Artwork of dreaming faceWe’re inundated with messages of chasing and living the dream. The exhilarating life overseas, finding our purpose or the perfect partner. But this state of mind keeps us running towards an elusive finish line. Yet the dream is never quite as it seems….

One of the challenges of living life mindfully and in the moment is the tendency to be continuously invested in and chasing the dream.

We’re conditioned to be in a constant state of wanting, wondering and waiting for an enigmatic yet elusive place ahead. A happy-ending destination where fortune, feat and fulfilment awaits. We believe that when we arrive we’ll stride through life with a spring in our steps. And no doubt stars will sparkle above our heads while pretty little bluebirds sing.

It’s a fundamentally flawed and fatal mistake we too often make. As, while it may be true we have yet to live the best, this constant quest for something better takes us out of our present moment, leading us to live life in our heads. But our minds make many omissions, assumptions and conclusions and we can never have a true sense of what lies ahead.

5 reasons why frequently focusing on a more fulfilling future can be futile

The single story – We look at those that seemingly have it all and make stereotypical presumptions—rich; free parents; fulfilled couples; content and successful; set-up for life. We don’t see the struggles that, in addition to the satisfying sections, are also central to the story. The worry and weariness of child rearing, the fights to keep fundamental feelings in long-lasting love and the demands and dedication required for great wealth and success. Instead, we assign a single story to situations, only anticipating increased contentment.

The unexpected losses – For all the big gains in life, there are losses. Sometimes deficits directly relate, often they come about simply as a consequence of changing times. The dream life overseas—a loss of family stability; the successful career—simultaneous yet unexpected troubles with our friends or family; or motherhood—the loss of independence and sometimes sanity! Achieving our life’s aims also requires that we often too, quite significantly, change. Yet we imagine everything good about our present moment will remain the same. And, while the wins are often worth it, we’re more often blind to the stakes.

The mismatched needs – We think we know what we want. Frequently we assume that by adding extra we’ll subtract our sadness. We fail to figure out that fulfillment is fundamentally within us and instead believe that external factors will eventually give our lives the dream factor. Yet everything we need is already there. It’s only when we look within and accept ourselves and current situation that we start the journey to true elation.

The fake realities – We look at others and inaccurately compare, after all, social media is saturated with streams of stories of success and people supposedly “living the dream.” No longer is life complete unless filtered and plastered all over the screen. But the real filters are the ones we use to disguise our everyday lives… the bulk that is everything in between. The messy house, the parenting fails, bribes and empty threats, sitting around lazily in our sweats, emptying the bin, getting irritated by our partner’s snoring and kicking them a little harder than intended, or not, in the shin. While we should certainly celebrate our successes, glossing over the sometimes dull reality has us comparing only to manipulated “happy endings” and highlight reels.

The happily ever after – Even happy endings end. Because the nature of life isn’t so, rather it’s a series of happy and unhappy moments that come and go. Even when our biggest dreams arrive they are only ever mere moments in time. They too will pass. Detaching from the happy ending destination frees us to get off the speeding train of anticipation to enjoy a more comfortable ride and the inevitable waits at the station.

Dreaming is an essential and wonderful part of life. It fills us with hope and fire to go after the things we desire. But we can become too invested in “the dream,” overlooking the joy of everything that’s in between. The time we take to plait our child’s hair, sitting with them and really being there, laughing at silly things, sharing a knowing look with those we truly know, strolls with the sand between our toes. To live life only for the happy ending is a critical error in judgment that can never be corrected.

Yes, we should chase our dreams. But instead of running, let’s tiptoe, taking care not to trample on the seemingly insignificant things as we go.

They may just be the moments that matter the most.

Nicola Sutcliffe is a British citizen and writer living in Melbourne. She is also the author of blog Upside Down which provides interesting articles on her life overseas and personal growth.

image: Dream Wave series via Shutterstock