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Only losers give up on their dreams, right? Common wisdom says to persevere, fight, and to never give up on your dreams. But what if the dream you have is someone else’s or no longer makes sense to you?

This post was updated on February 2022

I sat down and made a dreams list 5 years ago. I listed things to pursue that would give my life satisfaction and purpose.

I look at the list today (2016) and I don’t feel a sense of joy. Instead, my stomach clenches inwards with guilt because I haven’t accomplished the items in front of me.

My heart knows some of these items are irrelevant but my brain fights to keep the dream list intact.

It’s internal guilt that comes from reading too much self-help literature that pounded never give up into my head.

The story in my mind goes like this: I made this dream list because I wanted to do something feel powerful in my life. If I cross things off, that means I can’t hack it. Am I a failure? What am I going to tell my friends? I’ve already told them that I’d do these things. I must do them. Guilt sets in.

Dreams List

I kept a dreams list since college days. When I accomplished a dream from the list, I was proud to cross it off.

Many of the dreams I wrote years ago didn’t fit into my life today (2016).

I realized that every year or so, I’m living a different stage of my life. I’m not the same Nikita I was six months ago. My mind grows, my body changes, and my views expand.

What felt right 3 years ago feels wrong today.

It’s a human condition called growth. It’s normal and shouldn’t be feared. It was time to trim the dreams list.

Eliminating Dreams

My dreams list included:

  1. Get a Ph.D. while working full time.
  2. Learn a subset of economics and teach it.
  3. Learn a martial arts defense program and teach it.
  4. Run a mile faster than 8 minutes.
  5. Teach a family member to swim
  6. Travel to something like 70 countries.

My workout routine changed and a time record in running no longer made sense.

Ph.D sounded good but it wasn’t really my dream. It was more of a desire to make my family proud.

Travel to 70 countries? Hell, I don’t really like to travel. But people say traveling is cool, right? In my case, it’s a false dream.

I wanted to teach a family member to swim. The problem is that a dream involving someone else is out of my control. What right do I have to impose my desire to teach another person something?

I trashed the list of dreams that no longer made sense. My heart felt relief.

Reflections from 2022

Many of the dreams I listed over a decade ago didn’t make it into my life today.

My career took a much different turn. A decade ago I didn’t think I’d become a software developer. Back then, I didn’t think writing would be an important outlet for self-expression.

Look at your dreams and ask whether they are relevant to your life today. Make sure they aren’t someone else’s or that they’re only relevant to the past-version of yourself.

In the past few years, I loosened my grip on keeping a dreams list. I still have life pursuits but I use another technique (entheogens) to discover what truly matters in my life. One day, I’ll have the courage to write about it.