I don't have a dream! The surprising outcome of uncertainty.

i dont have a dream“When did you know that you wanted your own practice?” someone asked me the other day. “How long did you dream about it before it happened for you?” 

I rummaged through my grey matter files, going back to last year…five years ago…twenty years ago… Nope. Nothing. No such desires. No such dreams. What a shocking realisation: I’ve never had career dreams.

I made the uneasy discovery that my career steps were never confident steps towards an exciting goal. No, I mostly slunk away from what I regarded as wrong decisions. I obtained my first degree with the certain knowledge that it was the very last thing I wanted to do. So I veered away towards a different postgraduate field…only to realise, yikes, no thank you! Another swerve into another direction. By that time, I was properly qualified to do jobs I had very little interest in. And so it went – a detour here, a relief exit there, a new uncertain qualification, an unexpected skill for my CV. My choices, during the biggest part of my career, had all been against a job rather than for something I felt passionate about.

The most shocking thing about this random, dreamless career journey is the outcome. If I had to believe the popular culture, then there was no hope for me. ‘Everything starts with a dream’; ‘We will only grow as big as we dream’; Without dreams we are nothing.’ I was allegedly on a slippery road to absolutely nowhere. My meagre wishes were hardly dreams: to survive the next exam; to finish work in time to be next to the sports field; to help this person in front of me; to stay honest in my relationships. 

But lo and behold: All the running away actually lead to something! With some astonishment I’m struck with the realisation that my life turned out to be bigger than what my dreams could be. I’m happy. I’m working with passion at something I’ve been shaped for over decades.

The quotes and memes are wrong! You don’t only get to live a beautiful life by following your dreams. You don’t get to have an exciting career only if you’re driven by passion! The path of running away is also a path. It can also lead to fulfilment. When I look back now, I know that in the absence of an all-encompassing dream, there is just this one thing to be done: to take the next step – even if it is a very hesitant one. Whether you step away from something you don’t like, or closer to something you do doesn’t seem to matter in the end; it is still you, walking your career path. The only thing that matters is that you don’t stay passive for too long. Whatever small step you take, it’s taking you somewhere. And that somewhere is closer to your dream – even if your dream has no shape yet, or your dream is just that tiny seed of energy to keep on trying, discovering, getting up again. 

You probably won’t be reading this if you have complete career certainty. Great! That is a good space to be in, even though it doesn’t feel that good. Certainty is fixed, inflexible, and often blind. Uncertainty, and even suffering, is the birthplace of new things. No change or growth is possible without uncertainty or disappointment. So take a deep breath, relax, and welcome into your life the wobbly feeling of not knowing. You are exactly where you should be. You have the space and opportunity to explore, without having to honour a debilitating ego. Acknowledge the big nothing you’re faced with right where you would’ve preferred a big dream. It’s not really nothing; it is a life busy happening, filled with growth, surprises and passion. The only thing you need to do right now is to take that next step, even if you don’t know that it’s the right one. 

There is no ‘right’. There is no ultimate truth or perfect answer. There is only a good enough decision, for now. Act on it, because magic happens when you move. A life filled with hundreds of worthwhile small steps, taken with honesty and eyes wide open for what’s beautiful, is a passionate life. 

Want to share this article? Click on one of the icons below: