How to pursue your dreams

Matthew Arnold Stern
4 min readAug 1, 2021
Not all dreams are pie-in-the-sky.

Someone recently asked me, “How do I pursue my dreams?” They thought because I made several of my dreams come true, I should know something. But I drifted into the typical impulse when someone talks about their dreams, and that is to dump all over them. “Be realistic. Only a few people ever achieve any success in that field. Find a way to support yourself. Prepare yourself for rejection and failure.” All of that may be true, but none of it is useful.

Not all dreams are as grand as writing a best-selling novel or winning an Olympic gold medal. Some have the dream of starting a new career. Or planning for retirement. Some dreams are matters of life and death, like getting rid of excess weight or getting sober. Whether your dream is big or small, ambitious or simple, the basic steps are the same.

Step 1. Why do you want to pursue that dream?

Perhaps you want to do more to provide for your family. Or escape from a bad situation. Or feel good about yourself. Whatever it is, understanding the purpose of your dream will motivate you in pursuing it.

It also helps you decide if a dream is worth pursuing. Be careful if you’re trying to fulfill your parents’ dreams for you, or if you hope achieving a goal will get someone else’s approval. You will wind up living a life that is not your own. Anything you achieve for someone else will never satisfy them, and they will push you beyond your limits to give them more. Eventually, you will run out of motivation to do something you’ve grown to hate. If you can’t quit, you will sabotage yourself to escape.

Make sure it is your dream you’re pursuing. By identifying the reason, you will know for sure.

Step 2. What are you willing to give up?

Everything has a cost. If you want to get rid of excess weight, it means you won’t be able to indulge freely in foods you enjoy. If you want to write a novel, it means giving up evenings to write. If you want to move to a house, it means adjusting to a new neighborhood and dealing with the expenses and work that goes with home ownership. If you want to get sober, it means leaving behind your drinking buddies and possibly ending relationships with loved ones who enabled that behavior.

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Matthew Arnold Stern

A novelist and award-winning public speaker and technical writer. My novels Amiga and The Remainders are available now.