how to follow your dreams

I’m about to get, for me at least, somewhat vulnerable. And for someone who doesn’t usually feel like she is being vulnerable (nay, just honest), this is quite a rare kind of something. It’s time to talk about dreams.

I’ve always thought of dreams as the most long-term big picture of all thoughts; the stuff you can’t really work towards, the stuff the universe presents you when the time is right. Like the love of your life, the Nora Ephronesque house (or Friends style apartment with a large balcony and purple walls, take your pick), the worry-free lifestyle, the newness of every day, the continuous loop of inspiring and being inspired. But The Dream as it relates to your professional trajectory and, as the yogis call your purpose, sankalpa? I’ve always viewed it as more of a path.

Do I need to redefine The Dream?

We all get drawn in, even ever-so-slightly by the life with the sexy exterior. And what makes it even more alluring is when the people you most desire to please place value on that hot title. No one should feel as if they need to please anyone, but honestly – and for pete’s sake, let’s be honest – we all aim to please someone in our lives. Family, friends, peers, mentors; as wise as we can be, we all have our Achilles heel. This desire to please can make us feel like we’re moving backwards, like we’re being left behind. Some days are better than others, yes, but so often we feel this glass wall between our current life and our, dare I say, dreams.

My dad used to say that everyone gets a free pass in their twenties, that when you hit thirty you need to be ready to hit the ground running. Now, when I say he “liked” to say this, I mean he practically had it stitched onto the blue polo shirt he always seemed to be wearing when we would have those state-of-the-union type chats. So I’d freak out – because if I knew so clearly what I wanted in the long term, then what the heck was I currently doing in this short-term of a decade? Was I wasting my time? They were conflicting messages: to make the mistakes and figure out the puzzle pieces before the big Three-Oh, but simultaneously stick with and pursue the shmancy titles and incredibly superficial sexiness that ultimately I did not want in the long run.

This still happens to me when my dreams seem murky. The incongruous messages and the question of if I’ll stay stuck forever. I still fall into the conflicting expectations I’ve grown up with, conflicting tales – the ones in which I am wildly prestigious, big house, yadda yadda, all that. And then the ones in which I am nurturing my strengths so much so that I am constantly creating, sharing what I do and who I am with this world as the most expansive and most whole incarnation of me. I prefer the latter story, frankly, and I pray every day for the strength to, bit by bit, to let the expectation of the former flake off of me, to move forward despite the vision of what my life was assumed to look like from the outside. I pray every single day to be able to express my love and my heart the way I know my soul was placed in this body to do.

Maybe you do, too.

You might even find yourself constantly surrounded by friends who are currently living your dream. And that is what can be the hardest thing to digest, really. To be the one who is so close yet not-quite-there…well, there’s a sadness that can start to linger. Like there is this circle you are an honorary member of, but not quite inducted into. It’s not about acceptance, it’s about seeing your dream and path in front of you and only relating with your heart and not with shared experience.

So what now, you ask. What am I going to do about it? In true Breaking Out fashion, how are you going to leave this feeling of expectation, exclusion and false dreaming behind and move forward into the you that you want to be?

You are going to act, that’s what. You are going to build on what you’ve got. There’s a classic saying that goes “If you really want something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” Dreams know no excuse. You won’t care if this means waking up at 5:30am each morning. You won’t care if that means logging nighttime hours when you least prefer to, after an already 12 or 14 hour workday or a wonderfully spastic family shindig or a blissful date night. You’re probably already fitting it in somehow. Maybe you write music when you can and perform at a coffee shop on Wednesday nights; maybe you take your friends up on their offers to help redecorate their apartments. Maybe you have a knack for home remedies and whip up potions in your garage when you’re feeling crummy. You’ve got the building blocks – great! But there is so much more.

There. Is. So. Much. More.

No matter what anyone says, you are not tied to the sexy titles or images of success that have preceded you. That kind of success, you’ll find, is more about the idea of the outside than the reality behind the curtains. What is sexy and success-y? Acting on your sankalpa. Recognizing where you are, and moving forward with all the unique tools you were meant to use.

“This is who I am. This is where I’m at. Let’s go from here.”

Now that’s living The Dream.

Bottom banner image
From our friends


  1. Thank you. I’ve been struggling with this issue for years and am months away from the glorious transition that is 30. Everything struck a cord for me but in the end: you are absolutely right.

    Thank you. Namaste

    Ashley | 09.15.2013 | Reply
    • Hi Ashley, thank you so much for reading! I am so happy to hear it resonated with you, and can hopefully help you move forward through the struggle. (And although it is still a few months away, Happy Birthday! I am sure you will transition into this new decade with grace and courage :-))

      Katie | 09.16.2013 | Reply
  2. What do you do if you’re struggling to find your dream in the first place? When you’ve found nothing that inspires you to stay up late or wake up early, to sacrifice everything to live this passion? I’m approaching the big four-oh, and I know that the 9-5 grind and big titles don’t do it for me, but I still have no clue what does.

    How do you discover your dreams?

    Judith | 09.19.2013 | Reply
    • Great – GREAT – question, Judith. First off, I hope you know you are not alone! Pinpointing exactly what makes your heart soar can be just as difficult as making the choice to act on what you know you love at your core. Second: it seems like such a simple question, but think back on the things that have made you happiest throughout your entire life. Yes, even during early childhood; especially during early childhood. What did you used to get lost in? Create a list of every little activity or instance, no matter how small. It might take a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, but what is the through line that appears in all of them? Instead of thinking of what you love, try thinking of why you love what you love. Is it because you like working with others or being a part of a community? You enjoy creating order from disarray? Maybe it’s as simple as you enjoy making other people smile. Once you find your “whys” (you might find that there’s a few!) do some trial and error. Somewhere along the way, you’ll get that feeling akin to being in love – the little heart jumps and forgetting what time or day it is.

      An example: From a very young age, I loved to sing, act, dance, direct – but I also gained so much joy from student council, creating and presenting book reports, drawing, painting, making gifts for others, helping my friends study for tests, etc. As an adult, I thought the obvious choice for me was being an actress. While I was blessed with work, I found myself incredibly unfulfilled. After many years and a LOT of introspection, I’ve realized my passion is not the what of being an actress but the idea of using my voice to unlock something in others and affect positive change. Turns out, my acting career was unfulfilling to me because I was not using my own thoughts, observations and experiences to lead through example! This simple realization has completely changed my life – and focused my trajectory. It helps me to take on projects and jobs I know will not only fulfill me, but I know will fulfill the needs of others involved. It doesn’t matter what they look like or what field they are a part of, as long as I stay loyal to this idea of using an empowered and authentic voice to spark empowerment and authenticity in others – I find that I am living my dream.

      I know this is long, but sincerely hope it helped or provided at least a smidge of inspiration. I love that you have such a strong desire to discover your dreams – that alone means you will find them. Please keep me posted! -Katie

      Katie | 09.19.2013 | Reply
  3. I loved your article and expressions it painted a vivid image of desiring the future goals affiliated with happiness. I think I liked your replies even more.
    It’s funny how things turn up when we least expect them. Having neve r seen your site before, this first read was exactly what I needed and so relevant to me today. Thank you. And thank u universe

    Jeri | 09.19.2013 | Reply
    • What a great way to start my day, Jeri – thank you for reading, and thank you for taking the time to comment! Honored. I am thrilled to hear this article came your way at just the right time. Have a wonderful Monday!

      Katie | 09.23.2013 | Reply
  4. Very well put and just what I needed to read as a reminder as I follow my dream.

    Mariana | 01.23.2014 | Reply
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece, Mariana! Whatever your dreams may be, best wishes as you move towards them – you’ll get there, I know it!

      Katie Horwitch | 01.23.2014 | Reply
  5. I can relate quite a bit to the commentary above. This was the very first article I read on The Chalkboard. Even though I am now familiar with the website and check it almost on a daily basis (need I say this is my favorite site on the web!) for new articles, I still come back to this one whenever I need a reality check or that little extra push. It is such an inspiring article that truly posses such a powerful message everyone needs to hear and a truth everyone needs accept. Being on this site for quite a while now, I find this article to be the most influential and have the strongest impact on me. I can’t emphasize enough how meaningful it is.

    Beautiful piece/ Amazing word choices

    “I pray every single day to be able to express my love and my heart the way I know my soul was placed in this body to do.” <333

    Christelle | 02.21.2014 | Reply
    • Christelle, I cannot tell you how much your words have touched me, and how grateful I am that mine could have a positive affect on you as well. Keep following your dreams, all of them; all aspects and variations and incarnations of what makes you feel the most authentically fulfilled. It sounds like you already are. Thank you!

      Katie Horwitch | 02.21.2014 | Reply

Leave A Comment