It was Henry David Thoreau who said, the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Thoreau emphasized this point in his classic essay, ‘Walden’.
It is a line that has come to mean different things to different people.
I’ve come to interpret it as a reminder, that we only get one life to lead, and that if we are not careful, we will fall into the trap that all too many people have already fallen into.
What is this trap I speak of?
The trap of limited living, the trap of fear of judgement, the trap of doing what others think is best for us, and the trap brought about by the fear of failure.
I call it a trap, because it typically means we end up following someone else’s plan for our lives, instead of our own.
Many live in this way, because they don’t have the courage to do what they really want. They don’t have the boldness to stand up for the life they truly desire.
Unfortunately, when people fall into this trap, they squander the best chance of finding true happiness and fulfillment in their life. The mass of people who have fallen prey to such a life, know who they are.
They feel a tug to do something completely different from what they are doing. They want to follow ‘the whisper’, or that compelling feeling they sense to do what is in their hearts.
It is as if they have this urge pushing them, or this silent inner voice encouraging them to go for their dreams. But they fail to listen to this voice. They fail to seize their moment for fear of judgement, for fear of ‘letting someone down’. Or, they just remain paralyzed out of fear that they may fail.
This push-pull of wants and fears creates a loud internal battle that many people seek to silence as fast as they can. The clashing dissonance in their mind becomes unbearable. Unfortunately, all too many of them, choose to silence the wrong voice, and listen instead to the admonishments that were created by some external source.
And as you can probably guess, those who make such a choice, remain bound in their own mental jail cell, tormented by the self-imposed confinement they’ve placed on their possibilities. They’ve locked their dreams away. And the result of doing such, inevitably leads to the quiet desperation that Thoreau so thoughtfully admonished so long ago.
The truth is, we all have a dream, and we all have amazing potential to do great things. If we took a stroll back through history, and paid close attention to the people who lived great lives and lived a life well lived, we would notice that it has almost always been from people who followed their own voice.
I doubt you will ever find a happy, rich, and successful person saying, “I got here because I didn’t listen to my heart.” Or “I am so happy….boy, am I glad I didn’t trust my gut.”
Yes, there will be occasions where you’ll find people who have made a lot of money by sticking to the path laid out for them by their parents, or by society, but by and large, these people always lack something. And that something is fulfillment. In fact, history is rife with stories of people on their death-bed, wishing they had the courage to do what they truly wanted. Stories where people didn’t follow their own inclinations, got to the top of a mountain, but realized too late that it was the wrong mountain.
THE GOOD NEWS
Fortunately, there is good news for those who may have found themselves to be living in a state of quiet desperation. The good news is, that at any moment, we can choose to turn the volume back up on the voice that we suppressed so long ago.
Through conscious effort, we can make a course correction. We can today, at this moment, decide to live life in a way that will bring us the most happiness, the most fulfillment, the most opportunity for reaching our dreams.
4 Steps to Start Living Your Dreams
So how do we do this? Below I’ve detailed four simple steps that anyone can take to start living and owning their best life.
A decision must be made to follow our voice, our interests, our true inclinations. The decision must be definitive. The decision should amount to taking a stand for yourself, for your life, for your dreams. You don’t have to always know what you want before you make such a decision, you just have to know that you want what you want.
Often times, we listen to what others/society want for us, because we don’t know what we truly want for ourselves. Many people simply know what they don’t want. So, for those that find this to be true for themselves, then a self-discovery questionnaire is recommended. Here is an effective self-discovery tool to get you started.
Once we’ve decided that we want to live life on our own terms, and have discovered what that is, the next step is to take bold actions towards creating the life we want. Many times, taking action is also part of the discovery process, because it is through action, that we get a clearer vision of what we want and what is possible.
Like the Alchemist said…“There is only one way to learn, It’s through action.”
Life change, dreams, happiness never come quickly. Every worthwhile achievement takes time. Not sure why that is, but persistence is the name of the game. Effort and consistency are the fuel that dreams are made of. Effort aligned with consistency is persistence in action. And great things have always come from people who persist.
We all have a dream. We all want more in life. But the few who get to realize such a dream, such a life, are the ones who decided that they deserved it, and took action to find it.
These four steps can help anyone struggling to live their own life, and avoid the quiet desperation that stems from ignoring their dreams.
Don’t let your dreams just be dreams.