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Is “Follow Your Dreams” the Best Advice?

A girl holding a "dare to dream" card
It’s a different attitude compared to other generations, people who worked wherever they could, prioritizing family and self-sacrifice over dreams.

“Follow your dreams.”

These words seem to chase Millennials around, and we embrace them by attempting to do what we’re passionate about. It’s a very different attitude compared to my parents’ generation, a group of people who worked wherever they could because they had to, prioritizing family and self-sacrifice over their dreams.

Our parents see opportunities for us they never had, and there’s nothing wrong with giving kids a bit more freedom of choice. During my childhood, my dad worked as a jail guard. Was it his dream job? No. Was it a way for him to provide for his family? Yes. Did he even have a dream job he couldn’t pursue? I honestly don’t think he thought about his career in those terms. Work was work. It was hard, and you did it, and then you came home to spend time with your family.

Perhaps it’s not the job that creates contentment but rather the attitude you approach it with.

I wanted to be a writer since high school, and my parents always encouraged me in my dream. My dad often suggested I become a journalist because it was a realistic goal that provided steady income. I declared, nay, I would write science fiction and fantasy books. I would get published at 18 and write novels for a living.

And here I am, at 27, book-less and a freelance journalist. Welp.

I love that my parents never told me I couldn’t do something. I love that they supported me in any career choice. However, “follow your dreams” can be pretty awful advice because the selfishness that often accompanies lofty dreams might not be the best thing to build your life on.

“Never give up on your dreams” the Oscar-winners say in their speeches. But do they stop to consider what your dream is and where your passion might lead you? It’s a lovely, rainbows and unicorns-filled thought (and there’s nothing wrong with having dreams), but when you let your dream stop you from experiencing joy, there’s a problem.

At the heart of many career-oriented dreams are fame, money and power. I can relate to two of these. There’s something about being famous that’s appealing to me, something about being remembered for greatness and having my work known. As such, having a lot of money is — let’s face it — desirable. I work as a freelancer and at a nonprofit. Money is always a struggle. The power thing, though … that’s “meh” for me. Too much responsibility and all that.

Those three things, however, are all about me. Does “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4) ring a bell? I’m not saying Generation X had it all right and Y’s got it all wrong, but I do wonder if our current society’s promotion of selfishness is affecting us.

Even literature, movies and television have gobbled up this idea of “me first” and are spitting out story lines to emphasize the point. I’m starting to get tired of plots revolving around a character who “needs to find the strength within herself” to meet a goal. You know what, sometimes there is no hidden strength, and what she actually needs is help from outside herself to make it work! Besides, the power within doesn’t actually come from us anyway.

Where’s God in all of this? Is Christ for or against dream following? Psalm 37:4 reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” God wants us to have everything we desire, but those desires should also include doing what God asks of us — and sometimes God asks for sacrifice, even of our dreams.

Take a look at what Jesus asked of the disciples. He took them away from their homes, their jobs, their families. I’m pretty sure their dream jobs didn’t involve sailing the stormy seas or feeding crowds of 5 ,000 men. I’m pretty sure it was hard and frustrating. And I’m pretty sure they found joy in it.

I have dreams and goals for my life, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just have to be willing to accept that becoming the next pilot of the Millennium Falcon may not be in line with serving others instead of myself. I have to be willing to make sacrifices if they’re called for. I have to be willing to find joy in wherever life takes me.

Copyright 2016 Allison Barron. All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author

Allison Barron

Hailing from the cold reaches of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Allison is the general manager of Geekdom House, executive editor of Area of Effect magazine, co-host of the Infinity +1 podcast, and staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture. When she’s not writing, designing, or editing, she is usually preoccupied in Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away.

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