Prodigal Magazine

Pursuing Your Dream without Quitting Your Commitments

Photo Credit: Hannah Yoon
Written By: Jeff Goins

The other night around midnight, I typed the final word into a Word document, attached it to an email, and hit “send.” Breathing a sigh of relief, I went to bed. Before falling asleep, I felt a small grin creep across my face.

I had just completed one of my life-long goals: I had written my first book.

I had always wanted to write a book, but never got around to doing it. I never dared to call myself a writer, even though it was my dream.

Pursuing a dream isn’t easy. A passion takes time and courage. It requires sacrifice and diligence. Which is why I avoided it for so many years — doing the thing I knew I was made to do.

When I finally submitted to pursuing my calling as a writer, I felt free. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. I had a day job I couldn’t quit (because most book deals don’t make you rich). I had a wife that actually wanted me to spend time with her. I had commitments.

Here’s how I did my best to manage them all and still honor my calling:

First, I admitted the dream.

Writers write. Singers sing. Athletes play. A passion is not relegated to income or the attention it earns. Quite simply it’s something you can’t not do. Your dream is something you’re compelled to pursue, regardless of the outcome.

For the longest time, I pretended like I didn’t have a dream.

This is something I hear a lot: “I don’t know what my passion is.” I think that’s a lie. At least it was for me. I knew what my dream was and I was scared to admit.

Because if I admitted the dream, then I’d have an obligation to pursue it.

Second, I stopped believing the lies.

I thought that in order to be a writer, I’d have to quit my job, move to Paris, and live out a scene from Moulin Rouge. In other words, I thought I’d have to sacrifice everything and become a starving artist.

But really what I was doing was stalling. Again, I was afraid of the consequences. So I told myself little lies. Two of the biggest ones were: “My wife won’t support me” and “My boss won’t like this.”

Which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Some of my biggest champions have been family and coworkers. And leading the pack ahead of all of them is my bride who bought me a vintage typewriter the day I signed my book contract.

No. You don’t have to quit your job to pursue a dream.

You can start with whatever you have — and we all have something, even if it’s only fifteen minutes — and put it towards that passion.

I would work on my book some days for only thirty minutes in the morning. It wasn’t much, but it added up over time. After four months, I had a book.

Third, I gave up the myth of arriving.

The day after sending in my manuscript to the editor, the thrill had already passed. Only hours had gone by, and I was ready to start another project. Somehow, I felt empty and disillusioned.

The truth about a dream is you never fully arrive. Or perhaps better stated, the journey is the destination. The path of pursuing a passion is its own reward.

If you’re taking the first steps towards your life’s work, don’t believe you will ever feel complete.

You won’t. What you will feel is contentment, a subtle confirmation that you’re headed in the right direction. It won’t be all fireworks and fanfare, but you will feel some sense of peace.

The process of writing my first book was anything but smooth sailing. It was grisly and frustrating — full of selfishness and disappointment. I procrastinated, got cocky, and oftentimes felt like a failure. But I finished. Which may be the most important lesson of all.

In our culture, there is so much emphasis on the individual, so much concentration on “me” and “mine.” When I found myself going down this dark road over the past four months — when I was tempted to stay up late or shirk my work responsibilities — I was reminded of something:

If I don’t have someone to share this accomplishment with, then what is it all for?

I hope you spend some time considering what your dream is today. I even hope you make the courageous choice to pursue it. But most of all, I hope you have someone to share it with.

Question: What’s your dream? How are you pursuing it? And who do you have to share it with?

About The Author

Jeff Goins is a writer, idea guy, and difference-maker. He works for Adventures in Missions and blogs at goinswriter.com. His first book, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, just came out. You can download the first couple chapters here: http://wreckedthebook.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @jeffgoins.

  • Tommy Brown

    Beautiful. “A passion is not relegated to income or the attention it earns.”

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Tommy!

  • Krisi_J

    I love this Jeff– I currently have my foot suspended in air deciding which direction to step next. Courage is an interesting thing, I think it comes with each little choice we make. Choose to type that first word or bike that first yard. It all adds up…  

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Right. Courage is a choice.

    • http://twitter.com/PatWooldridge Patricia Wooldridge

      Kristi, I love that courage comes with each little choice. It DOES all add up. And doesn’t it lift the heart to take even a small, positive step. I like your comment.

  • http://www.reflectiverambling.blogspot.com/ Monica Gerges

    “The path of pursuing a passion is its own reward.” I love this.
    Between being afraid of admitting my dream and not having the time to pursue it, I really needed to read this. I tend to think “go big or go home” mainly because, once I start working on things I’m passionate about, it’s really difficult to go back to doing schoolwork and keeping my priorities straight. 
    Thanks for writing this, Jeff. It put a lot of things into perspective for me. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome!

  • http://twitter.com/_ForeverHis17 Tara B

    Loved this! I have a passion for writing as well and it can be super scary just thinking about pursuing it further than just a blog, but to actually put that into action… even scarier. I thoroughly enjoyed this. God bless you!

  • http://www.christtribe.com/ Bob Holmes

    “The journey is the destination.” Absolutely. Love it Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      :-)

  • Rhonda

    Nice article. Thanks for the encouragement Jeff! I’m even discovering that turning 50 brings new dreams and passions!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Awesome!

  • http://twitter.com/The_ArtOfBeing The Art Of Being

    This article made me cry in recognition of what I am going through and then smile in recognition that I wouldn’t be anywhere else. Thanks your stuff speaks to me

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome!

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  • http://twitter.com/SwimBikeMom Swim Bike Mom

    Amazing. Hit me right between the eyeballs. Wonderful. “The truth about a dream is you never fully arrive. Or perhaps better stated, the journey is the destination. The path of pursuing a passion is its own reward.”  Blessed words.  Printed and taped to my day job computer monitor….

    Just keep moving forward…
    SBM

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      That’s the trick: to keep moving.

  • http://twitter.com/PatWooldridge Patricia Wooldridge

    Jeff, because once again you’ve told it like it is, this is a beautiful piece that hits me where I live.
    With reminders like this one, it’s much easier to keep on keeping on…for me, I have to write for myself first, about what I love, keeping my first drafts in file folders, working on one or another, enjoying the process, until one by one they’re as ready as they will ever be. I tailor each one to a magazine that will likely be receptive. Then, out they go, so I can hope some editor will like what’s on paper.
    The same thing applies to the pencil art. Bit by bit, each gets finished. I have a goal for each one; some are commissions, some will be on the walls at state fairs. The ones I do just for me, no matter what someone else will think, seem to strike more of a chord with those who see them. What you tell us is true.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Patricia!

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    Great article Jeff! 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      appreciate it, Sundi.

  • http://diannaswritingden.com/ Dianna L. Gunn

    This is a great post. I’d be willing to sacrifice a lot for my dream–writing books is the only thing I’ve wanted to do my whole life–but I’ve always known I was a writer, so I’ve picked friends and boyfriends who can deal with me occasionally spending very long hours at my computer. I would argue that partners who aren’t able to understand that at least to a point aren’t suitable. For every person who won’t accept lost time, there’s another who will–and who will stick around long enough to make up for it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Dianna!

  • http://quietanthem.blogspot.com/ Renee Ronika Klug

    Yes, yes, yes. Jeff, you have gone before me, and so many others, in waking these dreams and nudging them toward daylight. Thank you. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My pleasure, Renee. Thanks for following along.

  • http://www.sharilopatin.com/ Shari Lopatin

    I love your points, and congrats on your first book! What I could REALLY use, is someone’s secret to time management. Because I’m writing my book (it’s very slow, but I’m doing it). It’s a fictional novel, which takes a lot of thought. And time. So really, it’s not the refusing to admit my dream, or coming up with excuses, or even being selfish with my time. No, it’s FINDING the time between a 40+-hour job, managing a full house, and doing some side consulting to pay for my animals’ medical expenses.

    Please, do share, HOW did you write your book in 4 months, without only getting 4 hours of sleep a night?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      An hour a day. It was only 40000 words so it broke down into about 300 words per day.

      • http://www.sharilopatin.com/ Shari Lopatin

        Thanks Jeff! :-)

  • Trent_Boyd

    Subtlety convicting without being indirect.

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  • http://twitter.com/DebBat Deborah H. Bateman

    Jeff, thanks for sharing this post. It is very hard sometimes juggling everything we need to do to pursue our dreams and still have a life, but you are right what good is the dream if we have to live it by ourselves. Lord, help us to find a way to balance it all. Blessings, Deborah H. Bateman-Author

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      amen. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/glori.faye Glori Surban

    Beautiful! It really made me think… I’m glad I read this. I’m about to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. Thank you.

  • Fan from Manila

    Hello. I had been a lurker of your blog ever since I read your entry on traveling. I must say, your words are just the right encouragement i need at the moment each time i happen to visit your page. I am now on the crossroad of balancing career, love life, and dreams. You just reminded me to pursue dream without giving up on other equally important aspects of life. Thank you jeff for breathing life into the words that I needed to see…

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks for reading!

  • http://www.unchartedstreams.com/ Josh Taylor

    I like this approach better than the other stuff you hear “take action, quit your job.” blah, blah, blah The slow gradual is more realistic and also better character as any other way you can either get discouraged with failure or prideful with success.  This hit home for me.  Thanks again, Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Josh. in my experience, life is tension. we all have to find our own honest, healthy ways of dealing with it.

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  • http://nateandmc.blogspot.com M.C. Sommers

    I was JUST talking to my husband about this yesterday. We both have dreams, but we also have a really wonderful life together. We want to make sure that our dreams make our life better. This is great advice. Thanks for the wisdom.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I can speak from experience: dreams can be both a beautiful thing to share and at times a challenge to work through for a married couple. hope you guys find a healthy way to live in the tension.

  • http://www.shellynajjar.wordpress.com Shelly

    Thanks for writing this. I needed it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      my pleasure, Shelly!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lachelle.feavel Lachelle Feavel

    I graduate from college in 10 months. Many days I do not know what I am meant to do with my life. Writing is something that sits deeply with me but I don’t like the difficulty it often brings. Thank you for the challenge to admit the dream and dig in.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      you’re welcome. I hope you keep writing.

  • http://twitter.com/sylvianyc sylvianyc

    Admitting that you have a dream, a passion, is frightening. Once you put it out there, you can’t take it back, which is why I think we say we don’t know what our passion is, or we put too much emphasis on the factors that may make going after our passion difficult. 

    This post is exactly the kick in the pants I needed to push past my fear of following my dream of writing for a magazine(s). It will not be easy, but worth it. Thank you :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I agree. Scary stuff. But so good!

  • http://www.jeffdolan.com Jeff Dolan

    Ouch. Truth hurts. Preach it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      :)

  • Kelly Wiggains

    Jeff, Your posts are always so encouraging. You speak to the heart of writers. Thanks so much. (I used to be one of those people who said, “I don’t really have a passion.” Nail on the head.)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Awesome. Thanks, Kelly!

  • http://upstreamcraving.com/ Travis Doecke

    Loved this bit: ”
    You won’t. What you will feel is contentment, a subtle confirmation that you’re headed in the right direction. It won’t be all fireworks and fanfare, but you will feel some sense of peace.” So true, yet hard to believe in a world of first time experiences and adrenalin rushes! Thanks Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Travis. Hard, but good.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com/ Jeff K. Clarke

    Jeff, everything here is what I needed to hear, again. A passion is pursued daily, sometimes in very small increments, but every step matters. The pursuit is on when your walking. Thanks for your encouragement and for pursuing your dream. I’ve been positively impacted by it already! 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      you’re welcome, Jeff!

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com Ed_Cyzewski

    Great stuff Jeff. This line is solid gold: ”
    The truth about a dream is you never fully arrive. ” I have found that the point of “arrival” is the pursuit itself, which, as you ably demonstrate here, is tough to believe. The key I keep finding with pursuing a dream is making those sacrifices and then making more sacrifices. I always have to keep digging a little deeper, pushing a little harder. I won’t wake up one morning and just do it, but I do feel the joy of the dream when I go after it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Ed!

  • Dale

    “The journey is the destination. The path of pursuing a passion is its own reward.” WOW Thanks for the reminder Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      you’re welcome, Dale.

  • http://www.soniawrites.com/ Sonia

    The journey of life never ends. Thanks for sharing Jeff!

  • erinkcasey

    I put a project to bed on Wednesday and told my traffic manager, “we start the next edition next week.” You’re right, you don’t arrive. You grow and get better, but you don’t arrive. Thank goodness for that.

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  • Obi

    Awesome! I have been locked up Inside with this fear of not knowing where my passion lies and what to do with my big dreams, but in truth I do. I am only afraid of the unknown. Thanks for the awakening.

  • Bill

    I m gonna share this with my wife Kelly,who is going to be a great writer one day and what you ve shared. I hope will inspire her even more

  • http://ear-sword-miracle.blogspot.com/ Miles O’Neal

    Almost finished writing my own book! It took me a lot longer to get here. I’, so glad you figured it out quicker than me.
    Excellent summary of pivotal points in the process!

  • http://www.ordinaryservant.com/ Pilar Arsenec

    I so appreciate you, Jeff Goins. You gave me permission to deam and believe again. You give me hope. God bless you.

  • http://www.faithsquared.net/ Alizabeth Rasmussen

    This rings so true for me. I heard Anne Lamott speak last week and she talked about how, despite having just about every success a writer can have, she’s still her same neurotic, broken self. There is no “there” and there’s nothing to fix and, for me, looking at things this way really takes the pressure off. Because it means that all I need to do is take whatever step is next. I often know exactly what that is but let the fear of not doing it “right” or the timing not being “right” stop me.

    Thank you, Jeff. You are an inspiration!

  • rohit mehra

    its really hard to purse your passion because we are busy with our daily routine and office. i have passion for traveling the whole world but how can i with job?