When Your Dream Becomes A Nightmare

NightmareHad an interesting email from a reader this past week.  It got me thinking about a lot of the things I write about here.

This reader has been experiencing a lot of resistance from Life lately as she’s tried to achieve some of the dreams she’d been working so hard for.  She’d been wanting to buy a home for so long, and finally was able to do so.  However, in order to make this happen, she had to relocate to a different state.  Because she owned her own business, she was able to make this move, and felt like it all was going to work out well for her.

Unfortunately, due to the stresses of the move and other issues, her health began to fail.  Her business began to suffer as well, and she found the maintenance on her home to be much more than she was prepared for.  In short, her dream home has become something of a nightmare for her.  Both directly and indirectly, buying this home has caused all sorts of issues she never could have foreseen ahead of time.

This reader did everything right.  She had a goal, and was willing to make sacrifices to achieve it. She took a risk by moving to another state.  Even though her business could move with her, she had to leave a support system that was already in place.  It took a lot of guts to do what she did, and it looked for a little bit like it was going to pay off for her.

So what do you do when the dream that you’ve worked so hard to achieve comes crashing down around you?  It’s an interesting process, and one that I’ve thought about a lot since I got this note.

1.  Figure out why it went wrong. Personally, I’ve got some issues with home ownership, as well.  I own a home, but kind of wish I didn’t.   I wanted a nice place to live, and I bought into the fallacy that it’s always better to own than to rent.  Don’t get me wrong; it is a nice house for my family.  I just didn’t take the whole picture into account.  I focused on having this house, and didn’t really consider how it would impact other areas of my life.

More than anything else, I love having options. I wish I had the ability to move overseas and teach English.  Not saying that I would certainly do it, but I don’t even have the option anymore.  I’m tied to this house (unless I want to just mail the keys back to the bank and ruin my credit).  That gnaws at me a lot, and the thought of my nice house never fully overcomes it.

2.  What lessons can you learn? A lot of people, when faced with a crummy situation, will say “Oh, well.  Live and learn, right?”.  I know I’ve said that myself.  The problem is that those folks rarely learn anything from it. I sure haven’t a lot of the times I’ve said it.

You need to be intentional in everything you do in life. I say that a lot here because I need so much work on it myself.  I’ve talked a ton about goals and having a plan to get them.  That’s one part of living intentionally.

But another part is not letting the circumstances of your life wash over you like a wave, pushing you around.  You need to examine what happens in your life, and make a conscious effort to take the good and the bad lessons from what occurs.  You should always be applying those lessons in the future.  Truly learn from your mistakes (and successes!) so that you can make better decisions the next time around.

3.  Don’t get stuck. This one is probably the most difficult for me.  I have a tendency to beat myself up a lot over bad decisions that I make.  I expect a lot from myself, and I hate dropping the ball.

There’s a concept in finance called “sunk costs“.  Essentially, it’s money that you’ve already spent that shouldn’t be considered in any decisions that need to be made going forward.  As an example, let’s say that you just had a new transmission put in your car that has 150,000 miles on it, and it cost you, oh, $1,200.  This just happened a month ago.

Today, your car won’t start, and the mechanic tells you (after you’ve had it towed to the shop) that it’s going to cost you another $3,000 to fix this.  Bummer, huh?

Logically, most of us know that the only thing that should be taken into account when deciding whether to spend the $3,000 is whether or not you think it will keep your car running for longer than a different car that you can buy for $3,000 right now.

However, a lot of us think, “But, I just spent $1,200!  I can’t let that go to waste!”  Right?

The decisions we make that turn out poorly are sunk costs in our lives. You can’t allow them to determine what you’re going to do in the future.  So you made a bad decision on what job to take, or any other decision that’s gotten you off-track from where you think you should be.  You can’t change it, so there’s really no use worrying about it anymore.  Simply move on from where you are toward where you want to be.

Once again, it comes down to two key decision points.  If you’re facing a decision in front of you, be sure you consider the big picture.  Is this really what’s going to be best for me in the long run, taking ALL areas of my life into account?  If you’re on the other side of a decision that didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, move ahead and make sure to learn and apply your new lessons.

Have you ever had a dream turn out to not be what you imagined it would be?  How did you deal with it?  Were you able to make the best of the situation, or did you chalk it up to experience and move on?  Let us know in the comments

Photo courtesy: Powerhouse Museum Collection

2 thoughts on “When Your Dream Becomes A Nightmare”

  1. People who think that "if only I had this or that and then I would be happy forever after" are dreaming and I'm not talking about ambition. Every new goal entails new challenges and even problems that have to be worked out. While I personally have never had a dream turn into a nightmare, I suffer from the complex of being chronically unsatisfied. In the past that has meant that I bounced around from goal to goal without much consistency or direction. Now I am focusing on channeling that energy so that I have a progression of goals that will, in theory, build upon themselves.
    Great post, something that everyone should keep in mind as they make goals.

  2. Anytime you did something, whether it turned good or bad, take a minute and feel it through. Ask 2 questions:

    – "What did I do well?"

    and

    – "What would I do differently?"

    And never dwell on what did you do wrong.

    I first heard it from Brian Tracy, and the logic behind it is that this way the next time a similar situation will come up, you'll have a ready plan to implement, whereas if you were concentrating on your mistakes, you'll subconsciously repeat them because that's what you concentrated on.

    Additionally, the first question pumps up your self-worth and it helps you to cope with the doom and gloom of failing 🙂

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