It was my 24th birthday last month. In the 24 years I have been endowed with consciousness I have had many dreams of what I wanted to be. Here are just a few I had growing up that stand out in my memory:
From the age of 6 – 8 I wanted to be a priest. I was raised catholic and went to church every week. The way I saw it, my priest only worked one day a week, got to live in a huge house seemingly free of charge, and got to be the center of attention who everyone wanted to be friends with. And to top it off, he had a personal phone line directly to the big bearded guy upstairs!
From the ages of 9 – 11 my interests took a radical turn. I spent my time endlessly watching James Bond movies and decided being an international spy was the clearly the role I was born to do. I fashioned myself a secret service ID badge (I laminated it so everyone knew it was official), had my family call me 007, and walked around in a suit holding a brief case full of secret documents (normally just homework).
From around 12 – 14 I wanted to be an actor. I figured international spy was a pretty competitive industry and I was a bit clumsy so probably wouldn’t be allowed to have a gun. If I was an actor I could just pretend to be a spy without any of the danger! Plus, I’d get paid to work with pretty girls. Perfect! However, after a few acting classes it turned out my crippling stage fright might get in the way.
For about a week at 15 I had a brief stint of wanting to be a doctor. Then I remembered a time I went and got a blood test and fainted at the sight of the nurse holding a needle. So maybe not.
There have been MANY more dreams in my 24 years that have come and gone. Including fireman, train driver, video game tester, food tester, chef, candle stick maker, architect, professional sleeper, Christmas cracker joke writer and concert pianist. The list could go on. And it will.
However, there comes a point in everyones life where we are told we have to start being pragmatic and realistic with career goals. You are given the world of opportunity and told you have to pick a thing. And so you pick a thing because you like it. But down the line you might not want the thing you thought you wanted.
My dreams have changed so many times. They still change even today. This scared me a lot growing up as I felt very fickle and indecisive. How can I begin on a career path when I can’t even decide what I want to be? Over time, I have slowly came to the conclusion that changing your dreams is okay. It’s okay to go after something new.
In Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk entitled The Psychology of our Future Self, he talks about how we tend to imagine that the person we are right now is the person we’ll be for the rest of time. Which is not the case. He summarises:
Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our life is change.
We change everyday and so it makes perfect sense that our wants and needs will change with us. Ambitions change with new experience. That dream you have been chasing your whole life? It can change! Because people change.
So here is my advice:
Don’t live your dreams. Or at least don’t feel pressured to. Your dreams were dreamt by a more imperfect, past version of yourself. Your past self didn’t know what you know now. There is absolutely no loyalty to your former self. A person that doesn’t even exist anymore.
I am objectively smarter than I was five years ago. By definition, I am the smartest, wisest, most experienced version of myself at any given moment. I have never had as many experiences as I have right at this moment. I have never had as much knowledge as I have right at this moment. I have never read as many books as I have right at this moment. Live in the present and don’t be held hostage by your former desires.
That dream you had in high school may not be the same dream you have in college. That dream you had in college might not be the same dream you have when you start working. Let the failures come forth and create a new world from the ground up. You are allowed to be lost. I have been lost for years. And it has taken a while for me to be okay with it.