Letting Go of a Dream: Why It’s Okay

Letting Go of a Dream

If you need encouragement to stick to your dreams, you don’t have to look very far. Facebook and Pinterest are plastered with smarmy illustrated quotes telling us to “Never Give Up!” Some even try to make you feel bad about letting go of a dream by implying only a weak person would do so. At the risk of sounding like a Debbie Downer, I’m here to tell you something different. You might need to let go of a dream at some point in your life, and that’s okay. In fact, it could be the best decision in many circumstances.

So, when is it a good idea to abandon a dream? Let’s look at some reasons.

It Doesn’t Make You Happy Anymore

Following your dreams is difficult at times, but if you love what you are working toward, this shouldn’t matter much. This doesn’t mean you won’t have days where you feel like giving up, but you shouldn’t if you are happy.

However, when chasing your aspirations makes you miserable, it might be time to consider letting go of that dream. For example, if you once dreamed of writing a book, but the very act of typing up a page of your manuscript now sucks your soul dry of the will to live, you probably don’t really want to be a writer anymore.

You aren’t necessarily giving up when letting go of a dream. It could be that you simply outgrew an old passion, and it might just be time to revise your goals. There may be other dreams you’d rather work on. Following a dream that makes you miserable, though, can prevent you from devoting time to something you really enjoy.

As long as you aren’t giving up everytime something gets difficult, there is nothing wrong with letting go of a dream that no longer inspires you with feelings of joy.

The Only Reason You Aren’t Letting Go of a Dream is Your Fear of What Other Might Say

Confession time here. I once wanted to be an attorney. To prepare, I took pre-law classes in college. I also worked part-time at a law office one summer. When I got into my #1 law school I was ecstatic.

Reality hit me in the face not long after I started law school. It turns out I didn’t want to be a lawyer after all. I still though the law was interesting, but I disliked everything about the practice of it, especially oral arguments. In fact, I was so terrible at oral arguments that more than one law professor advised me to avoid any job that required them.

I wanted to quit but felt ashamed because I so many people knew about my goal. The pressure not to be a “quitter” kept me in. So I slogged through two more awful years of law school, graduating with my degree and a mountain of debt. But I have never practiced law.

Guess what? I don’t practice law now. I never have, and I never will. After careful reflection, I realized that law school was actually my parent’s dream for me, but it wasn’t my own. Don’t do what I did. If you are only following an old dream out of habit or because of pressure, you are wasting your time. Life is too short to live someone else’s dream. And you shouldn’t base your goals on what others think. Be brave. Let go of that outdated dream, and spend time on your true passion.


I use the term “near-impossibility” because, technically, not much is impossible. Letting go of a nearly impossible dream is the hardest reason to do so. This is because you aren’t letting go of it by choice. You are letting go because it is no longer feasible to chase or fulfill your dream.

This happens often when physical injury prevents completion of an athletic goal. And while some people overcome amazing odds to accomplish their goals after a devastating injury, sometimes it’s not possible.

Or, your dream may be so big that most people could not attain it. Not everyone can be a famous actor or a football star. Many more people have these dreams than will ever achieve them.

Neither of these scenarios means that you must give up on a dream entirely, though.

So injury has put an end to your dreams of achieving football stardom. If the love of the game drives you, consider coaching, either as a career or as a volunteer. Look into careers as a sportscaster or sportswriter.

If you can’t be the next Jennifer Lawrence, you could still participate in local theater or become a drama teacher. You can still be surrounded by what you love if you’re willing to modify things a bit.

It is very difficult to give up on the near-impossible when society pushes us to keep going. But I say it takes true courage to be able to admit to yourself that it’s time to let go of a dream. It takes even more bravery and creativity to re-focus that passion and drive into something you can do.

A Final Word

Whether circumstances force you into letting go of a dream or it’s a conscious act, modifying your life goals and aspirations is a sign of maturity and courage. You have to know yourself and be willing to accept change. This is more difficult than one might think, as I have learned from my own experience.

Once you make the decision to let go, you may even go through a grieving process. Even though I hated law, I still went through a period of sadness, simply because I let go of a vision of myself I’d had for years. But once I pushed past the sadness a feeling of exhilaration took over as new possibilities opened up to me. I was no longer chained to a goal that no longer fit my needs and that no longer made me happy.

Even if near-impossibility forces you to abandon a dream, there is still a good feeling that comes with modifying a goal into something achievable. I’ve met and worked with many people who only truly “found themselves” when they were forced to re-think their life goals. Most have also found ways to apply their old knowledge in the pursuit of their new dreams.

Life is way too short to waste time on dreams and goals that don’t work for you anymore. Take it from me, sometimes you have to let go of a dream to live the life you were meant to live.

Need inspiration for your dreams? Check out our article about traveling abroad on your own.

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1 Comment

  • A. JoAnn May 24, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Yes! Letting go lets you find your next dream…


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