambitions sometimes get traded for fulfilling obligations and responsibilities. Here in Asia, where success tends to be quantified, people may be given less opportunities to fulfill their aspirations because of their financial obligations to their family or otherwise. They are plagued by practicality and functionality.
For instance, in a typical family for five — one set of parents plus three kids — the eldest child, almost always, gets the extra pressure to help out and provide for the family. This usually entails acquiring a practical job that will yield financial gains and much success. Unless that child has always aspired for a practical job, he/she may have to put his/her dream on the backburner until a better time and opportunity arrives. To pursue a dream isn't exactly for free either. To dream of being a doctor can be one of the costliest ones to have. Sure, it's noble, and even practical to a certain degree… but to have the resources for it is another story. Again, back to our family of five, if the eldest child wishes to become a doctor to pull his/her family out of their dire situation, how much sacrifice would the whole family have to go through for that one child's dream?
In the ideal world, no one would have to give up anything for that one person to take his/her fighting chance to reach for that dream. But in the realistic world, is it worth the investment? To sacrifice four people's lives for the sake of one person's dream?
Passion — something that is truly important in pursuing a dream, no? Coupled with the proper drive and discipline, it is already winning the first half of the battle. What about the second half where talent is concerned? What would you do if someone you love has the drive, ambition and passion for something that is not backed by talent and ability?
Let's say your daughter wants nothing more than to act and perform professionally. She pours her heart out in rehearsals, in training, in practicing. There's no question about it — she indeed has passion. And though she has gotten better in time, you know deep inside that she neither has the talent nor the package to make it big. Gut feel, instinct — after all, there's no real way of telling, right? How do you inject enough reality in her in order to cushion the blow of the harsh world?
Do we set ourselves up for disappointments when we set our hearts on something? When we want something so bad, feeling the pinch of failure is a hundred times the pain of trying to gain that success.
It's heart breaking when our dreams do not agree with our realities, for many reasons other than self-doubt and fear. There are ways around it though… after all, when the door closes, a window somewhere is opened, right? Perhaps the conflict of our dreams and realities is an indirect way of the universe telling us that we are meant for something bigger and better. Our destiny maybe? Disappointments will set initially and we mourn and dwell, but surely, it cannot be that way forever. We pick ourselves up and push forward again — this time, for something else that suits us better. Life is a big game of trial and error. Just because we have cherry-picked a dream for ourselves doesn't mean it will work out.
The most important thing is that we have given it our best stab in acquiring that dream.
Adversity is for those who have constant hope and faith. However, the concept of reality can dangerously lean towards the fizzling out of hope and faith. It must be taken in ample doses… just enough to temper ambitions and risks. There is a fine line that distinguishes a pessimist from a realist. The difference is that a realist still has some sort of hope infused deep within whereas a pessimist has completely given up. And a realist is aware of boundaries and consequences — and is simply taking measures to avoid it before moving forward.
Ambition must be tempered with a dash of reality… and a dollop of heart and soul.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward
There's nothing wrong with a little practicality as long as it doesn't interfere with our passion, our drive and our motivation. After all, the wind is still there, we just have to set our sails so it would agree with our direction. Just the same with dreams. Dreams do not disappear… we just have to find the right ones for us… again and again