Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy
At the end of life, the number one regret for many people is that they did not pursue a significant dream.
Bonnie Ware, a Palliative nurse, wrote a book about her dying patients and the top five things she heard people say they regretted as they neared death. Not pursuing a dream consistently topped the list.
Of course, there are the practical realities of when to go after your dream. I know in my own life, I wanted to make sure my family was taken care of before focusing on the personal vision that resided deep down in my heart. I did not pursue my dream fully until there was no longer a value conflict.
Going after a dream does not mean leaving the people behind that you love the most. That’s the other side of the coin and one of the top five regrets, especially for men at the end of their lives; they worked too much and missed out on family life. If you lose your family over the pursuit of a dream, the way you pursued your dream was dead wrong.
For decades, I worked hard and sought excellence in my profession. However, I knew something was missing. Deep down, I always wanted to coach full-time.
Coaching did not pay the bills, so I served as a volunteer coach for individual athletes as a sideline activity when I could fit it in with family and work. I was the primary breadwinner, which far outweighed going for a dream that did not pay the bills. I did not fully pursue my goal, but I still found satisfaction in helping at least a few people along my journey run to their potential.
Somehow, though, I knew deep down inside that I would finish the last chapters of life coaching many athletes daily when family responsibilities were less and I was retired from my professions. Coaching teams makes me come alive. However, it was a dream that needed to wait until the last chapters of life because of other more important life priorities.
Some dreams can’t wait until the last chapters of life, however. If you want to become a pro athlete, you have to go for it when you are young. There is no chance of reaching this dream when you are old. If you want to qualify to run in the Olympic Trials, you have to go for it when you are young. If you're going to run in college, you have to go for it now.
I say you go for a big dream like a professional sports career or running in the Olympic trials if it does not cause another significant priority area of your life to stumble. Maybe it’s time for you to qualify for Boston or do that ultra you've been putting off.
Pursuing something like a professional sports career is a significant risk, but it is one of those things you’ll likely regret if you don’t go for it, assuming you have the raw talent to make this dream a reality.
No one can tell you precisely when to go after your dream or goal. I certainly don't know the best timing for you, nor does anyone else. You'll have to decide that for yourself. I do know that going after any dream requires commitment, dedication, a purpose greater than self, and an unwavering grit to make it to the top of the mountain.
You must assess your dream's tradeoffs and make sure that going after your vision does not become the top regret of your life either. If, on the other hand, your dream is in alignment with your values, I say go for your dream while you are young! You don’t want to look back in the rearview mirror of life and say, “what if” or "if only."
You have to discern God’s will for your life. Listen for that still small voice.