As humans we relate through emotions, whether that means sharing laughs or sulking against the world together. A side effect of being able to pair up with others, is taking on the each other’s problems. Often times, when we relate we become defensive over one another: “if you mess with my friend, you mess with me too”. While this connection is great, we need to make sure that we don’t confuse our dreams and ambitions with our friend’s.
What I’ve found is that I can learn what motivates other people easily. I learn how the gears work and I try to drive myself with their ambitions. Friends of mine were ambitious about going to college (as much of the population is) and it started to wear on me. I started to think that the only way I would be happy was if I went to college too. Photographers that I’m friends with decided to become freelance artists and shifted their work towards commercial art. Most of their work became weddings and senior photos. So I started thinking that the only way I could become a freelance artist was if I shifted to wedding and senior portrait photography.
The difficult with taking on other people’s dreams is that when you achieve them, you don’t get the satisfaction of doing your own thing. When you follow someone else’s dream, you neglect what you need. What you need is to follow what you want to do. You don’t want to feel unfulfilled but how can you feel fulfilled doing something that you’re not passionate about?
Deep down, the comfort you find within yourself stems from having a purpose for what you are doing. When what you’re doing doesn’t have a purpose or bring you fulfillment, you suffer internally. You may not notice it at first but living someone else’s dreams leaves you feeling empty inside. That rush of excitement isn’t long-lasting or deep-rooted.
Take some time out of your life to reorient yourself towards your ambitions. Write out a dream list of everything you want to do. Don’t neglect anything. This is an exercise I do weekly with whiteboards hanging on my walls. Currently I have 6 whiteboards in my room for various things. The one to my immediate right is called “The Crazy Board”.
On “The Crazy Board” I write everything that “if I could have it, it’s here”. It consist of interviews with famous musicians, photographers, reviews of movies and photo series. It also has simpler ideas like featuring some of my friends or asking questions to people on Facebook. Unsurprisingly, travelling often appears on this board. It’s a board of everything that I want to do at any given moment.
All week I add to this board and at the end of it, I erase it. The things that keep coming back are the ones that are important for me to do. If I continue to write “travel to Iceland” for a month straight, I know that it’s something I’m serious about. If the interviews with celebrities fall off the list, then they aren’t as important. They’re not a consistent dream of mine. Basically, the things that disappear are things that I can live without doing.
With how short life is, prioritizing and finding your own path are of the utmost importance. We’ve only got 80 years to live and we can’t spend the whole time dreaming. We also can’t spend the whole time living someone else’s dream. If you find something that you really want to do, you’ll find a way to get to it.
Don’t worry if your dreams are different from everybody else’s. Other photographers want different things out of life than I do, so of course their dreams are going to be different from mine. If you want something unique, you’re going to have to do something unique to get it. Just follow your own unique path and you’ll be surprised where you end up. There is nothing more fulfilling than following your dreams.