Has dreaming of big success left you feeling like a constant failure? We have become obsessed with achieving our goals but how is that working out for us?
(WARNING: This post contains Miley Cyrus and S-Club-7 lyrics.)
So you have a dream and you want it more than anything else in the world. If you were on X Factor and Simon asked you, ‘What does this mean to you?’ You would say, ‘This means everything to me. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I need this, Simon!’
You have become so focused on success that you cannot conceive of any other way. We are told, never give up! Dream big. Be anything you want to be. You’re special! You deserve the best!
Search for the hashtag ‘happiness’ on Instagram and amongst pictures of ripped bodies, perfect complexions and ideal destinations you will find a tonne of this shit…
The happiness business is a mega industry, selling money making schemes, motivation models, rules for success, guides to abundance, your best self blueprint. The American Dream is also the British Dream, the European Dream, the Asian Dream etc. It’s almost a global issue.
In her book America The Anxious, Ruth Whippman explores the gap between our actual experience of life and the goals we set for ourselves. In an article for Time she summed it up brilliantly,
‘The American Dream has become the mass production of unrealistic expectations.’
Because it’s just a lyric in an S-Club-7 song! Don’t reach for the stars, they’re fucking miles away. You will just end up with very sore arms!
I met a bloke the other day who told me that as long as he had a BAFTA by the time he was 40 he would be happy. Hello? Why would you need an inanimate object to make you happy? What, so you’ll be in limbo until that time, living each day as if in the green room to the award ceremony. Don’t even consider not achieving this dream because it’s just too sad. A career wasted, by these standards at least.
If we take away the dream then failure is not an option.
But that feels like giving up doesn’t it. It’s not! We’ve been brainwashed into believing that not having a dream is the same as failing but the truth is that thinking big is making us all so very unhappy.
The only reason to do anything is for the sake of doing it. Paint for the sake of painting. Sing for the sake of singing. Bake for the sake of baking. Account for the sake of accounting! (People love accounting too, you know).
Example: I am a terrible baker but I love baking. Mostly I produce chewy, flat things with soggy bottoms.
I often have Paul Hollywood’s Liverpudlian drawl in my mind. ‘That’s underprooooooved.’
And I think, ‘I don’t care, Paul. I don’t even understand what proving is!’
I would not do well on Bake Off!
We’re All Obsessed With Numbers
The music industry is big on hype. While working on a record in the studio it’s quite hard to stay focused when you know that the record label’s highest outcome is numbers – streaming and sales. I could visualise 50 million streams every morning for a month and every day say a little mantra – ’50 million streams are coming to me’ but all that will do is take my focus off making music.
Actually when you don’t give a frig about numbers the numbers take care of themselves.
I also have to accept that I don’t love every minute of my job. Anyone who knows me knows that I can get super low about it. I get let down, ignored, overlooked and disrespected and that all sucks hard but that’s life. If I didn’t create then I would go mental so I crack on and rediscover the thin thread of familiarity, which is tied to a thicker thread of contentment and that leads to an ingrained seam of happiness that I can’t deny.
Another gem from Instagram…
Ask yourself, what really matters?
Could I do this without achieving my dream? Write this book without getting a publishing deal? Paint this picture without selling it? Could I do this job without a promotion?
You may think that you need goals to push yourself but I think you’re wrong. If you need a reason to do a thing other than the experience of doing the thing itself then you’re doing the wrong thing. Make sense? It will be crap then it will be good and then it will be crap again and so on but that’s real life.
I think I have a ‘minimum position’ rather than a dream. A standard of contentment and happiness that I am okay with and below which I might call a day on any given project. I don’t think I’ll be writing any songs with ‘minimum position’ in the lyrics though.
I think Miley Cyrus said it best…
‘Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb!’
Amen Miley! Although she also said, ‘la da di da di, we like to par-dee.’ So, you know – pinch of salt.