Clearing Out The Old - Letting Go of Dreams

Last week I wrote and spoke about letting go of things and in continuing the theme of clearing out the old, this week I want to talk about letting go of something, that perhaps weighs us down even more than just mere physical stuff. It is one of those things that, again much like tangible stuff, we keep on adding to our lives without regularly reflecting upon and letting go of and I am certainly guilty of this.

Letting go of dreams

Yes, this is not your usual advice and runs contrary to what you hear pretty much everywhere else, ‘Follow your dreams” or “Your dreams will one day come true” and other similar maxims. I say; Let go of the dreams that don’t serve you any more. Allow me to explain.

If you had a dream of starting your own business or becoming a world-class swimmer, cricketer or a concert pianist at age 6/8/15 or at any time really, yet at age 30/40/50 if you haven’t actually done much about it — it is time to seriously assess this dream. The key criteria here being — inaction.

  • Is it just a dream, or is it an actual actionable, achievable goal?
  • Have you given yourself a timeline?
  • What steps do you need to take in order to make it a reality?
  • Have you equipped with the right tools, training, skills and surrounded yourself with the right people?
  • Why have you been carrying the said dream for ‘X’ years and not taken action?
  • What is holding you back?
  • Are you actually going to do anything about it? Or just bask in the proverbial sunshine of ‘one day’ achieving this dream?
  • Maybe you just like the idea of it and not actually working on it or achieving it? Yes, that’s a thing.

Time to ask yourself these hard questions — and only you have the answer. Don’t let the wrong dreams become your anchors and prevent you from sailing.

Contrary to popular belief, life is not about constant additions. As you age you will realise that simplification, removal and elimination leads to a far simpler, easier and happier life and this applies to every aspect of life — not just physical stuff.

As you accumulate more and more tangible stuff you will realise that it starts to weigh you down — mentally and physically, similarly, accumulation of dreams, goals hope and aspirations, that you don’t act upon, will also weigh you down. 
Either take action and bring them to fruition or get rid of them. Don’t let them fester and turn sour. They will make you bitter and resentful. They will hinder you from being happy for others and most importantly, obsessing over a wrong dream will prevent you from taking action and grabbing an actual opportunity that presents itself because you will not be in the right mindset and will not be looking in the right direction. 
Check out Denzel Washington’s Fences and you will you know exactly what I mean.

As I suggested with physical stuff, have a regular reflection practice and assess all your dreams and goals and ditch the ones that are not serving you any more (Read my post on regular reflection)
No point carrying around the burden of lost opportunities and failed endeavours where you could be focusing your energy on something better. Similarly, no point expanding your energy in a multitude of directions when you could be focusing on a narrow few and making great progress.

Try the famous 5/25 strategy by Warren Buffet

Step 1 
List down 25 goals that you would like to accomplish in your life/career. Nothing is off the table. Take your time and be thoughtful.

Step 2 
Review your list and circle your top 5. 
Yes, just 5 out of the 25. These are your most urgent goals and highest priorities to focus on. This may require even more time and thoughtfulness than listing the 25 goals, so again, take your time.

If you are following along, please complete steps 1 and 2 before moving forward.

Step 3 
You will essentially have 2 lists at this point. 
List A with 5 goals and List B with 20 goals.

And you might be thinking: “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”

To this Buffett would reply, “No. You’ve got it wrong. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

This was the actual exercise Buffet ran and the exact words he used with his pilot of 10 years Mike Flint. Read the full story here and here.

Building upon the maxim of Letting Go of Dream, this teaches us the power of focus and elimination. Your time and efforts are limited; don’t just keep adding more and more — learn to eliminate, learn to replace and learn to have laser focus.