In a recent blog I reviewed the IKEA Effect (“…research shows that labor (disproportionately) enhances affection for its results”.) http://wp.me/p13Md6-Ji, and it was all fun and games thinking about why we hold on to some ratty things that perhaps should have been plowed into a landfill already. (Just joking; they’d be in the recycling bin.) But in the weeks since I wrote that blog, I’ve been thinking about quitting, letting go, in a more universal sense. And so brilliant readers, I ask that you assuage my wondering mind. Let me know: Have you lived through the experience of giving up on a dream? If so, how/when did you decide to pull the plug, to resort to Plan B, to fall back on the safety net? And, do you regret that choice? Perhaps with your input, we can remove some of the stigma (and guilt) of abandoning a dream that no longer serves us or that we’ve outgrown.
We’ve all read the countless affirmations and quotations on Facebook and on corporate walls all over America. Why even Mia Hamm, Vince Lombardi and Walt Disney swear “Winners Never Quit”. When I Googled that phrase, I found dozens of pages of BrainyQuote.com and ThinkExist.com quotations promoting the idea that our ability to achieve any goal rests in our absolute belief and endless pursuit of that goal. WooHoo! World peace, here we come! Admittedly, most of these quotations were spouted by people I’d never heard of, but maybe they are still in pursuit-mode.
I clicked deeper and deeper into quote world looking for those authors whose life achievements included more than getting a quotation posted on an open quote board. I ultimately stayed too long at the positive thinking fair and began seeing the other side of the equation. Call me a Pollyanna, but previously I hadn’t given much credence or thought to this alternate universe.
“Quit while you’re ahead” Baltasar Gracian
“People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they’re all asleep at the switch. Consequently we are living in the Age of Human Error.” Florence King.
“Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.“
Baltasar Gracian (Both sites attributed this quote to BG, but I find it hard to believe this guy from the 1600’s used this language, but who am I to doubt the veracity of the web?)
So here we are stuck between opposing song lyrics: “Don’t stop believing” and “The only trouble is, gee whiz, I’m dreaming my life away”. Who to believe, Journey or The Everly Brothers?
The less idealistic quotations indicate that the belief that any person can be/have/do anything he/she wants is self indulgent. And, I am sure we all recognize that there are legitimate lost causes, and there are realities in the lives that we live that may necessitate a “do over” in the dream department. So how does one decide that this dream, right here, will never be, or that the toll it takes isn’t worth taking any more, how many times must the dangling carrot move out of reach or must Lucy yank away the football before someone cries “Uncle”? And, how does such a decision shake up the cosmos?
When we search for guidance in another person’s generalized words, I think many of us do so in much the same way we look up horoscopes. We believe the predictions we want to believe. If one is an optimist, the brain discards the negative horoscopes as foolish superstition. With a favorable horoscope, the heart, more than the brain, may latch on and try to convince the brain that it has captured us perfectly, it speaks to us personally, that it’s a message of divine intent, and that we are powerless to its positivity. But maybe we just cling to an idea because letting go is deemed too definitive a failure. Letting it linger in some sort of dream purgatory may feel unsettling, but Pandora, no matter how small, is still in the box. But, and this is an important “but”, how do we recognize when the fading light cast by the hope of a dream deferred is blinding us to the pursuit of another more obtainable dream? And, when our brains do figure that out, who’s going to tell our hearts?
©2013 by Alison Colby-Campbell