When Dreams Die (and When Are They Really Needed?)

A friend and fellow blogger posted about the power of dreams, and of dreaming big. He also wrote eloquently about having the courage to chase your dreams. He correctly argues that we should not fear failure in our decision to peruse our biggest dreams and to take a chance. Dreams can be empowering and can motivate us towards greatness. He then wished me luck in finding a new dream to peruse and success in perusing it.

I had to think about that one.

Rod an I are friends on blogs, on Facebook, and in life. We have similar backgrounds (obese and sedentary, finding fitness and running in our early forties). We both developed a passion for running. We both strived to improve our skills as we moved forward. We both found, at some point, a lofty goal (or dream) to compell us to push past our perceived limits.

Last year, I completed my dream of finishing an Ironman Triathlon. Rod is still striving to achieve his dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Both dreams were huge for two former couch potatoes. Both dreams were possible but had a significant risk of failure (for the record, I have no doubt that Rod will be successful. He has the genetics, the vision, the drive and the work ethic). This risk of failure pushes us harder and further…but only if the dream is fully alive in our hearts and minds.

At some point, dreams die.

They can die because of loss of interest, or due to other priorities, or from simple failure.

Dreams also die because of success.

i can think of no faster and more complete death then a runner crossing the finish line. Even when summit ink Everest, you have to get back down first. As soon as you break the tape (first marathon, first Ironman, first Boston or Kona finish, first 5k, etc.) the dream is over. Once accomplished, the dream is no longer a dream. It is a reality.

Dreams take up a LOT of room in your psyche. You may plan your day or week around it. You dream success, you dread failure, and you plan your life around the journey. When you succeed, all of that ends instantaneously. It is replaced (temporarily) by joy and elation which fades, and is replaced by a fact. That fact may help define who you are (marathon finisher, Boston Qualifier, Gold Medal champion, World Record Holder, etc) but takes up very little amount of space in your psyche. There is suddenly a lot of free room and empty space. There is a sense of loss and a “now what?”

Often, people simply try to accomplish that same dream again, or to be even more successful at it. They try to capture lightning in a bottle…again. I don’t think that way. I enjoy running marathons. But I have completed several and they have all blended together. It is no longer a dream. It is a reality. I can still enjoy the challenge, but it is different somehow.

That seemed to be my problem. I didn’t have a goal or dream. Without that, I lacked motivation, passion, identity.

I thought that I had a foolproof post IM strategy. I was tired of all the swimming and cycling, so I threw myself at my first love…running. It didn’t click. I kept dreaming up new goals. Cross country skiing, faster marathon finish time, 50 marathons in 50 states, ultramarathon. Nothing worked. I was going through the motions and hating every minute of it.

There are two sides to the dream coin. One side has the vision and the drive to accomplish something extraordinary. But on the flip side, it implies a dissatisfaction with the status quo. The “now” isn’t good enough, so we must vie for something better.

There are times that this is true, and that these challenges are worth the sacrifice. But, at some point, we are living the dream that we sought to find, and we blur past it looking for a new “better”.

My original dream was better health and fitness. I was never an athlete and struggled to accept that image of myself. I accept that now. Others will seek out my advice and preface it with the comment “You’re a runner”. I am at an ideal body weight, in good shape, and exercise regularly. Those are all things that I wanted to say but couldn’t four years ago. I have achieved my dreams. I have also achieved my dreams of a loving family, financial independence, an enjoyable career, and the respect of my colleagues and clients.

Why do I need to create a new dream to chase instead of simply enjoying the “now”? Why do I need a reason to run farther or faster, instead of just enjoying the simple act of running. Creating those artificial dreams and chasing them made me miserable.

I don’t need a new dream to chase at all times.

Dreams are organic. They germinate and grow slowly into a passion that you must pursue. It is best if you await their arrival. They tend to surprise you when they arrive. Those are the dreams will spark your imagination and push you to greater heights…



Filed under Random Musings

5 responses to “When Dreams Die (and When Are They Really Needed?)

  1. Very well written. And I wholly agree. Dreams are important but so too are appreciation and gratitude for what already is.

    It is a fantastic place to be in to realize and fully appreciate dreams that have already come true.

    Congrats on doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post has come at such an important time. At the end of this week, I will be becoming an Ironman in Mont-Tremblant. Its been 2 years in the making and like you said, has taken up a ton of psyche and time in my life but it will end Sunday evening, leaving me with the inevitable “What’s next”. I’ve purposedly not signed up for any type of race for the fall, wanting my desire to pull me back in because for the past couple of months, training has become a chore rather than a passion. I’ve been reading your posts about finding your path through goals and races and have been relating. Thank you for writing this and allowing myself to know that its okay to not have to have a “dream” all the time and to just enjoy the “now”. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad I could help ease the nerves a little. This season, I did way too much. Next year, I am doing shorter events, less of them, an not fretting about speed.
      I have to say that I am a little envious. IMOO was one of the best days of my life. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I have rarely felt so alive, and the day lives up to the hype. Enjoy yourself, smile for the cameras, thank the volunteers, give and receive positive energy with the other competitors, live in the moment, listen for your name to be called at the finish line, laugh, cry, and be alive! There will be a sense of grief and loss down the road. Everyone deals with it differently. I had my path, others keep signing up for more IMs. Your heart will guide you. Can’t wait to read a race report and track you on Sunday. Good luck!


  3. Great post! It is good to dream, but sometimes it is really important to take a break from pursuing the dream. Breaks/recovery periods tend to bring new life, which is ALWAYS a great thing!! Congratulations on being happy with the present…some people really struggle with this 🙂


  4. Loved this! I’m regrouping post IM as well so this was a great read.

    Liked by 1 person

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