Giving Up On Your Dreams – Why Sometimes It’s Necessary

Everyone has a dream. Something that they’ve wished for since they were a child. Something that they’ve worked for. Something they think will make them happy.

What if I told you that your dream might not really even be your dream? What if your dream ended up making you unhappy and it was nothing like you imagined it to be?

Dreams are dreams for a reason. When you start living them in reality, they stop being dreams. It’s difficult at first to come to terms with, but not every dream we have is worth pursuing. In fact, they can be downright harmful to us.

Don’t think that you have failed if you have to give up on your dreams. I had to give up on my dream. It was the best choice I ever made.

A Childhood Fantasy

Informing who Phil Ivey is

Do you know who that man is? That’s Phil Ivey, one of the best poker players in our lifetime.

I grew up watching Phil Ivey, I saw the poker boom happen right in front of me from a young age. My dad was interested in poker, I would sit with him and watch him play. I was captivated.

I would tell everyone I knew growing up that would be me one day.

They laughed.

When I turned 18, I moved with my father to Miami. This was my first experience playing poker in a real casino. I had just 400 dollars to my name, I still remember hands like it was yesterday.

“I didn’t even look at my cards!” this older woman eyeing me down said. I had just put more money into the pot.

I had a good hand, it wasn’t the best, but it was good. Ace and a King, a great hand but not good enough for a beginner to know how to play correctly.

“Well I have no choice, all in!” she says.

I immediately call and get the bad news. She had two aces. I lost. All the money I owned vanished right in front of my eyes, my soul being crushed in the process.

It didn’t matter to me, I was hooked from that moment on.

I was working a minimum wage job and when I had spare time, I would be at the casino and studying poker. I failed and failed and failed. I thought I had a gambling problem. I likely did, but I knew if I could conquer my inner demons that I could live my dream. I could make it a reality.

I kept going through cycles of making just enough money to be happy with, and then getting tilted and losing it all back. My dad also played poker with me sometimes. He wasn’t upset or mad, he just wanted the best for me.

You see, I didn’t go to college nor did I want to. This was my way out. I didn’t want to work a minimum wage job anymore, I wanted to be like Phil Ivey. That was my dream.

First Signs of Success

I was obsessed with poker. I would watch videos in the back at work I was so addicted. I stopped going to the casino, started playing online, and found a study group.

It took me around a year of doing this before I started to even make the tiniest profit. It didn’t matter to me, I didn’t want to give up on my dreams. I had fallen so low, and every time I had gotten up again. I just couldn’t stop.

I saw the light ahead of me, I knew if I just focused I could get what I was picturing in my imagination.

Another year had passed and I had stopped the cycle of constantly losing my money. I started to save my capital, for the first time, it felt really refreshing. I finally felt like I was getting somewhere. I felt successful.

I had a falling out with my job, and my mom who lived in another state offered me another job from a family friend. I decided to go, but I knew it was only temporary.

This is where things started to come together for me. My job was fixing and selling cell phones. Fortunately for me, my bosses had no idea how to run a business so I was left alone for 10 hours a day with little to no clients. What do you think I did? I played poker.

I had all the time in the world. I was making 40 dollars an hour. This was the most money I had ever seen in my life. And all for playing a card game! It felt like a dream come true. I was hyper-focused, I was going pro.

Change of Pace

A beach in Cancun

Considering I was now making four times as much as my minimum wage job, I told my mom I was packing my bags and heading to Mexico. I reached out to a group of ex-pats already living there and found a room right by the beach, perfect!

This was the first time I was ever truly self-sufficient. I had enough money saved up, it felt like I could take on the world. My dreams were coming true, I was living in them.

It didn’t take long for my dream to become a harsh reality. That’s right, this thing that I spent my childhood dreaming of, it was making me second guess all of my decisions up until this point.

I was making money but it was at the expense of never feeling comfortable. I never wanted to do anything but play poker. I was living in a beautiful town and I was staring at a monitor all day. My girlfriend at the time would beg me to go to take a trip with her and I felt as if any time spent away from the computer was money lost.

I was only living this “dream” for myself. I didn’t think before it was a dream how it would affect everyone around me.

How did my “dream” turn into such a nightmare?

These were all incredibly difficult times for me to get through. On paper I was a success, but it didn’t keep me from feeling empty.

What is it all worth in the end?

This dream really wasn’t my dream. It was a fantasy. I felt too deep in a sunk cost fallacy that I didn’t want to pivot. I didn’t go to college and I was scared to find a new direction.

I knew in the deepest parts of my soul that this wasn’t my life path and yet I continued on.

Why Pivoting Is So Hard

Trust me, I was right there with you. In those moments, I knew how miserable I had become. I was never happy, the money wasn’t making me happy and my friends and family weren’t happy.

I knew I had to make a change but how do you change something you have invested a big portion of your life into on a dime?

It isn’t easy at first. You will fight it. You will beg for it to be different. In the end, we can’t change how we feel about things.

Your dream may not be working out for you as you had imagined. You may have encountered a roadblock and it seems like your path down this road has ended. It might have ended, but instead of standing there wishing for it to be different, you have to move forward.

If I still was forcing myself to play poker, I would likely be friendless and depressed. It’s a double-edged sword, not only is it a lonely life but you are also only bringing pain into the world. Where did my money come from? It came from people who had a gambling problem, these were the people that were affording me to pay my rent.

If your gut, your deepest instinct, is telling you to move on, it’s time to move on.

Don’t look at it as a failure, the only real failure is if you continue to try doing something when you know that it isn’t going to work out.

The perfect world you have imagined within your mind often won’t match what reality is like.

Giving up on your dream doesn’t mean giving up on yourself, it means that you are just deciding to make a change.

Trust Yourself

You only get one life. Don’t waste it chasing something that isn’t working out or making you happy.

From a child everyone always told us “Just follow your dreams and you will be happy!” but they failed to mention that you really can’t know what it will feel like until you have attempted it.

Don’t just have one dream, have fifteen dreams and go after all of them until you find EXACTLY what it is you are looking for in life.

You have to trust yourself. There is no other option. I had to trust myself to quit my poker career and move on to something else, I knew that it would kill me if I didn’t.

You’re likely at a crossroad now, debating whether or not you should give up on your dreams.

Ask yourself:

  • Is this in my best interest?
  • Is this possible?
  • Could my time be spent elsewhere?
  • Will it make me happy in the end?

Dig deep, find the answers for yourself.

It’s not “giving up”, it’s just changing direction. Life isn’t a linear process, it’s OK to shift your path.

These decisions in life are always the most difficult. It took me years until I had to give in to my soul and face myself.

Do you want to spend years chasing a fantasy?

I spent a good portion of my life running away from myself. For what exactly? Money? A false sense of security?

I would rather be poor and be happy than live unhappy.

Our body and mind know what is best for us if we are capable of listening. Don’t ignore yourself, you have to trust that you will make a decision.

The hardest decisions are often the right ones.

Trying Is The Key

Wherever you are in your journey, the only thing that matters is if you tried.

Most people aren’t ever going to even attempt to live out their dream due to fear. You tried, it may have not been what you expected, but you did try.

If I listened to my mom about how my life decisions were not wise, I wouldn’t have known if playing poker was really what I wanted to do.

It would always be at the back of my mind, burning, what if?

Don’t live in what if, live trying.

Even if right now you are on the edge of changing directions, you have at least learned exactly what you are looking for out of life. It was worth the time, effort, and money spent.

You won’t have to live knowing the rest of your life that you didn’t attempt to live a better life.

I know now more than I knew before, these lessons are invaluable.

The next venture you move forward in, you will have a better idea of what to do. You have learned so much getting to this point, it was all just for the experience.

Life isn’t about the end goal, it was about the journey along the way.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) (Arkes & Blumer, 1985).

https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/resources/mini-encyclopedia-of-be/sunk-cost-fallacy/

Sunk Cost Fallacy. It’s when you invest more time, money, and effort rather than pivoting because you feel that you have spent too much energy to quit.

The truth here is that it would be silly to continue going down a path that has been proven to show no benefits. Mentally coming to terms with this is not only difficult for us, plenty of businesses have gone bankrupt from this concept.

Instead of wasting another second of your precious time, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate. You could continue wasting your money, time, and effort or you can pivot and make a change.

It’s up to you. You only have one life to live. Time is the most precious resource. Make the hard decision.

I’m not telling you to give up on your dreams. I’m telling you to go live your dream and find out if it was how you imagined it to be.

When you live in your dream for even a brief moment, the illusion falls apart. It’s no longer just an idea within the mind, it’s in front of you. There is nothing left for the illusion to stand on. This is where you can get some clarity on whether or not you think it’s a good idea to give up on your dream.

Once you are in this position, you have gained something invaluable. You know exactly if your dream is in line with your destiny. Your gut will be your guide on this one.

This carves out the rest of your life. Your first dream may have been just a childhood fantasy. It may not have lived up to the hype – and that’s ok. Mine didn’t, and yet I was happy that I went through the experience and learned from it.

It took me months to come to terms with giving up on my dream. I would constantly tell my friends how I wasn’t happy and all of this wasn’t how I imagined it to be.

I just wanted to be happy at the end of the day. My dream turned into something different.

Don’t get stuck in the sunk cost fallacy, it will cost you your precious time that you won’t get back.

Embracing Life Changes

While it was difficult for me to accept that my dream wasn’t my dream anymore, I knew it was for the best.

I knew that if I lived another day like that it would be the end of me. I had to embrace this change.

Life is about living, experiencing. If you never experienced anything, you wouldn’t know what it is you want out of life.

I know what I want now. I want peace and happiness. I don’t need a fancy car or a few million in the bank account, I had realized how fleeting materialism could be. I just wanted to live comfortably and most importantly, I wanted to help people.

You see, my dream was all about me. I didn’t think if I was going to help anyone along the way, I just thought about myself. I would do anything to get my way, and frankly, this state of mind is abhorrent.

I crushed almost every goal I set for myself. Each goal was increasingly more difficult than the next. I tried to even make them impossible and yet I still did them.

How did I feel?

I felt empty. I just wanted to know why I felt so bad.

It was because it was only benefiting me and no one else. All the money I made, I didn’t even spend. I didn’t buy fancy clothes or frivolous things, I was greedy.

My dream ended up being a nightmare. The moment I gave up on my dream the rest of my life began.

I know exactly what I want out of life now.

I just had to embrace the change.

Everything falls into place.

Wrapping it Up

While my story is likely uncommon, I hope I could share why giving up on your dream isn’t such a bad thing in the end. Sometimes it is almost necessary for us to “give up” to learn something, to make a change. I am grateful my dream didn’t end up being my real dream.

If you are in the position I was or at a crossroads, make the hard decision. There isn’t enough time in our lives to sit around aimlessly. Anytime I had to make a hard decision it ended up being the correct one. Don’t get stuck in sunk cost fallacy, your time is too precious.

Life is about changes. Embrace these changes and move forward through them. Learn from them, they are your guide. Without these valuable life lessons, you wouldn’t know who you truly want to be.

There is no failure in life. Only trying.

About Roy Cohen

Hi there! I'm the founder of Claiming Clarity. My passion in life is helping people live better. If you'd like to learn more, check out the about page.

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