We all grew up with dreams.
One of the first things we’re asked as children is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Some of us struggled with that question. Some of us had a different answer each day. And some of us had one answer – one that we clung to for years and years.
We learned to shape the entire course of our lives around the answer to that question, because we didn’t know that there was an alternative.
We have to shape our lives around dreams. It is, for the most part, what keeps us sane.
We all need something to hope for. Something to strive towards. Something to look forward to when the present’s looking grim. From a young age, we’re taught to determine our raison d’être and stick to it at all costs. To change the plan would be to betray the very core of who we are.
Because, as the narrative goes, who we are is determined by what we do. Not the other way around.
But maybe it’s time we scrapped that narrative.
Because sometimes the scripts of our lives get outdated.
The dreams we once had get replaced. The lives that we planned for ourselves at five or fifteen or twenty no longer apply to the people we are at twenty-five or thirty or fifty.
And yet we keep clinging to those outdated opinions of who we are, because we don’t know what else to do. Because we’ve spent so long hinging our identities around the person we promised ourselves we’d become that somewhere along the way, we forget who we were outside of that quest.
The mere idea of abandoning the dreams we once held for ourselves feels like plunging ourselves into ‘lostness’ – the dreaded territory of not knowing what comes next.
But what if that’s the exact territory you need to be in right now?
Here’s the simple truth that we all need to realize at one point or another – we owe nothing at all to the people we used to be.
We don’t have to become the people we said we’d become at fifteen, or twenty-five or fifty. We don’t have to become the people we said we’d be five minutes ago. We’re not responsible for making our past selves happy – they don’t exist anymore.
But we do. And it’s time we started focusing on what we owe to the person we are today.
What does that person need to be happy? What does success and fulfillment look like to them? What do they want their day-to-day life to look like, and how can we get them closer to that reality?
Chances are, what we need to be happy now doesn’t line up perfectly with what we thought we would need to be happy five years ago.
And if that’s the case, I want you to consider the following:
Imagine your life five years from now. What do you want for your future self? Do you hope they accomplish a highly specific list of things? Do you want them to slave away endlessly for a goal you’re conceptualizing now, which they might not even want at that point?
Or do you hope that your future self is happy?
Do you hope that they’re making authentic and fulfilling decisions about the life that they want to be leading? Do you hope they’re waking up each morning and living in line with their interests and passions and values?
Do you trust your future self? Do you believe that they’re wiser and smarter and more able to determine their needs than you are right now, knowing nothing about the situation they’re in?
Same goes for your past self.
The person you were at fifteen trusted you – not to fulfill every specific goal they set for you, but to make choices that maximize your happiness.
To make choices that would fulfill you. Grow you. Challenge you and shape you into a greater, more magnanimous version of yourself.
Above all else, I think the one thing that we all hope for our future selves is that they’re happy. That they’re fulfilled. That they’re finding peace and meaning within the lives that they’ve chosen for themselves.
And the best way to ensure that our future selves exist in such a state is to start getting really, really honest with ourselves about what we want right now. As the people we are today – not the people we were five or ten years ago.
Because that’s the only version of ourselves we have left.
And it’s the version that’s going to create the best possible future for us, if we let it.