Chasing Your Dream

My wife and I were on vacation talking about where we are and where we’re going. She mentioned her desire to write novels. She called it “chasing the dream.”

Some alarm bells went off in my head. We all use metaphors to describe our experiences: past, present, and future, but some are more useful than others. All metaphors, by their nature encourage one line of thinking and discourage others.

“Chasing the dream” presupposes that the dream is something outside of yourself, something that is trying to elude you. It presupposes a lot of effort like when you chased other kids in school. It’s a sprint, not a marathon. For me, it also makes the dream seem farther away, more in the future, more like a fantasy.

A wish or fantasy is often entertaining, but not something you think you can accomplish (I wish I’d win the lottery). A dream is something that you can achieve and usually by the dint of working at it.

Living the Dream

So I suggested a different metaphor: “Living the dream.” When you live the dream, it’s a daily thing. You are in it; it’s not outside of you. It’s persistent effort, not a sprint. When you live the dream you start taking small steps toward the fulfillment of the dream.

My wife has been reading books about writing novels and reading lots of novels. She’s diagrammed the plot of novels she likes. She’s used those plots to lay out her own novels and start writing. She’s living the dream, not chasing it. When I mentioned this she immediately felt better about her efforts.

When I try on “living the dream,” it feels more present than future, more active than passive, easier instead of harder.

If you have a dream of owning a vacation home in the mountains, by a beach or lake, have you started to research the market? Have you gone on the internet to look at available properties in the area? Have you thought about how to finance it? Part of living the dream is learning and investigation.

Do you have a dream of a certain kind of job or getting an advanced degree? Are you investigating how to get started? Are you discovering what you need to know for the new position? If not then you’re just chasing the dream not living it.

Even the simplest act of preparing to live the dream makes the dream more real, more possible, more achievable.

Motivating Metaphors

Next time you hear yourself say something metaphoric about your life (e.g., cold calls, don’t get all bent out of shape, it’s always darkest before the dawn), stop and take a moment to analyze the metaphor.

  1. What does it include? What does it exclude?
  2. What is presupposed?
  3. How can you change the metaphor to presuppose more of what you want and less of what you don’t want? How can you change the metaphor to be more present instead of past or future? Is there a better verb to use? In this example, all I did was change the verb “chasing” to “living” the dream.

Get the idea?

Was the market “down” (i.e., depressed) today, or was it just taking a siesta? Is life “hard” or just a “journey of discovery?”


Now you’re probably asking yourself: Isn’t this just spin? Of course it is, but research has shown that we tend to use metaphors to define and shape our lives. To live life more easily, fully, and productively all you may need to do is adjust your metaphors.

To find out more, read Metaphors to Live By, by Lakehof and Johnson, or Myths We Live By, by Joseph Campbell.

Only you can decide which one's right for you.

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