Why Unfulfilled Dreams Are OK: 4 Ways To Move On

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woman standing near the beach
Self

Do you remember your childhood dreams? Those big, audacious, exciting, and sometimes scary dreams about how your life would be when you grew up?

I can feel the butterflies in my belly from the memory of my childhood dreams.

Now, did you hold onto that dream as you began your adult life? What sort of new dreams did you create for yourself as you lived your adult life?

Now, without making you feel bad about it, how many of those dreams have you actually achieved?

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The reality is that everyone has unfulfilled dreams.

Me? I can’t tell you how many unfulfilled dreams I've left on the cutting-room floor of my life!

The crazy thing is, I’m totally OK with that.

I don't have one regret for not fulfilling these dreams. And you, too, can move on from yours if they're currently holding you back.

It's normal to hold many dreams as we grow.

As a young child, I was a competitive figure skater.

I worked with a pro, went to Boston every year to get custom-made skates, and I was on the ice no less than four to five days a week. My pro had teased me with the 1984 Olympics and I was all in.

When I was 14, I discovered high school and all the trappings and distractions that come with it and left skating. Poof!

As an older teen, I dreamed of being famous, known, and admired by all. Three of my closest friends were beautiful blondes with blue eyes and white teeth (this was the time of Farah Fawcett).

And I came to the realization I was completely average with tribal curly hair, had no talent for anything and no one would ever pay me to put on a swimsuit to be on Baywatch

As a young adult entering the world of adulting, I was going to meet an amazing man, get married, and build a beautiful family and life. My marriage lasted eight years. 

The last company I started I envisioned leaving as a legacy to my son. When the economy crashed, my partners started doing some unethical-but-legal BS, and I walked away from it.

Poof! There went my son’s legacy.

You get the point.

We all have dreams that haven’t been fulfilled or are crushed by outside circumstances.

Any regrets? Sure, it would have been great to be an Olympic medalist or a famous movie actress. But I would not be who I am today if even one of these dreams had come true.

I have an amazing son from my short stint at marriage and had an incredible career in the meetings industry over the 21 years I’ve been single.

And now I have a new career — that worked out! — because another dream didn’t work out, so I can’t say I would have it any other way.

So, no regrets at all. Was it easy to move on for me? It was always easy, but it was a choice I always made.

As I write this, I get that some of your dreams may be quite different and with a dissimilar impact on your world: Getting into a school of choice, receiving a big life-changing opportunity you’ve been working towards, and finding out someone you had dreams for wasn’t the person you were dreaming for.

I do get that. I also get that the process and options to move forward always begin the same: with a choice.

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So how do you move on from unfulfilled dreams? Here are 4 ways.

1. Allow yourself to grieve.

You absolutely will want to spend some time grieving for the loss of a big dream. Give yourself time to process the fact that your dream is not to be.

It’s OK to analyze and drill down into the dream and what ended it, then recognize it’s time to box it up and put it in your past.

For some, this will be like mourning the loss of a loved one and you will actually go through the various phases of the grieving process.

Be empathetic with yourself. You’ve been through a lot! Be patient and know this phase will pass. It’s a great time for you to reflect and be kind to yourself.

2. Revisit your values.

When you’re done grieving, revisit your values. You’re dealing with unfulfilled dreams, remember?

A lot of times, when you're dealing with a loss or giving something up, it's the right time to take another look at what you hold most dear to yourself.

When I was 24 and starting out my career, I valued hard work, recognition, and money. At 54, I value personal fulfillment, quality time, and simplicity.

I cannot tell you how often taking a second look at one’s values can enrich your life in unimaginable ways. (And possibly create new dreams… Just saying!)

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Revisit your values and see if you’re still on the right path or if there’s another path there for you.

3. Take a creative class.

If you’ve revisited your values, you most likely rediscovered something you once loved and something that was once a dream.

Maybe it was painting. Maybe it was working with children or writing a book.

Whatever it is, look into taking a class around it. Dip your toe in the creative pool.

Besides being good for your soul, it truly will fill your self-care tank and give you more focus to really drill down into what you love.

4. Dream your new dream.

For me, even writing this, I'm thinking of all the unfulfilled dreams I’ve had over my lifetime. It's very humanizing to think of them all.

It makes me smile and it fills me with love and hope. No matter how many unfulfilled dreams I have, I always find there’s a new one on the horizon.

I get this feeling in my heart like its swelling, and a burning ember in the belly like something is there and I can’t put a name on it quite yet... But I digress!

See? I have a new dream developing. I can feel it.

The point is, possibilities come from thinking. Forget about the obstacles, simply dream what could possible without them in the way.

That's where you will discover the best new dreams.

The rest of those unfulfilled dreams? It’s just as OK to leave them on the cutting-room floor as it is to hang onto one or two.

I’ll admit, after 21 years of being single, getting remarried remains an unfulfilled dream I have! I’ll take that dream to the grave if I must — although I’d much rather take it to the altar.

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Rachelle Stone is a burnout-prevention coach who specializes in supporting clients in avoiding burnout by managing their stress and energy for expanded capacity, better relationships, and increased monetary success. Opt into Rachelle’s newsletter here or for more information about burnout coaching, visit her website.