No, you can’t do anything you put your mind to, and that’s OK.

How’s that for motivation?

This may seem to somewhat conflict with what Brendan wrote quite recently, but I think I’m approaching it from a slightly different angle and a little friendly debate is always healthy.

I like to consider myself an optimistic realist…or maybe a realistic optimist. I see the glass half full. There’s nothing wrong with having big goals and dreams, reaching for the stars, and having visions of grandeur; in fact, I encourage that kind of thinking!  It drives me crazy when people shoot down the ideas of others and dismiss them as whimsical notions without even trying to understand or talk through them. I think so many amazing opportunities are missed because of fear, ignorance, and accepting the status quo. The world needs people like you and me to change things up, to take risks, and to chase their crazy ideas.

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However, in my opinion, it’s important to have a realistic approach to life as well because there are some things you just can’t or shouldn’t do due to certain insurmountable obstacles or unchanging facts or limitations.

There are some facts of life that we just have to deal with.  I’m a human being, I’m 6’2″, male, etc.  I can’t pursue my dream to become a dinosaur, to be 6’10”, or to become female.  These are extreme examples, but the fact is that some circumstances in life can’t be changed and these circumstances may prevent one from a certain pursuit.

I’m a pretty driven individual. I dream big and work hard; but life has a way of humbling you. My dream in high school was to go to the Naval Academy. I went to a demanding high school, had good SAT scores, was very active in extracurricular activities, but I was not accepted; I attended Virginia Tech instead and it was an amazing experience. Then I tried to walk-on to the Virginia Tech football team. I worked on strength, I worked on speed, I worked on conditioning; I was in great shape. I tried out three times, but I didn’t make it. Trust me, I put my mind to it, but I simply didn’t have what they were looking for. They wanted blazing speed and I simply didn’t have it. I could give excuses: knee surgery, poor training, genetics, etc. It was probably a mix of it all. The point is, I worked my butt off to make the team, but I was not picked. My dream to be a college football player was over.

I had another dream as well: to be part of the Special Operations community in the military. I first wanted to be a SEAL, but I looked into the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, Air Force PJs, and even Army Special Forces through the National Guard. My biggest hesitation to this pursuit was the guaranteed stress that it would put on my (then) future family. High school came and went, college came and went, and before I knew it, I was employed and married with a baby on the way. I had a decision to make, and it was not an easy one. I wanted to pursue my dream, but I also didn’t want to be away from my family every year for months or even over a year at a time. I begged God to make the decision for me, but that’s when I learned a very important lesson: sometimes God will make things crystal clear and show us our path, but other times, there isn’t an obvious right path and He gives the decision right back to us. After the hardest deliberation of my life, full of frustration, anxiety, and plenty of tears, I decided to end the pursuit because I knew it was the best decision for myself and my family. Many amazing people choose that life and sacrifice so much; I have the utmost respect for them and their families. Our path is different, and I’ve come to embrace that.

Why am I rattling off my crushed dreams? Not for pity or to wallow in my sorrow, but because I want to share what I’ve learned.

  1. Always pursue your dreams.
  2. You may not achieve them
  3. but that’s ok.
  4. That pursuit in itself can lead you to other, often better, opportunities.
  5. Sometimes we have to give up on a dream
  6. but that’s ok.
  7. There are many other pursuits on which to focus your time and energy.
  8. The things that lead us to a truly happy life are ALWAYS ABLE TO BE PURSUED.

I hope this doesn’t bring you down. I actually want it to be motivating. Go be a professional athlete, top the music charts, break world records, start a business; you can do it! But know that every pursuit has natural consequences, expected and unexpected. You will have to make sacrifices and difficult choices and you will have to determine what is best for you and those who depend on you. There will be limitations and sometimes insurmountable obstacles. Just because you run into a dead end doesn’t mean it’s THE end.

If you want to be successful, you have to give it your all and you can’t look for excuses. You can absolutely do incredible and amazing things but I also believe that you can’t necessarily do anything JUST because you put your mind to it.

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