You had a dream.
Maybe it was to launch a new product. You had a new idea, and there was nothing like it in the marketplace.
Maybe you wanted to provide a new service offering. To do something new. To provide something unique.
Or maybe it was bigger. You wanted to start your own business. Or you wanted to solve a worldwide problem. You dreamed of providing justice to those suffering the greatest of injustice.
Here’s a common dream in my industry: Church planting. Maybe you felt the calling, and not just in general. You felt confident in the when and where. You knew the mission and vision. You felt sure of what could be and passionate about what should be.
You had a dream. In your mind, you could see the end result, and it was beautiful. Your picture emboldened you to move forward, so you did.
You didn’t know much, but you didn’t let that stop you. You had a dream, and your dream was enough to fuel the risk. Now, you’ve invested more time than you can count. You’ve invested more money than you want to count. You’ve solicited friends to help. In your mind, the vision was compelling and the mission was clear.
And now you are ready to quit.
Your dream is not coming true. Your wish is not becoming a reality. You are exhausted and find yourself questioning everything. It literally feels like you woke up to reality, and your dream is only a thing in your memory.
Don’t quit. There is a way forward, but before we get there, we should diagnose this defining, and potentially devastating, moment in our dream.
You might not know it yet, but most people want to quit on their dream at some point, because a dream is basically an idea without a foundation. Every successful entrepreneur has experienced the moment when his or her dream of what could be felt more like a dream of what would never become. Every successful product developer can take you back to the moment they wanted to give up. Every church planter has questioned his or her calling at some point.
Most do give up. Most people quit.
This moment—the moment when we want to walk away—is a massively important moment in the lifespan of any dream.
Let’s call this moment the dreamer’s delusion.
It’s the moment when every dream bumps head-on into reality. It’s when the dream of what could be crashes against the reality of what is. It’s painful and it feels deeply personal.
Here’s how it happens:
Our dreams are full of hope and promise, but unfortunately, they are concurrently full of ignorance.
We don’t know what we don’t know. How could we? But now we do. Now we know. We are aware of the problems, the difficulties, and the obstacles impeding our dream. Knowing what we previously didn’t know has a way of reshaping our perspective, often leaving us frustrated and questioning everything we thought we knew to be true.
When it happens to us, we are taken off-guard. We are surprised, because up to this point, we have been operating outside of reality. We’ve been operating out of a dream. We just didn’t know it yet.
Most people quit when they experience the dreamer’s delusion, but you’re not most people.
You can get through. Before you quit, first consider these four principles:
1. The dreamer’s delusion is universal.
Everybody wants to quit. Most do. The dreamer’s delusion is not unique to you. It’s not unique to those who have quit before, but it’s also not unique to those who have successfully navigated their dream into reality.
In the beginning, we all don’t know what we don’t know. We all suffer from a common ignorance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t push through.
Every success began as a dream, and every dreamer suffered through the dreamer’s delusion. It’s universal.
2. Comparison can corrupt your calling.
The dreamer’s delusion causes us to question ourselves and our dream. It also causes us to look around at other’s success.
We will always want to quit when we compare our struggle with other’s success. You can’t compare your current reality to another’s highlight reel without feeling discouraged. Every successful person I know became successful over time. They became an overnight sensation only after years of hard work.
3. Roll up your sleeves.
I’ve always loved this quote:
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. Thomas Edison
We know life is not easy, so I’m not sure why we assume turning our dream into reality will be easy. If pushing past an obstacle were easy, everybody would do it. Most don’t, but you can. And if you persevere in the face of frustration, it will grow your confidence, abilities, and even your character.
4. Knowledge should correct your course, not derail your train.
Knowledge should serve as a rudder to direct your next step. When you were still operating on the dreamer level, you were blissfully ignorant, but now, armed with what you know, you can allow new learning to direct or redirect your steps. I know its cliché, but knowledge is power. Leveraging the power is what might be the difference maker.
I see so many people quit in the face of the dreamer’s delusion, but you don’t have to be one of the quitters. Starting is hard work, and persevering is harder, but the payoff is worth the fight.
If you have started something and are tempted to quit, leave a comment. I’d love to encourage or help you if I can.