1. When the person who wanted that dream no longer feels like the person you are.
It’s okay to let go of a dream when the person who set their sights on it no longer matches up to the person you are. It’s okay to let the things you want alter. It’s okay to go with the flow when it’s pulling you. And it’s okay to change your mind about the things you never thought you would.
2. When the process of getting to the end goal drains you more than it challenges or inspires you.
What we get when we achieve our dreams isn’t half as important as the person we become through the pursuit of them. If the person you’re turning into through the pursuit of your goal isn’t a person that you’re proud of, chances are it’s not the right goal for you. The ends will resemble the means. And if the means are dragging you down, it may be time to re-evaluate the end.
3. When the main reason you haven’t given up yet is because you’re afraid of what others would say about you if you did.
It’s okay to give up on a dream when you’re only holding onto it because of the impact that letting go would have on your reputation. Sometimes our pride needs to take a few hits on the way to the lives we should be living. Letting go of the expectations that other people have for you (or that you have for yourself) can be one of the most simultaneously terrifying and liberating experiences of your life – if you let it be.
4. When you’re only holding on because you don’t remember who you were before you wanted this particular thing and you don’t know who you’ll become next if you let it go.
It’s okay to let go of a dream when you’re only holding on because you don’t remember what your other options are or you can’t fathom a Universe in which you’re pursuing them. Any change takes time and adjustment and a bit of unbelievable courage. If you’re only holding on because you’re worried that your dream is defining you and you’re not sure who you’ll be if you’ll let it go, you’re already in the worst case scenario. It’s better to be walking down an undefined path – ready to take the right one when it appears – than to be walking surely and confidently down a path that leads to where you do not want to go.
5. When you are only pursuing this dream because it feels good to pursue something, even if that something is destructive.
It’s okay to give up on a dream when you’re addicted to the direction that it provides you with but not necessarily the destination that it’s taking you to. It’s okay to want to be going somewhere, anywhere, so badly that you take whatever path is available to you. But when that path becomes more trouble and more strife than it is worth, it may be time to let it go. There are so many things on this earth to pursue. Don’t keep choosing the thing that is running you into the ground.
6. When there are other things in your life that you are 90% sure would make you happier than achieving your dream, but you don’t want those other things to be what makes you happy because they’re too simple or average.
It’s okay to give up on a dream when you’re more interested in its highlight reel than it’s day-to-day reality. It’s okay to choose something mundane, something average, something entirely unglamorous that you know would make you happy, in favour of the dream you thought you wanted so badly. That’s not pathetic or weak or mundane of you. That’s self-aware. That’s mature. That is a product of growing up and realizing what really matters and what you’ll be glad that you chose at the end of your life.
7. When you want to be the person who wants the thing more than you actually want the thing.
It’s okay to give up on a dream when the idea of being the kind of person who achieves it out shadows your actual desire to do so. You don’t have to sacrifice your entire life to some vague idea of who you wish you were. You’re allowed to be who you are and want what you want and not be the person who strives for or lives by some glamorous ideal. You shine the brightest when you’re pursuing what you actually want. Don’t choose to be a half-rate version of who you wish you were when you could be a 5 star version of who you are.
8. When you’re only holding on because you want something to show for your investment.
It is incredibly difficult, psychologically, to cut the dead weight losses from our lives. We are wired as humans to assign meaning to everything we do – so even if we know damn well that we are barreling towards a dead end, it is in our nature to justify the ride. We just don’t want to admit that we’re headed nowhere and that we’ve struggled this long for nothing. But in the words of Phil McGraw, “The only thing worse than being unhappy for 11 years is being unhappy for 11 years and one day.” Sometimes we simply have to cut the ties we know we ought to cut in order to reach new heights. And if the dream you no longer want is one of those ties, you owe it to yourself to stop letting that dead weight hold you down.