I’m a dreamer. I get big ideas all the time. Some of them fizzle before they’re even a spark. Others slowly take shape in my brain (and my heart) until they’re too big to ignore. At that point, I jump in with both feet, take that puffy dream and shape it into a plan.
Then comes an unavoidable step I absolutely dread.
It’s time to tell people.
Some folks – like Stephen ‐ can just blab about their crazy dreams to everyone, not caring what they think or how they react. I envy those folks. For me, sharing my precious, fragile dreams is a lot like cutting open my soul and offering it up for everyone to poke and prod.
They feel free to give their ill-informed and unwanted opinions on the color and shape of my soul. Ouch.
But there’s no way to avoid it. After you take that first step on the road towards a grand plan – whether it’s to ditch your day job to become a stand-up comic, quit the 9-to-5 and travel the world, start up as an online entrepreneur, or move to a new city for a new start – you’ve gotta share your dreams. It’s unavoidable.
This week, Stephen and I finally told our families about a plan we’ve been hatching for a while now.
Huge announcement alert!
We’re moving to Europe in the spring!
Phew. There. I said it. Man, it’s even hard to tell you guys.
We’ve been planning to leave for a few months now. So why did I just get around to telling my nearest and dearest? Why delay?
Why is sharing your dreams so hard?
For me, I think it’s because, as much as I hate to admit it, I care what other people think. And other people have a knack of being brutal, hurtful, or just plain annoying.
Here are some of the most common ways people react to your big news – and a few tips on understanding those reactions so they don’t kill your dreams before you even get out of the gate.
1. You are amazing!!!
Bless those friendly souls who meet your announcement of grand plans with a cheery smile and a genuine “You are so awesome – you’ll do great!” This kind of high-five reaction can add a little fire to your spark. Sure, their undying support might come off as a little fake, but sometimes a pat on the back and a “you go girl!” is exactly what you need. Let’s hope you have a few cheerleaders in your corner. And if you don’t, go find some.
2. Why me??
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the self-absorbed person who can only see your life through a lens of how it affects them. When Stephen told his students we were planning to take off around the world on a bike trip, most were supportive, but a few said:
“You can’t go! I can’t live without you!”
While this proved to be patently false (none of his students suddenly expired when our plane took off) it still tore at his heart. He felt guilty for letting his students down and abandoning them when they needed him most.
For those of us with kids (obvi I’m talking about grown-up kids), parents, or friends who never want us to change, this kind of reaction can be completely destructive. People close to you (heck, even your boss) will tell you how absolutely essential you are to their life and that they neeeeed you (imagine a seriously whiny voice here).
Basically, they’re asking you to not live your own life so that you can live as a crutch for them instead. Don’t let them stomp on your dreams. Harden your heart, ignore their selfish whining, and keep forging ahead.
3. Yeah, dude, like, whatever.
Ahhh, indifference. It’s not something you expect to face after finally getting up the nerve to reveal massive life-changing news. Usually, it comes from co-workers or acquaintances who you don’t give a damn about anyway.
But sometimes, it comes from someone close to you.
That’s what happened to me this week. I finally got up the nerve to tell my sister that we are moving: I was expecting tears, some “Why meeee?” whining, and maybe a little support. All I got was a shoulder shrug and a discussion about practicalities. She reacted as if I said I was going to the store instead of halfway around the world.
I’m not going to lie. It hurt. It also made me kind of angry. But more than anything, it made me realize that our decision to move is exactly right. Never put your dreams on hold because you’re worried about how it will affect someone else, or how they might react.
They might surprise you and just not care at all.
4. Frowny face; happy face.
Our parents still want us to get nice cozy office jobs and worry about saving for retirement. But by now they’re resigned to that fact that no matter what they say, we’re going to do things our own way.
Lucky for us, they have learned to express their sadness that we’re going so far away (our plans usually involve something happening on the other side of the world) and they also throw in a dollop of support. They don’t always agree with our choices, but they’ve learned to let us make them.
Your own parents probably haven’t reached such an enlightened state yet. Parents have such a fiery instinct to protect you that they want to keep you wrapped up in cotton, doing the safest (and most boring) thing they can imagine. That usually doesn’t lead to good things when you tell them about the crazy, risky, difficult path you’ve chosen to walk.
Remember, your parents might want what’s best for you, but they don’t KNOW what’s best for you.
Your parents aren’t you, they don’t know everything about you, and ultimately, they don’t know what will make you happy. That’s for you to decide.
5. That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard.
Ahhh, you gotta love the negativity monsters in your life. These are the people who can’t help but tell you that your dreams and plans are ridiculous and stupid, that you’ll never succeed, and that only bad things will happen to you if you try.
They might even quote stats to you.
“Do you know that 50% of new businesses fail within a year?”, they’ll ask, as if you hadn’t ever thought of that.
(Imagine if people reacted the same way to wedding announcements. You: “Hey friend, I’m getting married.” Them: “Did you know that 50% of marriages end in divorce?” You: “You’re not invited to the wedding.”)
Yup, reacting to someone’s dream with a wave of negative-ass vitriol is a total dick move. When it happens to you, remember that this is how people express their own fears, their own insecurity, and their own unhappiness.
It isn’t you, it’s them.
Negative people are best handled by never speaking to them again. Say sayonara and move on. You have better things to do.
Steeling Yourself to Tell
One of the toughest parts of telling people your plans is just not knowing what to expect. Give yourself a pep talk before any big conversation that involves sharing your dreams. Prepare yourself to get responses you couldn’t possibly have predicted. Let people react how they’re going to react: don’t fall into the trap of arguing or trying to defend your decisions. You don’t need to justify your plans to anyone.
After the conversation, it can help to sit down and examine how it made you feel and why. Then try to see it from the other person’s side. What sparked their reaction?
Are they worried about you? Are they jealous? Are they projecting their own fears onto your plans? Or are they just trying to say “I love you” in their own, bumbling way? ♥