the Dream vs the Idol

"Man, you say workaholic; I say disciplined" - Craig Groeschel, #struggles

I used to call myself a workaholic and then laugh about it. Not the kind of laugh that was filled with joy or amusement; rather, it was more like this forced, stunted sound that begged you to laugh with me. If we could laugh about it together, then the consequences of my relentless pace could be swept under the rug and ignored until I had another book to show for it. Then, of course, neither one of us would be laughing. You'd be reading, I'd be writing or editing another novel, and the cycle would start all over again.

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you've probably read this post and this post, and maybe even this post. I could talk about how hard I worked to reach some undefined level of success, and what it cost me, at length - but I don't intend to discuss it ad nauseam. However, a couple of weeks ago, while reading #struggles, I realized that what I had been doing was more than chasing the high that came with finishing a thing.

More serious.
More harmful.
And at the risk of sounding dramatic...
More dangerous.

Everything revolved around my writing career aspirations. Everything. My finances. My time. My relationships. In fact, the more I think about it, the scarier it seems. Now, to an outside observer, it might not seem like that big of a deal. I was chasing a dream, after all; and what dreamer doesn't invest their cash (and/or their credit), to acquire the resources they need in order to make whatever is in their imagination come to life? What dreamer doesn't invest the majority of their time working on their skill, their craft, developing their business, or engineering some product? What dreamer doesn't know the power of networking, and the importance of investing in the relationships that can help attain the level of success they're striving for? Dreamers make sacrifices. Dreamers take risks. Dreamers sleep less and work more. Dreamers don't quit - they fight, they cry, they bleed - they dream.

I was doing it right. I was playing the game. I was chasing the dream.

Or...was I?

I believe that each and every one of us was born on purpose and for a purpose. Maybe your life is meant to make a gigantic impact on the world. Or maybe you're impact is smaller; perhaps your role as mom is the first ripple that sets into motion something amazing you might not ever see. The point is, you matter - and the dream inside of your heart, that matters, too. Moreover, your dream might be how you become a world changer - or the mom who births that world changer - but a dream is never everything.

No matter how you spin it, our purpose isn't to worship the dreams that define us. We are not to make idols of our ambitions. Because, in the end, if all your dreams come true, and you've attained that level of success you were striving for - there will always be something more to go after. I feel qualified to say that because, as a dream chaser, I know there's no end. There's always going to be another book I want to write. There's always going to be another reader I hope to connect with through my art. There's always going to be more I wish to achieve.

Now, don't misunderstand. I don't think there's anything wrong with setting goals and running after them. There's nothing wrong with being ambitious or driven or even successful. But if you're not careful, much like I wasn't careful, your whole life will revolve around the dream; and instead of it making you feel fulfilled, it'll leave you drained. I believe that dreams are gifts, not sustenance. We are not machines fueled only by one purpose or one goal. We are multifaceted beings. We require love and rest and all the experiences life has to offer.

For a year - maybe even two, if I'm being honest - I ate, slept, and breathed words. When I wasn't writing, I was editing; and when I wasn't editing, I was writing. I had a very meticulous schedule to keep, and I had clients who relied on my ability to keep said schedule. I wasn't dating. I hardly hung out with my friends - my "IRL" friends - and my family saw me sparingly. I also have this habit of consuming an entire meal in ten minutes or less because every time I sat down to eat, it was cutting into my writing time. (I'm getting better at this, by the way. Especially when I eat with other people.) When I say everything revolved around my writing, I mean everything.

It became more than a dream. It became an idol. And I bowed down before it every day.
- Idol -
noun: an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship.
Now - I get it. You might read that definition and think, what? Wanting to be a notable author and working hard to achieve that goal doesn't equate to an idol - but for me, it did. How else would you explain putting so much stock in something, sacrificing time and money and relationships, all with the hope that it would bring you this seemingly unattainable amount of satisfaction and value? I believe there is only one God who is able to define your worth and quench your unquenchable thirst - and yet, I was so focused on my writing and what I could achieve, I lost sight of the truth that, no matter how hard we try, we're never in complete control. And no matter how much you invest in a dream, a goal, a career - it won't bring you the ultimate satisfaction. It's not big enough. Idols never are.

It is both humbling and freeing to admit that. Even more, I can write about it now because it's no longer true. Thank God. I got yanked back, and I was forced to look at my situation from the outside. What I saw made me not want to return. I was chasing an undefined level of success and essentially sacrificing my soul in the process. (Not dramatic. True.) Now, it's not like that. In fact, it's amazing how my newly identified definition of success has helped me to set boundaries and go after my dreams in a much healthier, more fulfilling way.

To me, success is doing what I love with integrity. 

That's it. It's that simple. And yet, I also find it quite powerful. I'm excited to embrace it and to see where it takes me. I'm not done chasing the dream - I'm just done worshipping the idol.

So stay tuned. This is just the beginning.


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