How to Avoid the Starry-Eyed Mentality With Your Dreams

As someone guilty of living a little too starry-eyed with my dreams, and honestly my whole life in general, sometimes it takes some self-inflicted advice to help me stay grounded. I’m not yet successful in balancing my idealism and realism quite yet, but it helps to write articles like this to keep me on track:

How to Avoid the Starry-Eyed Mentality With Your Dreams

Don’t forget to check out more of Reflect & Refresh‘s posts for some whimsical, motivational, or tough love advice.

The Falsehood of Being “Behind”

The Falsehood of Being “Behind”

I once stumbled across a post that I saved and shared on social media because it spoke so personally to me:

“Just because you took longer than others, doesn’t mean you failed. Remember that.”

I don’t know who wrote it or where it came from, but I would wholeheartedly give credit to its origin. This was one of those quotes that struck so deep it was like a punch in the stomach. A punch that I very much needed. From high school, I did not do things like my smart, overachieving, well-to-do group of friends. I graduated a year early, took college classes during the summer, did not participate in National Honor Society or other honorable student organizations, went to community college instead of a four-year university directly after graduating, and so forth. Certain motivations like avoiding unbearable student tuition debts as much as possible made me choose this kind of path, as well as circumstances like breaking my back which led me to start online classes out of sheer boredom. There’s also the factor of spending most of my time doing internships practically every semester for the past four years. Needless to say, I have done things a little differently from my peers; from most people my age, I think.

From the moment I graduated high school I have struggled with doubt, regret, jealousy, comparison, shame. I just turned 22, and many other 22-year-olds I know are nearly finished with their Bachelor’s, whereas I am just now, not even yet, on my way towards that same goal. Yes, I have made progress with an Associate’s that gets me a little ahead of the four years, with doing internships that have proven valuable experience and connection. It’s still hard not to think about how I will likely be 25 or 26 when I do get that Bachelor’s, as apposed to old friends already having it before their 21st birthday.

Everyone in my life who is in the loop of my life has repeatedly told me, “Why do you think this? You are only such-and-such years old! You’re still young! You are doing fine! Chill out!” And I imagine those who are older than me are probably rolling their eyes in their mind as they say this. If I step out of my body and rationally observe myself, I have the exact same reaction. Why, indeed? I really do need to chill out.

It all boiled down to personal expectations. I live in this subconscious mindset of age-induced deadlines, of assumed projected standards from others, of living up to a subjective definition of success, according to society.

This idea is “being behind” as if life is some kind of race to compete in is totally, completely, stupidly false. I know this. Doesn’t mean I’ve successfully overcome it, but I’m working on that.

Why is it false?

There are different paths to the same goal.

Your path is different from your peers.

Age is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with achieving dreams.

Your age does not define you or your level of success.

“Success” is a vague term that can have a million definitions according to the individual.

Doing things for the sake of accomplishing certain societal standards is a major waste of energy and passion.

More often than not, the expectations you imagine are from outside pressures are actually your own placed upon yourself.

There is no designated deadline based on timeline, age, or order of goals that says “you failed.”

Accomplishment differs between careers. What makes someone a doctor will be a very different list of goals from what makes someone a filmmaker or an entrepreneur or a childcare provider.

Value of time and energy also differs between careers. It may be more worth it for a musician to spend their time networking while an aspiring vet will spend their time in school.

5 Things to Say No to if you want to Pursue your Dream

5 Things to Say No to if you want to Pursue your Dream

Oh, the illusive, excruciating art of saying “No.” It evades us all. But it must be done, especially if we have some goals to achieve. There are a few certain things you must deny, no matter how hard it is:

  1. Multitasking

Hobbies are good, work is well, but too much will stunt your progress. If you want to achieve a specific dream, you must put your all into it, keep yourself focused on it, make it the most important thing in your mind.

2. Procrastination

It doesn’t matter if it’s just “part of your personality.” You must say no to procrastinating your dream. Ignore your age, your financial status, your level of education, your circumstances. Get going!

3. Compromising

Your dream is much too valuable to compromise for anything. If something is forcing you to, whether it be a relationship or work position or a life choice or circumstance, then that thing is not worth having in your life.

4. Comparing

Comparing to others is such a dream killer. Not to mention a self-esteem killer. Stay away from this! Forget the others, this is your story. Who cares how they did it?

5. The past

If your past is holding your dream back, it’s time to say no and let go. There’s no moving forward until you do.

10 Thoughts you’ll Encounter While Pursuing your Dream

10 Thoughts you’ll Encounter While Pursuing your Dream

As you go about making your dream a reality, there will always be certain thoughts that cross your mind, bringing in doubt, fear, and discouragement. But they’re just thoughts, and we can’t trust our thoughts. Your head likes to mess with you, especially when it comes to the thing you love. These thoughts will likely stumble into your brain at some point, but there’s no need to dwell on them.

  1. “I’m too young.”

1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” So what if you’re still a minor? You should be working on your dream right now. There are dozens of success stories of people 18 or younger achieving amazing things. Age is irrelevant when it comes to achieving dreams.

2. “I’m too old.”

My favorite author C.S. Lewis said, “You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Did you know he was in his 50s when he wrote the first Narnia novel? And he actually first had conceptual ideas for it back at the age of 16, but he did not begin writing it until much later. Considered his greatest literary achievement, amongst others, that’s an inspiring story. Once again, age is irrelevant to dreams.

3. “I’m running out of time.”

How, exactly? Because you’re growing up? Because you’ve created imaginary deadlines? Because your achievement date doesn’t match that of your peers? No, you’re not running out of time. And you better be pacing yourself.

4. “I took too long.”

I recently came across a post that I then shared on social media because it spoke so personally to me: “Just because you took longer than others, doesn’t mean you failed. Remember that.” Remember that, indeed.

5. “I should have done it like the others.”

No, you are not them. They are not you. Your path is different. Something I always say: “There are many different paths to the same goal.” Just because you’re doing things differently from everyone else doesn’t mean you won’t achieve the same thing. Stop comparing yourself.

6. “I missed my chance.”

Doors open and doors close. They also open again. If you missed something, then something else will come along. It may change up your path a little, but like I said, there are many different paths to the same goal.

7. “I chose wrong.”

If it’s what you love to do, then you did not choose wrong. If you’re basing this off of the monetary success, well, DON’T! If your goal is to make money, well then, I hope you chose a path that made sense for that.

8. “I’m not skilled at this.”

If you’re passionate about it, then you will get good at it. Truly, ability should come naturally with passion, so perhaps you’re just underestimating your skills.

9. “I know nothing.”

Well of course, you’re still learning! That’s what studying is for! This is such a silly notion. If you’re passionate about it, the studying part will just be part of the fun.

10. “What the heck am I doing?”

Oh, we all think this, of everything. At least you’re doing something. So what if you have no idea? You’ll learn by trial and error. There’s no greater teacher. Let this thought slip away and laugh it off.

Dear Starry-eyed College Me…

Dear Starry-eyed College Me…

You probably just graduated high school, and congratulations. It’s not every year a student does it in three instead of four. I admire your deadpan focus and rock solid determination. It helped you get a long way.

I ought to warn you, though, that there is danger behind that foundation.

Some would say that setting your goals into the ground, kind of like a house, is a good practice. Most of the time it keeps you in check. But, after a few years since graduation, I’ve found that there’s a more world-agreeable practice. It’s hard to see it now, but reality is a biter. It likes to ignore you when necessary. Then it coaxes you with breadcrumbs, like you’re a pigeon. Then it shifts its foot, and because we’re all skittish pigeons we flap and flutter in hysterics.

Then we do it again.

This is how things are. Don’t waste your energy denying it; you’ll only wear yourself out. I’m not telling you to be a puppet in the system, though. Here’s what I’m saying: accept what works, but don’t forget what works better. Go with the flow; discover the checkpoints. Does that make sense?

As you enter into the “college stage,” here’s a few things that you must know:

Figure out what you want-learn how to get it! It looks like you have all the time in the world to dilly dally, but please, for the love of God, do your research.

Start saving…now! I can’t stress enough how much money will soon become one of your greatest obstacles. You’re gonna hate it. Prepare yourself. You know, there’s great resources out there for you. You just have to find them…

Get over yourself and meet people. It’s time to stop being an antisocial baby and learn the art of networking. Your future, your career, and yourself will thank you.

Understand your weaknesses; operate in your strengths. There’s a great deal of importance in both. If you’re good at something, then do it. If you’re weak in something, understand why and move on.

And when the stress and the anxiety and the frustration and the depressive thoughts come (because they will come), have a plan of attack ready. Right now. Are you ready?

 

Here’s another thing: start community college classes now. Don’t wait half a year like I did. And then, before you finish your Associate’s, prepare for which school you will go to for your Bachelor’s, because you’ll need a Bachelor’s. I know, you’re angry with the system. You want to go outside the beaten path. You want to achieve the same thing in a different way. Well, you will, don’t let go of that. But be ready…life isn’t kind to those who travel a different road. But remember what Robert Frost said?

“And I…I took the road less traveled by,
And it has made all the difference.”

For college students like me, Earnest can make a difference in one of the greatest known hardships amongst young adults: money. Especially the kind paid towards school.

What I’ve Learned About my Battles

What I’ve Learned About my Battles

For the first post of the year, I’m going to get personal. I want to share some inner battles of mine that perhaps you are also facing, or can at least relate to, for which you can receive some inspiration, encouragement, or wisdom.

These four battles have either been longterm ones that maintained their status as the most trying battles throughout my life, or have just begun their onslaught. They are all battles I’m still facing today. Among the many different kinds I’ve faced, or am facing, these have stood out as the most resilient (but no less beatable!)

  1. Anxiety

Once upon a time I used to think anxiety wasn’t a legitimate mental problem. Then I experienced it for myself, and realized that it’s the real deal. The toughest part is the physical affect it has on me. It’s amazing how a problem that’s entirely in the mind has such power over your body and health. I’ve experienced drastic panic attacks that caused me to faint, and I’ve experienced the very subtle yet nagging symptoms like chronic nausea and inability to sleep soundly. Of course, though, I would really just like to be at peace in my mind for once.

What have I learned about it?

Anxiety is a heightened, severe version of worry. It’s gone past feeling concern for the future. It’s feeling straight up fear. So when we fight it, we have to treat it as fear. You know what we do with fears? We face them. Sometimes the best way to fight anxiety is to charge in to the very thing we’re anxious about.

For the physical symptoms, there’s a few things that can do some serious help:

  • exercise
  • healthy diet
  • taking vitamins
  • yoga and meditation
  • drinking plenty of water
  • herbal tea

Counseling, spending time with friends, reading, and partaking in a hobby have all proven, at least to me, that they can really help one deal with chronic anxiety.

2. Shame

This was no longer an issue of shyness or social awkwardness. I eventually realized that a lot of my social behavior stems from embarrassment of merely being in public! I act (and think) as if I am less than everyone around me, that I’m no good, useless, pointless, without purpose…and then I become consumed with shame.

And yes, sometimes, this feeling produced thoughts of suicide.

What have I learned about it?

This shame is an absolute, genuine, unadulterated LIE. I never needed another person to tell me that. I knew it for myself. Yet, I still let it hang around. That usually created this horrendous cycle of shame (“I’m ashamed that I feel ashamed”). How do I fight it? I recount the things I’m good at, the people who love me, and what I’m passionate about. I remind myself that I’m good at such-and-such, that so-and-so loves me without condition and has proven it, and that there’s somewhere I’m willing to make a difference: I am good, I am not alone, and I have a purpose.

3. Self-pity

Self-pity is a very dangerous game to play. Let it latch itself onto your heart, and suddenly you’re impossible to please, you’re bitter, you’re hateful, you’re narrow-minded, you’re unbearably selfish, and you’re a wet blanket. Basically, you become the kind of person no one wants to be around. It’s not too hard to wonder why.

My battle with self-pity became so bad that it reached the point where God had to convict me. Hard. It was destroying me. It is destroying me. It’s proven to be one near-impossible root to pull out. I let it become a part of me. I let it manifest itself in my everyday behavior and thought pattern. I have come to detest the person I am when I operate in self-pity.

What have I learned about it?

Self-pity goes hand in hand with clinical depression. Does this mean I’ve been depressed? Maybe. It puts blinders on our eyes that only lets us see ourselves. We’re the only ones we can possibly think about. How horrible is that? So you know what I do to fight it? I force myself to think about those in worse situations than me, like those with a terminal illness. Compared to them, I have no right to victimize myself. It quickly snaps me back into right thinking. With how deep self-pity has dug itself, it’s practically every other minute of my life. But I fight on. If there’s one thing I refuse to become, it’s a self-pitying wretch.

4. Jealousy/Comparing to others

I did not know that I had a deep-rooted issue of living in people’s shadows until the day I went up for prayer back in youth group. I had no clue what I needed prayer for, I only knew that I needed prayer and I was too compelled to stay back. Then the youth pastor began praying, and she prayed…that I stop living in my older siblings’ shadow. It shocked me so hard that my eyes shot open and I reeled just a little. That was an extremely emotional moment. It was like a glass had shattered and a light came on all at once.

That day I discovered that I struggled with being jealous and comparing myself to others.

I particularly compare myself to those more successful than me. Sadly, in my mind, that ends up being everyone! I make up some reason of why anyone and everyone is better than me. I secretly, and guiltily, desire for their success, desire to do what they did to get it…desire to get it faster. The end result is a dissatisfaction with myself, with where I’m at in life, and with what I’ve accomplished. I’ve even been so bad as to be dissatisfied with my current age. That’s when it’s just stupid and crazy.

What have I learned about it?

First of all, comparing is a big, fat waste of energy. Being jealous just makes you an unhappy cynic. The best treatment method? Thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness. I fight by replacing thoughts of jealousy and comparison with finding something to be thankful for. I don’t always succeed. I don’t always fail. So I’m making progress.

 

Do any of these sound familiar? Relatable? It’s okay. It’s normal. It’s human. Every kind of battle is capable of being fought and won. They each take different strategies and levels of action, but they’re all the same. You can do it, just like I can.

2017, the year of…

2017, the year of…

Tomorrow is a new year, and it’s time for a new word. For 2017, it is the year of Endurance.

2017-the-year-of

Halfway through 2016, this could have honestly been my word instead of Independence. My mind was already shifting to this focus. This year I wasted a lot of time being disillusioned about my life; I fantasized way to much and ended up disappointing myself because, surprise! life isn’t a fantasy. My writer mind wishes it can create my own story just as easily as it creates others, but I’m not the only one who can throw curveballs into the fray. By October 2016, I figured out what word I needed to focus on next. It came like a clear beam of sunlight through the reddening autumn leaves.

Here’s why Endurance is my word for the year: I’m a wimp. I’m not saying that because I started hating on myself. I really am a wimp. Or, in nicer words, I don’t have as thick skin as I thought I did. I am a naturally emotional person who quits on things too soon because I didn’t get an instant “click” within the first few days. This bad trait has caused me to make several regretful decisions that I try to distract myself from to keep the shame level low. I don’t seem to have any endurance, for anything.

I think it was when I came across Hebrews 10:36 one September morning as I was on the bus that I decided on the word:

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

“Patient endurance” kept playing over and over in my head. It certainly was what I needed right now. The Bible has so many examples of people who endured through much suffering in order to finish and receive the reward: Joseph, Job, Elijah, Paul…not to mention Christ himself.

With a focus on Endurance, I want to develop every part of my endurance: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. I don’t want outside forces to determine my choices anymore. I don’t want to be such an easy quitter anymore. I don’t want to be controlled by flighty emotions that just end up driving myself and others crazy. I want to endure, especially during the hard parts. I want to get strong. I’m working out this year, and I mean my mental muscles.

year-words-so-far

past years’ words