It’s a feeling that every idealist knows well. You dream day and night about the perfect future you’re sure to achieve one day. You envision upcoming events in great detail, imagining how smoothly they’re sure to go. But no matter what, reality never matches up. Dissatisfaction plagues you, and the cycle continues. I know how hard it can be to break free from that cycle, and to love your life as it is—especially if you’ve grown accustomed to being constantly disappointed.
Comedian George Carlin once said, “Inside every cynical person is a disappointed idealist,” and he was absolutely right. Unfortunately, it’s a slippery slope from hopeful dreamer to jaded pessimist. I was on a steady path to burnout as life disappointed me over and over again—until I finally learned how to get my head out of the clouds and my feet on the ground.
Being a dreamer is a wonderful thing, and by no means should you give that up. It’s a trait that few have in this world, and it’s the dreamers who end up becoming great visionaries. But it’s simply not healthy to be constantly comparing your real life to the dream world you love to live in. Reality can be just as beautiful—even more so if you learn how to appreciate it.
Stop focusing on how things could be better, and let yourself realize how good they actually are.
It’s easier than it sounds once you start to do it. Try it: ground yourself in the moment, and think about the positive feelings flowing through you. If there are negative ones too, try to ignore them, just briefly. Check out this post for more ways to enjoy the moment.
Focus on those positive feelings, and identify where they come from.
They could be as simple as the warmth of the summer sun on your skin, or as constant as the love of your family. Those are the things that make life worth living—real things. Those are what you’ll fall back on when your expectations fail you, and they’re more significant than you give them credit for.
Whenever disappointment creeps into your periphery, remember those true pleasures and remind yourself that you’re lucky to have them.
This easy practice will chase away the dissatisfaction that comes when real life doesn’t live up to your imagination. Dreamers will often forget how good they have it, and with a limited time allotted to us here on Earth—a real, tangible, wonderful place—it’s worth enjoying every moment.
You’re disappointed all the time because you forget what you have—you fall into the trap of wanting more. The trick to contentment is to take a moment every now and then to acknowledge what you have, and to appreciate it.
“Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true,” Billy Joel said. Dreams are beautiful and deserve to be extensively contemplated, but you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment if you expect that they’ll all become reality. Reality is better than your dreams when you manage to make it great, and you’ll only be able to do that if you take your head out of the clouds and put some effort into it.
Recognize the moment. Appreciate the good things. Enjoy all that life has to offer.