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Want to Chase Your Dreams? This Is the Right Way to Win Big

I hope you have some big goals you are trying to reach. Setting the right type of goals is key for personal and professional growth. But have you adequately prepared for what is ahead as you chase your dreams?

Our family faced a situation several years ago when my wife was facing a professional identity crisis. She enjoyed teaching math to high school students and was quite good at it. Although she loved the students, teaching wasn’t leaving her personally and professionally fulfilled.

So we began to discuss a big goal for her – making a career change that would take her from classroom math teacher to CPA. Those initial discussions were exciting. But, they were also filled with some indecision, apprehension and a little fear about how to accomplish the task.

chase your dreamsThe point here isn’t to be a discouragement as you chase your dreams. By all means, find your passion and go for it. However, many people have a tendency to jump before they think. That’s a mistake. You have to plan for the drawbacks and unforeseen situations that will arise as you chase your dream. The better you can prepare for those ahead of time, the easier they will be to deal with when they come.

We faced our share of issues during my wife’s transition. The great thing is we dealt with them and she eventually reached her goal.

Could it have gone smoother? Absolutely! That’s why I’m sharing five hints today from our experience that I hope will help you chase your dreams and reach that goal. You have to think these things through ahead of time and know how to deal with them if you want to win big.

Analyze the Opportunity Costs

Remember the term “opportunity costs” from your Economics 101 class? In economic theory, opportunity costs refers to the loss of potential gain or satisfaction from all other options once one option is chosen. For example, if a person decided to spend $5,000 to start a printing business, they would miss out on the benefits (gain) that $5,000 could have produced if used in some other area (ex. paying off a credit card or saving for college).

Another way to think about opportunity costs might simply be with the term “sacrifice.” Once my wife chose to direct her efforts toward one goal, she couldn’t direct that same effort toward another goal. There is only so much effort that can go around.

Opportunity costs is simply a reality that occurs when decisions are made. It shouldn’t be viewed as positive or negative – you simply have to weigh the outcomes of all possible choices. As you chase your dreams it reminds us that there are things we will have to give up (temporarily, perhaps permanently) in order to go up.

Pride Goes Before a Fall

My wife and I spent months developing a plan that would allow her to continue teaching for two more years as she pursued her Master’s degree, then look for a job after graduation. We thought that plan wouldn’t shake up the status quo. We wanted to keep things as steady and safe as possible.

That plan was blown up one afternoon during a chance meeting with a mutual friend – who also happened to be a CPA at an accounting firm. I’ll never forget the words that came from her mouth during that conversation:

“So, when are you going to come work for us?” she asked.

Wait…what did you say? You have a job opening? Now? She can’t leave teaching yet! That’s completely against our plan and simply too crazy!

We almost blew her question off. No way could we make such an abrupt change…or could we?

We took a week to think and pray about it. During that week, our minds were opened to possibilities we had never imagined. Once we were willing to think through other scenarios, the decision became obvious.

What better environment to be exposed to while in school to become an CPA than working for an accounting firm! We would have missed a golden opportunity if we stubbornly clung to our original plan thinking it was the only way to go.

Don’t succumb to your own pride as you chase your dreams. It can easily get in the way of considering a course correction in the middle of the plan when someone comes up with a better alternative.

Chasing Your Dreams Will Cost More Than You Think

If you are going to chase your dreams it’s going to cost money. That should not be a surprise. Our big costs were tuition, fees, and books. Based on the available information, we were able to calculate beforehand approximately how much it would cost to return to school.

But, just like building that brand new dream home, there were hidden financial costs we did not consider, like:

– eating out more (from decreased time to prepare meals)

– increase in gas expenses from a longer commute

– updating a wardrobe for a more professional career

– paying for other school expenses (shipping of textbooks, purchasing CPA review course, CPA exam expenses, etc.)

– buying an iPad to allow for more convenience in studying

Although these costs were manageable. The bottom line here is that your goal will cost more than you think. That’s why it would be a good idea to establish an emergency fund before you chase your dreams. You’ll need that money at some point along the way.

Your Relationships Are at Risk

I wouldn’t say our relationship was irrevocably damaged. However, there was relationship-tension to manage.

The best way I can describe this tension is to visualize the stretching of a rubber band. One finger (the dream) pulls the rubber band in one direction while another finger (relationships) pulls it in the other direction. The task becomes managing the stretching so that the rubber band doesn’t snap.

So what were the relationship tensions to manage? First and foremost was the marriage relationship. The more time my wife poured into studying and the more effort I gave taking care of the kids and the house, the less time we had to connect with each other. There were certainly times when we felt lost, not really knowing what was going on in the other person’s world.

Kid relationships also were affected. There were many occasions when the kids wanted to play with mommy and they simply couldn’t. We did our best to carve out time but on most evenings, papers and exam review videos took precedence.

And we never really saw our friends. Those couple’s night outs disappeared quickly. Facebook commenting was traded in for online classroom forum commenting.

Some Activities Will Have to Go

As you are probably sensing, the underlying downside as you chase your dreams is lack of time. Whenever you transfer effort in a new direction, something has to give. You simply can’t do it all.

That’s going to mean giving up some activities that you love.

During our journey, we were not able to be involved in as many church or school functions as we had been before. We cut back on our kid’s rec-sports league activities. I was unable to lead any more Financial Peace University classes like I had planned. I gave up coaching high school basketball.

Other daily activities also suffered like exercise, cleaning and doing projects around the house and finding time to read. Our two dogs were seldom walked. We quit watching most of our favorite shows.

All of those activities have value. They simply had less of a priority during that segment of our lives.

Chase Your Dreams Because It’s Worth It!

I may have painted a depressing picture of what life was like for us during this transition. And perhaps you are thinking twice about whether to chase your dreams or not.  I wouldn’t call that time period of our lives depressing. It was just more challenging than we realized at the beginning.

The good news is that we were able to manage through it with the help of family and friends, the understanding and support of our kids and with the wisdom and strength given to us by God.

Most importantly, we both can say with complete certainty:

It was worth it!

Now, on the back end of the journey, we are reaping the rewards of our sacrifice.

My advice for you today is to chase your dreams and be excited about it. But don’t let your excitement and passion for change blind you from considering what it’s truly going to be like. There will be tough, painful sacrifices to make, some of which you might not be thinking about at the start.

Questions for Discussion: Have you ever felt like you are giving up a lot to chase your dreams? Have you ever changed a plan mid-stream because something better came up? What other advice would you give someone looking to turn a dream into a reality?

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  1. There was a point that I always procrastinated my tasks, which resulted in loss of opportunities, and it did let me down and felt I wasn’t being successful in every area of my life. It affected my perspective as well as my confidence and was hard to pick up every piece of it to get back to the life I used to dream of. Now, I am still on my way toward the life I have wanted.

  2. Great post mate. My wife and I are currently chasing our dream and are investing fairly heavily in getting there. Having said that, we have our finances in order and have set some fairly clearly defined goals and timelines, so if everything fails we still have a plan to move forward with.

    • That’s great Glen! It’s always valuable to have a backup option if the original plan doesn’t work out. For us, it probably would have been Kim continuing to teach.

  3. Done by Forty says

    Fantastic post, Brian. I am always interested in understanding our choice’s opportunity costs. We really must choose, and to understand the sacrifice inherent with that choice, before new realities open up to us. Like Joe at Stacking Benjamins says, it’s when we narrow our field of choices that these things come into focus.

    • Opportunity costs reminds me of those books I read as a child where you could make choices as to which action the character should take. “If you want him to do this, then turn to page 35. If you want him to do that, turn to page 50.” I love reading those, seeing all the scenarios and figuring out what I gave up.

  4. MoneySmartGuides says

    Like you said, you have to make sure that your dream is worth it and all these side effects won’t matter in the long run to be doing what you love! And if it doesn’t work out – hey I’m sure that lots of things were learned in the process.

    • “…lots of things were learned in the process.” That’s a big part of the journey to be sure. I’ve found the learning that takes place to be as valuable as the actual completion of the goal.

  5. Student Debt Survivor says

    My first job after I finished grad school was at a homeless shelter. I worked 2:30-10pm for 3 years. It was a big sacrifice in my relationship with Eric because we almost never saw each other. He left for work at 7:30-8am when I was still asleep and he was asleep when I came home most nights. It was definitely a tough few years, but it did set me up in my career for a nice promotion.

  6. also, you’ve inspired a blog post 😉 Thanks friend.

  7. I totally understand where you’re coming from re: relationship. About a year after we were married my husband quit his good, cushy job to pursue working with a start-up company based on an idea only….it was stressful. He quit work and the start date for his new job was pushed back by 6 weeks. 6 weeks of no pay, me a fresh grad myself and loads of stress. I’m happy to report it worked out. Four years later he’s still with them and the company has a TON of potential.

    • I can see how that would be a stressful situation. 6 weeks with no pay is tough and could definitely put a strain on the relationship. Glad you guys have come through it!

  8. It is never an easy task to change one’s career and you listed the reasons perfectly.. I also like taking time to think and weigh options before making a decision because in the past, I have made decisions at the heat of the moment and come to regret or think otherwise.

    • Heat of the moment decisions can be disastrous. Logic is usually clouded by emotion. Taking a step back to analyze the situation gives the emotion some time to clear.

  9. Sometimes the biggest decisions are a breeze to make, and sometimes the smallest ones require the most thought. A lot of times it seems people only consider what they gain, and don’t consider what they might lose, or what they might have to compromise on. I like to take a day or two to consider a big decision, but also like listening to my intuition. Great post.

    • We sound a lot alike Ryan. I’m a slow processor and don’t enjoy making quick decisions. My wife is sort of the opposite so we balance each other out well. She pushes me…I slow her down.

  10. eemusings (NZMuse) says

    Kneejerk reactions are often a bad idea. I usually like to sleep on everything, even the smallest decisions.

    • That’s why we almost blew off the comment from our friend. We felt that it was a knee jerk reaction to suddenly change course mid-stream. But after a week of talking it through and praying about it, we felt a real peace about the change to the plan.

  11. I can totally relate after having two huge career changes in our family over the past couple of years. I originally wanted to sell my practice and work full time for Indian health, but found out that I can do about as well working part time and earning income in other ways. Jim finished his master’s this spring, and I can attest to the difficulties that puts on a family. I would never try to compare it to being a single parent, but the one not doing the schooling certainly has to step up in responsibility, and we only have one kid! I can certainly say that mentally and financially, all the change was worth it, but we did almost lose our minds a couple of times during the transition.

    • Agreed about the spouse stepping up. If I hadn’t turned my attention to taking over management of the house, there is no way my wife could have finished. It would have been impossible. And on the plus side, I’ve learned that I love to cook and can do it pretty well!

  12. 2-copper-coins.com says

    My husband and I discuss this dream thing a lot. It’s tricky when you both have dreams in the ministry field that could take you to a lot of different places across the country and in many ways mean you’ll HAVE to move if you want to move forward in your career. We’ve come up with a compromise but we have to work at the relational side so we don’t harbor bitterness that our respective dreams can’t be reached in the ways we imagined when we were single. For our career dreams it might mean taking a two steps forward one step back approach as we’ve agree to switch off every 4-5 years between whose career dictates the next move. It’s a tricky balance but so far it’s been the best solution.

    • “…we’ve agree to switch off every 4-5 years between whose career dictates the next move.” I think this is really wise. I know it might be frustrating for whoever’s dream is not front and center at the moment. But both spouse’s working on a BIG dream I think would be extremely difficult. I had to be there to emotionally support Kim and if I was distracted by my own agenda, she would have had no one to lean on.

  13. The only thing I might be giving up right now to pursue my “side dream” is time. I’m not giving up the day freelance job anytime soon, so if I want to grow my writing/blogging business I need to spend extra time at it. Fortunately I enjoy it, but I do have to sacrifice some other commitments. I want to buy and learn the Ukulele this year. It’s always been a dream of mine to learn a musical instrument, but before I do I’m trying to be realistic about the time I’ll have to actually practice daily. Until I’m committed to that time, there is no sense in buying one. I tell people who want to quit their day job and start freelancing that they should first learn to live off half their income. Jumping ship is a shock to the system at first without serious plan b, plan c, plan d, etc. in place. I don’t know if people how challenging it can be. Great article as always Brian!

    • “… they should first learn to live off half their income.” That’s great advice Tonya. I think most people think they will be OK, then when they don’t have that paycheck it shocks them more than they realize.

  14. Great post Brian, really enjoyed reading it. This is such a good example of the true sacrifices we have to make when we commit to a decision. Many times our decisions appear to be wrong in the beginning, but once we work through all the challenges, they turn out for the best!

    • Thanks Jim! It seems to have turned out really well. My wife really loves her job and now that she is done we are experiencing more free time at home…time to play catch up with the kids.

  15. Great post, Brian! It isn’t always the easiest finding a dream worth chasing then add-in a lack of planning, it can be a recipe for disaster. When I returned to private practice, it was a bit of impulse and planning. I always intended to return at some point but when they eliminated my team, I realized I was ready to go back now. It happened so fast and I would never change my decisions but in hindsight, there are definitely things I would have different. Of course, I think that happens a bit to everyone. I’m glad everything ultimately worked out for the best for you and Kim and your family. 🙂

    • Thanks Shannon! My pace of doing things is a bit slower, so when plans speed up I get real nervous. Takes me awhile to process all the different scenarios and angles. I don’t like fast change.

  16. As a professional actress I can say that a lot of this post resonates with me. Unfortunately, for me, my dream doesn’t follow as predictable or as linear a progression. Sometimes, I feel that I’ve sacrificed everything to pursue this path- relationships (I can’t plan anything including trips, weddings, etc because I MIGHT book a job), money (the pay is pretty terrible in my field), family (I really want to have children, but I’m not willing to take that time and money away from my career just yet), etc.

    • If you still believe in what you are doing then the sacrifice will be worth. At some point though you will have to ask and answer the question “Is it all worth it?” You’ve clearly put on hold many things you value. We had to go down that road as we thought about our decision, so I know what you are feeling. I wish you the best in your efforts.

  17. Dreams are hard to achieve. It takes a lot of work and dedication. My big goal for 2014 is to move into a new house and sell the old one. That is the biggest goal I have right now as I am trying to take things one step at a time.

    • I remember you mentioning that on your blog at some point. I know your anxious but taking it slowly, one step at a time like you said is the best process. You don’t want to get house-fever and get into something that won’t really meet your needs.

  18. I like the point you bring up about requiring sacrifice to reach your dream. It isn’t all rainbows! It took me a long time to study and pass the CPA exam. I would wake up early in the morning to study and then after work I would start studying again. Studying took up a large chunk of my weekends too. It wasn’t fun. Hubby took on extra chores to keep the house up and did ALL the cooking over those months. I was able to pass the exams and am so thankful for his support and patience.

  19. Love this post Brian! It is so easy to get caught up in chasing a dream that we can all too often lose sight and not plan for things that may be unexpected. We spent months, more likely years, planning for my exit from the work force and entry into helping my wife run our business and there were things that still popped up. I think it’s inevitable to have that happen, on some level at least, but that’s why planning and preparing are so vital in the process.

    • The hardest part at the time of the change was just letting go of something we were comfortable with. There is a certain fear that comes from not knowing what’s on the other side of the fence. In the end, you simply have to think it through the best you can and make the most informed decision possible. But you are right…things will always pop up no matter how much you plan.

  20. Very interesting about your wife and the accounting job. It’s always interesting to look back at how we got where we are. I was lucky enough to have a job when I graduated college and it was honestly because I was open to opportunities and went outside my comfort zone with a little networking.

  21. Really pursuing big dreams like this is hard. With the length of time and the amount of energy it takes, it’s unavoidable to have periods where you really wonder whether it’s all worth it or whether you can actually do it. Having another person there with you is a double-edged sword too. It can be incredibly helpful to have the help and support, but like you said it adds stress in the form of competing priorities. The thing I’ve learned though is that if you decide something is really important to you, it’s ALWAYS worth it to see it through. Quitting in the middle is pretty much never a good option, unless things really change.

    • I almost quit my grad school program years ago because I thought it was so hard. Some wise counsel talked me out of that and I’m glad I didn’t stop. Looking back though, what I went through then was nothing compared to what this challenge brought us. But your right…if it’s that important, quitting isn’t an option.

  22. Color Me Frugal says

    You’re so right that there is so much to think about when you consider a big change like that. Especially when you have children! So glad that you got through the tough times and made it to the other side feeling that it was worth it. We are also considering making a big change- but sort of opposite, as we are considering the possibility of me staying at home after we adopt. There are tons of things to think about, and not just the obvious things like less income and possibly more expenses. It definitely takes a lot of planning! Hope 2014 is starting off well for you guys!

    • Adoption sounds exciting! That would bring big change but would be worth staying home for, especially if you adopt a little one. One of the reasons we were able to make it is because our children were SO great! They picked up the slack around the house, especially the two older ones. It was truly a family effort.

  23. FI Pilgrim says

    This post is spot on, in my experience. As I start my new side-job for 2014 I’m waiting for the obstacles to arise, and I’m already experiencing tension in my home after two weeks of working a couple of extra evenings. Events will definitely have to be sacrificed.
    It’s great to hear that you overcame these kinds of challenges in order for Kim to get through school.

    • The big key for us was to continue to communicate. Don’t bury the tension and pretend like it doesn’t exist. It will when the goal is big and time is limited.


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