Are You a Victim of the Diminishing Dreams Syndrome?

When I was in high school, I dreamt of someday owning a huge firm.

Then I entered college.

When I was in college, only the ones with the highest grades were given the most recognition. So I figured, only they could one day “own a company.”

So, from thereon, I dreamt of becoming a high-ranking corporate employee – perhaps a C-whatever-O!

Then I joined a corporation.

I came in as an entry-level HR Officer. The more I learned about my field, the more I realized how incredibly difficult it is to overcome my chosen corporate function and make truly strategic decisions.

So, from thereon, I dreamt of becoming a “Head of HR” one day.

Moreover, I also saw that in corporations, the best managers were often given “car plans” or “company cars.” Of course, I wanted to be the best.

So, from thereon, I dreamt of getting my own car – a FORD ESCAPE if possible, because I thought it looked good.

More than once I thought. “Hey, I’m not really happy! I can’t wait for the week to end and the work is getting repetitive.” But then when I asked around, everyone else felt the same way.

So, from thereon, I thought, “That’s life.” And then I just forced myself to chug along, day after day after day after day after day.

Then, one day I was the Head of HR for an entire firm. My salary was higher, so naturally, I quickly got a loan to purchase a FORD ESCAPE (which I eventually loathed because it was such a gas-guzzler) The monthly loan payments were debilitating, and in truth I could have used the money for more important stuff. But hey, who cares?  I had my car, right?!!!

Then, after some time, I got a bit confused. Wait, so what was left to dream of? I dared not dream of being a CXO. Owning a firm was even more laughable.

So, I instead “dreamt” of just getting higher pay, year after year. Maybe get a job outside the country to earn higher currency. That’s it. I figured, nothing wrong with that right? Everyone I talked to dreamt of the same thing, and talked about the same thing.

In around a decade’s time, society and corporate life had subtly diminished my dreams from “owning a firm” into “receiving a higher salary increase next year” and “owning an Escape.” At one point, these two were my professional dreams. DREAMS. Egad.

My friends, our dreams should be saved for bigger, much more meaningful things. God placed us on this earth for far greater things than a nice car and nice pay. Our dreams fuel our hopes, which in turn, fuel our souls. We should take great care of our dreams. 

Buy hey, you know, my dreams include the really big things, like having a family and travelling to Europe and stuff, they don’t involve work. Work is just work.

Stop thinking this way. Work is such an important part of our lives. It is where MOST of our waking hours are spent. A person who feels broken about “just work” is simply just a broken person. I was.

What, so inspiration, meaning, and feeling great are just reserved for the weekends?

When I took stock of where I was, and I made a conscious decision to follow my younger, more childlike dreams, I noticed something very different.

My dreams grew.

My initial dream was to “just earn enough to get out of corporate.” And I did (with a great leap). Then I figured we could “grow this baby” into an industry leader. We did. Then I figured I could use the experience to create more startups. I did. Then I figured I could use everything I learned to help people create more startups. This is my passion dream now, and it excites and burns within me furiously. I would do this for free. And when I think of it, I think it’s an aspiration worth being called a dream.

Are your dreams getting less and less worthy of being called a “dream?” Are you a victim of the Diminishing Dreams Syndrome? If you are, then this recognition alone can prove to be a monumental asset. Get out of this downward spiral, fast.

It might be good to take a long leave. But don’t go to Boracay with your friends first. Retreat. It might be tough to see the forest from the trees, so take a step back first. Take stock of who you are and what is meaningful to you. Pray. Consider. Be open.

Then ask yourself this question: what do you REALLY want to do?

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Peter Cauton

Entrepreneur, writer, speaker, startup advocate, HR guy. Husband, father of 6, teacher, unabashed follower of Christ.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Spot on, as usual, Peter. You are truly inspired by Him. Thank you.

  2. Good read P. All throughout school, we’re told what a career “should be”. And thus by the time we’re out, we’ve actually already set limits on ourselves.

    1. Thanks J, I agree with you completely. I’m sure you’ve read Godin’s new e-book on education. Instead of reforming existing schools here, I’m wondering if CREATING an alternative school would be a more efficient solution.

  3. Very inspiring!

  4. What’s your main work or business today?

    1. Hey Gerry. I’m currently spending a lot of time in STORM and JGL. For the other firms, I’m active on the board level.

  5. Thank you so much for the usual worth while reading reflection and works P. Cauton.!!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words Allena! It’s an honor to have you reading.

  6. Passion ! this is Passion ! thanks a lot sr Peter it actually reminds me of my dream

    1. bitin naman to!

      So what was your dream, bro? 🙂

  7. this is really a good read.. now if I could just retreat to think about what I really want to do..

    1. If I can make a quick suggestion – ask God in prayer. I think we spend a lot of our time asking “what do I want to do? What do I want to do?”

      Perhaps the right question is to ask: “What do You want me to do? What do You want me to do?”

      I guarantee the answer ultimately is one and the same. Plus, I think He can lead us there faster. A lot of times, I just go around and around pursuing what I think will make me happy.

      God knows me MUCH better than I do, it seems.

  8. The surest way to success is to set ONE GOAL AT A TIME, and work hard with grim determination, never giving up until such goal is achieved. After achieving it, set another goal, and so forth and so on. Then you wake up one day realizing you have been achieving goals, and you are a success. Having now the financial wherewithal, you start setting another goal-the altruistic ones, helping others less fortunate for His sake. Then you die a happy man, full of happiness and joy, and ineffable contentment. There will be no success if you set different goals at the same time, or hazy ideas what to achieve. Believe me, I know whereof I speak.

    1. Thanks for chiming in Dan! I very much agree with the focused approach!

  9. This really has inspired me a lot, Peter. A good follow-up read to attending the Open Coffee yesterday (I went by my nickname “Ricci”). You see I am trying to pursue my dream along with my would-be business partner but because we are still on the dreaming stage, I needed to stay employed. In fact, I came straight from work before attending the Open Coffee. Oh how I’d love to retreat and get all the epiphanies I can muster so I can finally get out of just being employed. If only we could be guided accordingly on how to finally start the business. This we have lifted up to God.

    1. Hey Ricci! (I was trying to place who “chris” was in my memory of last weekend’s open coffee, but I couldn’t 🙂

      Don’t be afraid to start small and starting things up part-time. It’s also how I did it. I’m very glad you are looking at things from a faith perspective as well. Hope to bump into you soon, bro!

  10. A very timely message. I am in a situation of making decisions which will definitely affect the career path I am to take. Thank you. 🙂

  11. Hello Peter very nice read here. Thank you for sharing this. May you have more blessings to come. =P

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