A number of years ago, the country group Rascal Flatts released a song called “These Days.” It tells the story of a guy in a small town who accidentally runs into an old flame. She has since moved on with her life, but he can’t stop dreaming about her.
In verse 1 he sings,
Yeah, life throws you curves,
But you learned to swerve.
Me, I swung and I missed
and the next thing you know, I’m reminiscing.
Dreaming old dreams,
Wishing old wishes,
Like you would be back again.
He has put his life on hold because he is still pining for her. Since there is no indication that she shares his feelings, he will forever be stuck in a time loop, wishing for a dream that will never become reality.
That can also be true in our creative lives. There are times when we want to embrace a new dream. But it’s impossible to move toward a new dream while we are still clinging to an old one.
Old dreams vs. new dreams
How do you know the difference between an old dream and a new one? Here are a few guidelines:
- An old dream represents something that will probably never happen. A new dream represents something that is possible. (That doesn’t mean it’s easy, just possible.)
- An old dream is rooted in the past. A new dream pulls you into the future.
- An old dream is familiar and comfortable. A new dream is fresh and exciting.
- An old dream distracts you from your current goals. A new dream pulls you toward your current goals.
- An old dream brings negative energy into your life because it represents a loss. A new dream brings positive energy into your life because it represents abundance.
- An old dream is all about something passively happening to you. (“I wish this would happen.”) A new dream is all about you taking action to achieve something.
If old dreams are so bad, why do we hang onto them?
We cling to old dreams because they are comfortable. They give us a sense of emotional security. We have fed them, nurtured them, journaled about them, talked about them, worried about them, and given them lots of attention.
When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend. As I grew older and became more mature, I no longer needed the security the imaginary friend provided. When it comes to old dreams, sometimes we hang onto them well into adulthood. We can’t let go even though they don’t align with reality.
Learning to let go
If you want to fully embrace a new dream for your life, you must first let go of the old one. You can only receive what God has for you with an open hand. If your fists are clenched because you’re holding onto an old dream, you can’t receive what God has for you.
Here are three actions you can take to help you let go of an old dream:
1.Let the old dream die.
There is a certain dream I have been holding onto for about twenty years. (It has nothing to do with my job as a college professor.) Over the last couple of years I have come to realize three things:
- The dream is probably never going to happen.
- The dream is no longer relevant to my life. I don’t even really want it to happen, but am having trouble letting go.
- My emotional attachment to this dream is dragging me down.
When an old dream is no longer serving our current or future goals, we have to let it go. It’s hard and it’s painful, but it’s necessary for our growth as artists.
2. Stop “driving by” your old dreams.
Brad Paisley has a great song called “Pressing on a Bruise.” It’s all about our tendency to keep poking at an old wound. As he is mourning a lost relationship, he sings,
I could start a new life, I could move on
I could do a drive by and see if you’re home
It’s tempting to keep “driving by” the old dream.
Have you ever spent hours journaling or talking to others about your old dream? It’s easy to devote hours to wondering why it hasn’t happened or trying to figure out what went wrong.
Have you spent time on Facebook stalking people who are connected to the old dream? Checking up on them? Wondering why it was them, and not you?
Are you having trouble moving on? Maybe it’s because you keep driving by the old dream “just to see” what is going on there.
3. Actively work on the new dream.
Do you want to write a book? Make a transition into a new career? Learn to paint? Start a business? If so, you must do the work to make your dream happen.
Dreams are like plants. They must be fed and nurtured. The way we feed and nurture them is by doing the consistent work that will bring success.
It can be difficult to find the time and emotional energy to work on our dreams. Here are a few resources to help you:
4. Surround yourself with people who will pull you toward the new dream.
What would happen if you love coffee but you are surrounded by people who can’t stand it? You will soon feel bad about loving coffee. On the other hand, if you hang around coffee people, you will fuel your passion and grow your expertise.
Whatever your dream is, you must find your “peeps” who are passionate about the same thing and have a similar perspective. The synergy of ideas and community will help you go faster and further than you could on your own.
Every Monday morning I meet with my mastermind group. These three guys are a key part of my support network as I work on my writing and life goals. I also have a couple of great writer friends whom I talk with on a regular basis.
A few months ago I joined the 48 Days Eagles Community. It has been a great source of inspiration and encouragement as well.
I’ve heard it said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Who are these five people in your life, and are they taking you in the direction you want to go?
Pruning is hard but necessary
When I was a kid, my grandfather would sometimes recruit me to help prune his apple trees. I learned at a young age that you have to remove some unnecessary limbs so the whole tree can be healthy.
It’s hard to let go of a dream we have nurtured for many years. But it’s a key part of the process of stepping into a new dream and becoming fully awake to the great things God wants to bring to life through your creative powers.
Have you ever had to let go of an old dream so you could fully pursue a new one?