The Unexpected Path to Finding Your Dream

It’s the one question that plagues us, the apparition that haunts our most daring pursuits. We are consumed with it: this insecurity, this fear, this questioning of ourselves.

Beach Photo
Photo credit: Eduardo Unda

What is it?

One simple phrase. A seemingly harmless question that keeps us in the Valley of Amateurs when we should be climbing Professional’s Peak:

What am I supposed to do?

What should I write about? Or sing about or talk about or just plain create? Where do I begin?

The answer, my friends, is ANYWHERE. Start here, start there. Just begin. This truly, verily, is indeed the hardest part. I promise you that.

“I could never do that.”

This week, I had a great phone conversation with my friend Bryan Allain, who’s doing some really amazing stuff right now.

Of particular note, he’s on his way to launching a passion business, something he’s wanted to do for 10 years (ever since he started blogging).

As he steps out into a dream, people tell Bryan, “I could never do that.” Or they say they’d like to but aren’t quite sure whereto start.

Really, at the heart of it, they’re afraid. They want a map and instead they’ve been given a globe.

Maps and globes

Maps are easy. They’re flat and predictable, easy to use to chart out a course. Maps are about points: starting points and destination points.

But maps are also unrealistic. Because the world isn’t flat; it’s not color-coded and foldable. The world is complex, which is why a globe is a better picture of how we navigate through life.

A globe spins. Really nice globes are topographical, raised in areas where there are mountains. Globes are not the easiest tools in the world to use, but they’re a good picture of our lives.

You use a map to travel from state to state, but you use a globe to travel the world. Which would you rather use for your life?

We’re not in Kansas anymore

Back to Bryan. When people ask him the specifics of how he’s pursuing his dream, he’s honest.

He doesn’t have a map. He’s not even sure what the destination is. All he cares about is moving forward. And that’s all you should care about, too.

The analogy Bryan draws is this: Say you live in Kansas. It’s not a bad place to live, but you long for the beach. You dream of the waves and sand and sunsets. But you never leave home, because you’re not quite sure exactly where on the beach you want to go.

What Bryan would say, and I would echo, is this: Get out of Kansas. That’s your first step. Begin to head towards water. As you move, you’ll find the beach, and once you’re there, you can pick whatever spot you like.

The path to your dream is more about direction than destination.
—Bryan Allain (Tweet this)

Your dream is bigger than you think

Most dreams aren’t small. They’re big; that’s why they’re called “dreams.” When you start moving towards yours, you may find it’s wider than you first thought.

That’s because your dream may not be just one thing. It may be many things, and that’s okay.

The point is to not sit still and wait. To not squander your days and nights and weekends, holding out for some gatekeeper to give you permission. To not wait for someone to pick you.

Your beach is waiting. There’s an entire waterfront ready to be explored. Go find it.

And if you need help, check out The Art of Work.

Are you waiting for perfection before you begin to pursue your dream? Share in the comments.

90 thoughts on “The Unexpected Path to Finding Your Dream

  1. Great post, Jeff.  My journey has been learning how to take small, uncomfortable steps out of my comfort  zone and realize “wow…I’m still alive.” I might not have succeeded, but it didn’t kill me.  I can look back on these steps and it gives me courage the next time.  The key, like you said, is to keep moving forward.  I mentioned on my blog this morning how my natural tendency ever since I was a little girl was to claim defeat before I even try.  It’s hard to grow with that kind of mentality.  I’ve had to learn to play a new song in my head.  

  2. Do you know what’s better than perfect? DONE.

    Thats what I am learning. Do your greatest, then let it out into the world. See what the next step is when it presents itself.

    Beautiful stuff, Jeff.

    1. Brooke, I love that ‘Whats better than perfect?  Done.’

      I have been living on that philosophy for a while and have seen much more improvement in my writing and my blogging because of it.   I think it is the pride factor..once it is out there and people are seeing it there is a push to make it better and better that I would never have the motivation for otherwise.

  3. Hi Jeff
    Great post.
    I started following your blogging course earlier this year. I had ideas for a blog and started it up as I followed the course. I had a bit of an idea of what I wanted to do, but the process of doing the blog and interacting with others has led to things that I hadn’t originally thought of. It’s a great journey – and I don’t know the exact destination, but that doesn’t matter.
    btw – I debated including crochet in my blog topic – wondered if it was making it too  wide. I’m so glad I did include it. This week I came across a book ‘Crochet saved my life’, and it’s full of stories of how crochet helps overcome mental health problems (and physical ones), and gives references to scientific reasons why this may be so. The book ties in beautifully with what I want to share about mental health.
    Thanks so much, Jeff, for your great advice and encouragement.

  4. Ha!  This was right on time because I am LOST!  I’ve started but now I have NO idea where to go with it or what to do next.  I am completely and utterly….CLUELESS!!lol I’ve got so many ideas swirling through my head but few of them relate to each other in any way and right now my mind is off in so many directions that I don’t have a clue which way to go!lol   Great post though!

  5. Wow! That’s such a great analogy and one I’m going to keep in my mind. I think I’ve been travelling with a map for most of my life but I’m finally ready to try the globe! Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. Thanks so much for this bit of encouragement. I’ve always dreamed big, and I’ve usually been admonished for it. I love your statement:

    Most dreams aren’t small. They’re big and grandiose; that’s why they’re called “dreams.” 

    By outside measurements my life is very successful. But you know what? I want more. I bet I get it.

  7. Here’s to moving toward the beach…even if you have to ‘do it afraid.’ 🙂  The good news is that I’m no longer waiting for permission, I’m moving forward…even though I’m still unsure about a lot of things. Thanks for the inspiring post!

  8. I waited 25 years for some ”professional” to tell me my writing was good enough to publish until I realized that I don’t need anyone’s approval but God’s. So I self-published and a week later found my book #2 on an Amazon Hot New Release List. It really is all about starting on the path to your dream and taking one more tiny step every day. Eventually you will arrive there.

  9. Can’t resist commenting on this one, Jeff, since I live in Kansas 🙂 I just got back from “getting out” for around 10 days. Was blessed to experience the grandeur of the Tetons and Yellowstone area.

    I love those chances to see and experience new things. As we took off and returned from vacation last summer, though, God gave me an up-close lesson in how sometimes the wonder is at home. (Yes, even in Kansas! 🙂 ) I blogged about it if you’d like to read the post –
    I wonder if sometimes the dream is at home, too. Maybe not often, but possible, huh?

  10. Jeff, I am so grateful for your blog! You truly inspire me. What you have posted today, so resonates with me. I have dreams, but I’m searching for that map to guide me, or listening for a booming voice from the clouds above to tell me exactly what I should do. I’m  most especially seeking permission, and the attainment of some kind of perfection before I move forward. I’ve never thought of my “waiting” as squandering my time, but it’s true! Thank you for you words and living out the dream placed in you!

  11. Jeff, I am so grateful for your blog! You truly inspire me. What you have posted today, so resonates with me. I have dreams, but I’m searching for that map to guide me, or listening for a booming voice from the clouds above to tell me exactly what I should do. I’m  most especially seeking permission, and the attainment of some kind of perfection before I move forward. I’ve never thought of my “waiting” as squandering my time, but it’s true! Thank you for your words and living out the dream placed in you.

  12. “The answer, my friends, is ANYWHERE. Start here, start there. Just begin.” I agree, Jeff. Someone once told me that it’s easier to steer a ship that’s moving than one that’s sitting still. By the way, thanks for all the resources on your blog. I just signed up for daily updates!

  13. “…at the heart of it, they’re afraid. They want a map and instead they’ve been given a globe.”

    Nailed it again, Jeff. Thanks

  14. I think one of the scarier parts of not having a clear idea of your dream(or dreams) is also the lack of clarity when you are on the path that the direction you are taking is the right one. I suppose the point is that it doesn’t fully matter what direction you take, just take one. But I find there needs to be some balance between letting the journey take you and also driving towards a specific goal.

    Great post, Jeff. Thanks for sharing.

  15. It ultimately comes down to fear.
    We don’t launch into our dreams and take risks because we’re afraid. We need to have everything planned out at first because we’re afraid.
    We’re afraid of failing. We’re afraid of being embarrassed. We’re afraid of going broke.
    But that fear kills us slowly.

  16. I have started my journey towards my dream.  It’s great, but I’ve noticed two things.

    1.  Distractions are mounting. It seems something/someone is not wanting me to move forward.

    2.  My dream does seem alot bigger than I first thought – which is exciting!

    My steps are little right now, but they are steps forward.  

  17. Hi Jeff,

    This is so true! I’ve been a musician and entrepreneur for many years now and am just getting serious about blogging. I’ve actually gotten very comfortable with not knowing the full path or even my end destination.

    Here’s what I’ve found – sometimes I have a short or intermediate goal that I’m pretty clear on. I know what’s have to do to get there. I do the work, and voila! Accomplishment. It all makes sense.

    Then opportunities come up that I never anticipated. Suddenly I’m off in a very cool direction that I never would have expected or planned on. This happened to me with songwriting. I didn’t take it seriously, just did it for fun, and then found to my surprise that people liked my work.

    So I tell people all the time, you just have to see the next step. Take that, and the next will become clear. Sometimes we’re walking in the dark – but guaranteed it’s all good!

  18. Jeff;

    This post is right on time for so many reasons.  I have been struggling with getting my dream off the ground and out of habit keep searching for a map/plan to follow.  I have discovered that when our dreams are of God, the map/plan is His, not ours.  We have to follow His leading which won’t make sense to those who do not know Him.  His map requires trust, faith and the willingness to take risks in spite of our fears and the unknown ahead.  What keeps us going is that we are compelled to pursue the dream and can’t live not doing it.  It is a part of who we are and the pursuit is what fills us.

    Thanks for the beach analogy.  My dream is open a retreat center on the beach for women who are in need of rest.  Today I will start walking towards the beach.

    Be blessed,

    P.S. Just bought “Wrecked” on my kindle.  Note that I have had the kindle since Christmas and this is the first time I have used it! 

  19. One of my favorite quotes:

    “Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.”
    ~Woody Allen

    You have to show up before anything can happen.

    Great post, thanks!

  20. Spot-on, Jeff. You know, this post reminds me of my faith journey. For the longest time, I waited on the sidelines for the perfect moment when all my questions would be answered and my doubts would fall away. I thought I couldn’t believe in God until all I had all my faith ducks in a row, so to speak. Turns out, as Rilke said, “living the questions” has been the key to finding and living out my faith. I learned I can believe in God AND still ask the questions.

  21. Man, did this speak to me this morning, wow.  I can’t believe the timing of this. I was having this convo with my husband last night.  Ok, I’m just going to say it… I told my husband my issue goes way deeper than fear.  Actually it really has to do with my not liking myself and believing other people think the same way about me.  So why in the world would they even want to read anything I write or blog about? 

  22. It took me a long time to realize I could even have a dream as I went a really boring, practical route in college and post-college. Once I figured out that I could have a dream, that’s when I started working on finding one…now I’m working on achieving it

  23. Luv the analogy of life being more like a globe than a map.  I feel like my life is spinning like a globe right now (real fast!).  It’s both exciting & scary but I  keep moving forward – mistakes, flaws, obstacles… resilience & faith keep me going! 

  24. Jeff, it’s really been an incredible week. I steoped back and thought of a slight twist to the eBook I am writing. Someone approached me about the possibility of teaming with some others on another eBook. I received confirmation of having a guest post accepted for a big time blog. All of these are steps out of Kansas.

  25. Toward the end of last year, God prompted me with a phrase, two words. They became my mantra for 2012. I had them inscribed on a bracelet. I wear it every day. Those two words?

    “Movement wins.”

    Big steps, small steps, faith steps . . . whenever we move forward, it’s a win. Some days, it’s been hard to take those steps. Some days I want to stay on the couch, but when I look down at my arm, I’m reminded about the promise of progress.

    I want a heart and life that moves . . . that lives forward and that isn’t afraid of what’s ahead. I no longer need much of a road map. I just need the courage to move.

    Thank you for the movement in your life; it’s growing the kingdom of God in big and small ways. Keep to it.


  26. Thanks for the encouragement.   In one of my first blog posts (there have only been a few), I quoted a 10 year old boy in my classroom who gave up (temporarily, I hope) his quest to write a chapter book after he came to the conclusion that “I didn’t have nuttin’ to say.”  Well, I DO some things to say, just got to get started.  Thanks again for the nudge.  Waiting impatiently for WRECKED to arrive in the mail. 

  27. Jeff…you truly spur me onto the pursuit of my dreams. As we watch yours become reality, well, we believe we can do it too. Thank you always for your generosity in sharing your journey. And I love the beach…that’s a dream I’m determined to make come true. Sunrises and sunsets, right there by the water. Love it!
    I can definitely be deterred by perfectionism, but I’m getting better at letting go. Today I sent off an article, finalized a speaking gig, and continue to work on a new website launching in September. “Be strong and courageous and get to work!”

  28. Thank you for a great post Jeff! I just discovered your blog
    and I love it- great observations on life coupled with sincere and honest

    This specific post reminded me of something I wrote to
    myself not long ago-

    you need to have a final destination in mind to start a journey?

    I believe the answer is no.
    It is good to have at least a very vague destination or a dream in mind but not
    having a clear destination shouldn’t stop us from starting a journey.

    In a way, if you know exactly where you want to get to, you
    will be following a path rather than embarking on a journey and you may not be
    fully open to the opportunities the journey may throw at you.

    Is an urge to realise your full potential in life a good
    enough destination to kick start a journey? Even if you don’t know what your
    potential or passion may be at this point in time?

    I believe the answer is Yes.

    I’m not suggesting throwing everything you’ve earned so far
    and take uncalculated risks but don’t wait until you have it all clear and
    mapped out to start your journey (otherwise you run the risk of never starting

  29. I don’t how to say it any other way but this: I’m digging this blog because I can totally relate. I got laid off last year from my dream job (Public Relations) and I’ve had to take a drastic step down in jobs. I’ve been stressed and I’ve let my dreams fall to the wayside so I could make ends meet (that, and my wife and I have a baby boy on the way) While at my new gig, I found myself thinking, “I’m not supposed to be doing this. I’m a writer.”
    The next thing I was thinking was…
    “Well, start writing.”

  30. WOW! This post could not have been more timely! I have decided to give my notice to my employer that my last day will be 10/31/2012.  I had been hesitating and saying things like, “if everything goes well… or …it’s not etched in stone.” Then I realized that I was operating in a spirit of fear and knew that I had to take action or I would not move forward in achieving my goals and dreams!

    Thank You for sharing your thoughts and inspiring me!

  31. I had the unnerving conversation with God in which I asked Him “what do You want me to do with my life?”
    and after over a decade of silence He answered my question with a question “What if I told you that you could pick whatever you wanted, and I would bless it?”

    I just wanted to be told, get directions, follow orders.  Now I’m responsible for choosing.  Much more pressure.

    1. Exactly!!! My brother told me something that changed my perspective on choices. He said, “God gave Abraham the Promised Land. Every day Abraham had the choice to go wherever he wanted to go that day. But he was still where God had him ( the Promised Land). God has been showing me that there is a vast and beautiful land where I am within His will and yet can still follow the dreams I have and He will bless those. Still, I find myself just wanting to be told what I need to do and just follow those orders! Now that He is giving me the freedom to choose I find myself overwhelmed with the choices!

      Thank you for sharing David! Your words helped me to clarify some thoughts rumbling around my head.

      And Jeff, thank you for this post. What especially stood out to me was the question, “Are you waiting for perfection before you begin to follow your dream?” I have a tendency to wait until everything is just… right… perfect… to pursue the dreams on my heart. And then it never happens. No more! I am going to step out and just. do. it. one small step at a time with Jesus.

  32. I love this post and I love the writing. Inspirational. 

    I do believe that you can only make that  move out of Kansas if you have the vision of reaching the sea. The thing is, once you do, an expanse of grass, a flowing river and trees might appear, along,perhaps, with a lovely, easy-to-be-around bundle of plumpness and – like Mr. Polly – you think you might hover here. And then stay. 

    The dream should inform our actions and choices but we should hold it oh so lightly and trust God, who knows where He wants us. And when.

  33. Great post Jeff – been through this myself. Biggest problem was picking myself, I have kept waiting to be picked but have to pick myself – and have to dream big. I wrote a post last night where I began to unpack what my dream really is and what we mean by calling – to be posted next week.

    The thing I found is that we all need that globe, that bigger dream – and the smaller things are merely seasons, steps within that. The other thing is that we don’t always have any idea what exactly lies ahead, all we can do is what we can do now, pursue the next step and keep your overriding passion, and make it big enough to encompass many possibilities.

    I also agree that so often we think we have to be perfect, to have it all together, to succeed. The truth is that all of us are imperfect, it’s not about having it all together, it’s about having the courage to work through the brokenness, to persevere. May we all learn to have that courage – that’s often half the battle.

    Thanks for sharing this Jeff.

  34. Inspiring Jeff. My life has been about following my dreams. The surprise is that there has been more than one transition. I keep thinking, ok I’m done now. But then the winds blow in from the north (like in the movie Chocolate) and I feel ready for the next change. Keep moving forward and just going for the next growth spurt.

  35. Jeff, once again just the message I needed this morning. I have been blogging for 3 months, am thrilled with the number of hits I’ve been getting, but am aware that it is keeping me away from my major work- a novel.

    Thing is though, it feels right. I have no idea where it’s heading, but feel like its leading me somewhere. And it feeds me as I slog through the novel’s messy first draft.

    I’m heading to a beachfront where I write, communicate and grow without going totally insane at the hours, weeks and months alone with a computer as I almost did on my last novel. 

    I don’t have a map, but the globe feels bigger and more exciting as I wade into the ocean and swim. Ax

  36. I’ve found nothing ever gets finished in a vacuum. The more I share and move forward the more I get done and, the more interested the dream becomes to the world.

    Pressing forward.

    Fun and demanding.

    Good words Jeff.

  37. Big thanks for this! I am having this big problem for a long time that all my goals remain goals, plans remain plans, ideas remain ideas. I’m too afraid to step into the field and do the things I conceived in my mind just because they seem too difficult for me, out of my reach, or just plain silly.

    Thanks for the encouragement. Really needed it… Plenty of it.

  38. love the quote by Bryan…“The path to your dream is more about direction than destination.”

    Very poetic and simple, but oh so true. It reminds me of the journey, which is often much more important than where you end up. Great post. Good way to wake up on a Monday 🙂

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  39. Hi Bryan,

    I am called Purna from Bali Indonesia.
    My dreams are :
    1. To be the Secretary General of United Nations when I am 40
    2. To publish my first book
    3. To have inner peace

  40. love this post. I guess people just need to do something instead just waiting for the perfect moment to do it. such a cliche, but it works. the best time is to do anything is now.

  41. This is what I’ve been feeling…thank you for explaining it to me.  This “get out of Kansas” feeling.  I just continue to move forward…and every now and then that voice comes in and says, “But you don’t know where you’re going, isn’t that a problem?” and for the first time, I don’t really care.  I just know with every move I’m a little closer.

  42. Hi, Jeff! I just discovered your blog, and I find that my arrival is very timely. I am at the stage where it is time to leave Kansas. Just yesterday, I was asking myself why I am not  pursuing my writing goals – at all. You said it perfectly: I’m afraid, and I’m looking for a map when I’ve been given a globe. I have to navigate that globe, and your post helped me realize that. Thank you!

  43. Beginnings are hard. Endings are easy. Middles, well they come when the going gets easy, paths have been hacked through for them to tread like camera-swinging tourists. 

    Beginnings are pioneers going out into the unknown and stamping their mark for those who follow. It’s not easy to be a pioneer. Life has become too comfortable. Writers are just as timid as the rest. 

    So, don’t start at the beginning.

    No story ever does start at the beginning. There is no beginning. Not until the end because, only when you have walked that path can you look back and see where you’ve come from, and what you’ve been through. 

    Find where the path leads to. When you get there, you’ll see the beginning clearly. 

    So it is with writers. So it is with dreams.

    Writers are dreamers. Writers are also dream stealers. We take people’s dreams and turn them into something tangible: An adventure. Go with the flow.

    Sometimes, we discover the dream (adventure) is more palatable than reality. Perhaps that’s why Dorothy took so long to realise that all she had to do was click her heals together and arrive back where she started from.

  44. I got stuck on Get out of Kansas.  I was born and raised there.  I have family members who have never left Kansas.  I appreciate Kansas and even love it when I cross the border to go back to my home state.  (Which is only 20 miles away) 🙂  However, I grew up wanting to know more than Kansas.  Thankfully, I have been given that opportunity within the states.  But I am also dreaming globally now.  One step at a time.

  45. Thank you again Jeff. Food for thought. I have some friends that say they want to go someplace and even if they get the chance they make excuses why they can’t go. I wrote a piece that I called Life is an Adventure – Live it to the Fullest. I would like to get it published but that is beside the point. I started writing as I was sitting in a mall in Tucson Az. watching people and thinking “How many of these people are living their life to the fullest merely because they are afraid.”
    There are many things that people can be afraid of but if they tried it they would free their minds to be less afraid. I am 72 and I do not have many friends my own age and my daughter told me that I am to liberal and unafraid and that intimidates them. I do not consider myself an intimidating person even though I am not afraid to state my own opinion. I am sorry about going on but once I start writing I can’t seem to stop the words from flowing. Thank you Jeff and everybody who reads this.

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