Want to Love Work and Life? Stop Using This Word.

Recently Hubbie and I were in search of a new apartment, and before long we stumbled on an amazing option.  We high-fived each other for finding this residential gem…with its beautiful garden and unbreakable new appliances.

What a find!…we said…it’s our dream home! In our minds it was like our own little doll house…


…until it wasn’t.

ugly dollhouseIn our case our dream home didn’t change. Instead we got word that…actually…it wasn’t available. We were crushed.

But don’t be!…the rental agency said…we’ve got another option for you! And this one isn’t just beautiful inside, but has an incredible view of the city to boot!

We checked it out and breathed a sigh of relief at finding our actual dream home. Even better!

And then we got word that…actually…it wasn’t available. We were crushed. Again. But worse.

We do this to ourselves all the time. We go in search of things in work and life with a fixed image in our head of what we want, the ideal image we must have, and we promise ourselves that we won’t settle for anything less.

We can clearly picture it all:

  • Our dream job
  • Our dream home
  • Our dream spouse
  • Our dream vacation

And then one of two things happens:

1) We find it, get our hopes way, way up…and don’t get it.

Everything else is weak by comparison. And when we accept another alternative it’s not good enough because it’s just not our dream. It’s second best. And we’re so disappointed.

And we’re not happy. And we make this face.

kid pout2) We find it, get our hopes way, way up…and get it. And we celebrate! And we anticipate how perfect it will be! And then…it isn’t. And we’re so disappointed.

And we’re not happy. And we make this face.

manning upset(Sorry Denver fans…too soon???)

We tend to think the reason we call something a “dream” is because it clarifies our big, lofty goal and helps us achieve it.

The truth behind that word? A “dream” is just that…an illusion. It’s imaginary. It can’t be real because it can’t be perfect. Because nothing is.

Only something living in our imagination – whether sleeping or awake – could possibly fulfill the huge weight and promise of a word like “dream”.  And we don’t live in our imaginations.

In reality the word – when used this way – just sets us up for heartbreak.

  • It sets us up to turn down options that aren’t perfect, but may be right for us.
  • It sets us up to compare everything else to something unattainable, which means nothing else is as good as what we want
  • It keeps us from imagining the other opportunities we might consider simply because they don’t match a fixed illusion in our heads

Now, allow me to clarify a few things before you get all mad at me.

Don’t-Be-Mad-Clarification #1:

Am I saying you shouldn’t dream of things you want in life, of goals and people and situations you want to achieve or meet or live? Am I saying you shouldn’t strive for the best possible outcomes?

Of course not! Dream big. Feel free to create an image that inspires you. But stop before you make that single image everything…and decide that nothing else will do. The image is meant to excite you to reach goals and feel good. But the actual outcome could be different…perhaps even better.

Dream of a big thing, but know it might not be the big thing. And get excited about all possibilities.

Don’t-Be-Mad-Clarification #2:

Am I saying that you should settle for something that’s not good for you? For a partner that doesn’t make you laugh or a job that makes you miserable?

Of course not! Dream big and get as close as you can. Make sure you achieve and obtain things that will make you happy, things you want and deserve.

But just know that nothing is perfect, especially life. There will be ups and downs. And know that some of your best moments might come just as everything seems like it’s falling apart.

That’s what Hubbie and I finally figured out. Eventually we finalized our new apartment and, I have to say, it’s pretty amazing.

But you won’t catch me calling it our dream home. Because I know life just doesn’t work that way. And, let’s get real, chances are one day one of those shiny appliances will break.

But we’ll still be happy. And then we can make this face.

Peyton ManningThis week…

Dream big, but know that life is your reality.

Know you can – and should – aim high. Just don’t get stuck on one image of what that high must be. And recognize that there will be some lows along the way.

The good news is, it’s all part of the adventure. And since you won’t be setting yourself up for disappointment, the adventure might turn out to be even better than you ever dared dream.

Now, go do good…and do it well.


9 responses to “Want to Love Work and Life? Stop Using This Word.”

  1. Amy Thoe Avatar
    Amy Thoe

    Sing it, Sister! I agree that things are never perfect and there’s challenges all around us all the times and that life’s about. I struggle with determining how much compromise is the right amount for the situation… Or maybe I can just “decide” that the poor air circulation in our house just doesn’t bother me anymore because I have a ton of square footage in exchange? Maybe thinking about it in that way helps. You’re the best, Deirdre. Keep it comin’!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks so much, Amy – and I’m singing it out loud! I really do think finding the balance of what you’re actually willing to settle for in reality vs. the dream is the key to the whole thing. It’s too easy to give up if we settle too soon…I think the trick is in knowing how that dream will make us feel and why, and aiming for that instead of some fixed, grand vision. Thanks for the great comment (and for not even mentioning the Manning photo!)

  2. Susan Paul Avatar

    Hi Deidre: You do a neat job with your intro emails. You capture a reader’s rapt attention. Your posts are great food for thought and I appreciate your insight dreaming yet living realistically. It’s true we have to remain flexible with our visions and remember to embrace the process as an adventure. Thanks for these relevant reminders.

    Enjoy your week!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Why thank you Susan! I appreciate your comments and think your use of the word “adventure” is right on. If we could switch the word “dream” to “adventure”, it might just help us find more happiness, yes?

      1. Susan Avatar

        Yes! 🙂

  3. Wendy Clark Avatar

    Great timing Dierdre! I’ve been thinking through these very things, as big changes are in my midst and near-future. Thank you for verbalizing my very thoughts- very well stated! The “perfect” images we get in our heads can also be symbols that show up in other ways, and can meet our desires just as well… We need to be open and relaxed to allow that to happen. Thanks for your great message and humor! -And no it’s not to soon for us sad Denverites! 🙂

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks, Wendy…and really, the scariest part of sending out that blog was thinking my Denver buds would have my head. Glad the pain is passing. 🙂 And love your comments about being open and relaxed. Definitely not my go-to emotions, but oh, so important…

  4. Patty Avatar

    Thank you Deirdre for another lesson and life experience well told (love your humor and the sad face!). I guess setting the goal is part of the journey and the lesson lies somewhere in between which is usually the right one for me. I usually learn lots of lessons on the way and am grateful in the end for whatever that turns out to be. Thanks for taking the pressure off!

  5. Susan Avatar

    The concept of a “dream” anything sets us up for disappointment from the get go. It captures the ideas of never experiencing conflict in life…while the reality is that life is built on conflict or resolution of conflict/discomfort…and that process is our journey. I like the word “inspire” as a replacement for “dream.” Ask yourself, “how can I inspire, be inspired?”

    Thanks for thought.