We live in a world that puts a lot of stock in the idea of “following our dreams.” From a young age we’re taught to believe in them. To chase them. To pursue them with reckless abandon. We’re told our dreams are proof that our life is calling to us. And we’re promised that answering that call will be our greatest challenge as well as our greatest reward.

But friends, what if that’s not true?

When Your Dreams Don't Go According to Plan

When Your Dreams Don’t Go According to Plan

Sometimes we must be willing to let go of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

— Joseph Campbell


What if the great challenge of our lifetime isn’t all the hard work and sacrifice it will take to bring about our reward?

What if the challenge is that even after all the hard work and sacrifice, the reward never comes?

What if, despite all the risk and vulnerability and exposure, we still don’t get the thing we really want? Or make the impact we’re longing to make? Or seem to matter any more today than we did yesterday?

What if our dreams don’t pan out the way we planned and we end up with nothing to show for all that striving and struggling?

What do we do with the waste?

How do we make up for the loss?

Where can we possibly go from there?

The truth is, it’s hard to invest in ourselves when the returns aren’t visible. It’s difficult to keep pouring our blood, sweat and tears into a tank that never seems to read half full. It’s tempting to give up on our purpose when it doesn’t go according to our plan.

And yet.

Our purpose rarely stays on script.

In fact, if we were to look back on our lives, we’d probably see that some of our strongest foundations were built on the ruins of “great plans” that never got traction, all because some greater plans happened to be at work behind the scenes.

We’d realize that every rug that’s ever been yanked out from under us has ended up revealing some spiritual equivalent of gorgeous, natural hardwood we never even knew was there.

We’d notice that all the curve balls, forcing us down paths we never would have chosen, have also led us to places we now would never wish to leave.

Our lives are filled with these great rewards.

They just happen to look nothing like we imagined they would.

So friends, if you’re feeling discouraged today, or deflated, or simply tired of searching for rewards in the rubble — take heart:

It’s not your purpose that need scrapping, but your plans.

It’s not your hopes that need tempering, but your expectations.

It’s not your goals that need abandoning, but your ideas of how those goals must be realized.

Because your dreams are not a blueprint for your success. They are a sign that your purpose has a pulse. They are proof that a life of meaning and contribution is alive within you, pulling you forward, inviting you to step into some new version of yourself that you had never before been able to see. Sometimes the journey is uncertain and unsettling. Sometimes things need to be destroyed before they can be rebuilt. Sometimes the getting up is far more painful than the falling down.

But friends? A single defeat is never the same thing as a final defeat.

Want to know how I know?

You’re still standing.