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Why Dreams Can Be A Nightmare

by | A Life Less Ordinary

Have you ever had a stone in your shoe?

You’re walking down the street, you’re in a hurry but you’re making good progress. And yet with every step forward you take, you’re reminded of the foreign object digging into your foot. It’s deeply unpleasant but you keep going – you’ll just ignore it for now.

Carrying dreams can feel that way.

You have a nice life, great friends, a home, a job – you’re on an upward spiral, but there’s a stone in your shoe. “Remember, you were going to be a concert pianist?” And all the joy is sucked out of your picture. The pride of what you’ve accomplished is soiled by a “should have”.


“I should have continued learning to play the piano. If I’d been more disciplined and hard working, by now, I’d be a pro. I might even be touring the world. Either way, I’d be really interesting and people would want to be friends with me.”

You cling onto that dream. After all, it’s not too late. You heard of a man who took up the piano in his late forties and became a concert pianist. Maybe you could leave it until retirement. You store the thought in your head in a safe place where it can wait until later.

But it doesn’t want to wait until later. It wants to come out to play. It wants to play pretend. “What if… I hadn’t given up the piano” – you try to block the thought, but it won’t go. It wants to exist and to be played out.

And it’s not alone: we lug around so many aspirations which have no place in our lives. They mingle with our true desires and start to look like them. We end up labelling them as dreams, yet they don’t belong there. They simply bug our minds with the feeling of failure.

Letting a dream play out would amount to writing a doorstopper book. Paul Auster did just that in his latest novel 4 3 2 1 where he explores four ways in which the main character’s storyline could develop. The result weighs 880 pages. No wonder your brain goes into overdrive. All these “dreams” stored in your buffer zone, spinning around and kicking away at your feelings of contentment, asking for their storyline to be developed.

What do we do with those “dreams”? How can we tell which ones should stay and which should be tossed away? Well, we can start by looking at them with a magnifying glass, with the utmost respect. “What does being a concert pianist mean to me?” If the main reason is to get validation, you may want to put that aspiration to bed. But make sure you save the important other details, which you could find in another pursuit.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein Click To Tweet
In an interview I recently listened to, the guest explained how he spent his teenage years perfecting his technique on the electric guitar. He described his vision of success – girls, fame, money. When he finally joined a band, he quickly realised something terrifyingly simple. He hated carrying his guitar, amps and cables to rehearsal. That alone ruined the fun of playing. The dream of becoming a guitar hero was made redundant. Years later, he continued to play the guitar for pleasure, but noticed that he craved performing in public. He discovered stand-up comedy and made a career of it. He found out which element of his guitar hero dream needed to be extracted and brought in to his life.

So yes, “Dreams” can be a nightmare if you don’t confront them.

Can you find it in you to take one of your aspirations and inspect it under a magnifying glass? What does it have to tell you about what you need more of in your life?

Now, I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts by emailing me at charlotte(at)

  • Do any of your dreams make you feel like you’ve underperformed in life?
  • Is there an apparently unachievable dream, which haunts you time and time again?

If you’ve enjoyed this article and know anyone who could benefit from reading it, I’d be really grateful if you shared it with them.

Thank you for reading!



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