How can my dreams of being a baseball player come back?
January 22, 2008 6:29 PM   Subscribe

I need help finding goals and dreams for my life

I don't have any goals or dreams for my life. I used to when I was a child, but I just can't come up with anything I can do as far as work or pleasure that would truly make me happy.

I work 40 hours a week, but my work doesn't excite me. After going home, I hang out with my roommate.

I know I should do something more. When I think about what I'd rather be doing, my mind goes blank. I feel like I've become so bogged down in practicality that I've lost the ability to have hopes and aspirations.I just don't know how to go about it.

I want to be able to dream big dreams, and find out what truly makes me happy.

How can I do this?
posted by stedman15 to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Volunteer work. My son is schizophrenic, and during the worst part of his illness, when the meds started working and he realized what a shamble that disease had made of his life, the one thing that kept him from suicide was his volunteer work with the homeless. That work and the support of his fellow volunteers (family does not seem quite enough in situations like these) kept him from feeling worthless and a total failure.

Being able to help others could be your dream.
posted by francesca too at 6:46 PM on January 22, 2008

maybe the first thing you need to do is create some time for introspection. do you have some vacation time coming up? i find that shaking up my routine and going somewhere new (and foreign) helps clear the fog for me.

or maybe just take a class--learn a language or do yoga or something, just to get some different parts of your brain working. that will help you get some perspective on your life.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:46 PM on January 22, 2008

read a book.
posted by parmanparman at 6:53 PM on January 22, 2008

You're chasing a feeling that doesn't exist. What you're looking for is to feel passionate about something. There is no magic something out there that will make you feel alive. Instead, feeling alive in each moment is what makes whatever's in front of you interesting again.

What a trite piece of crap, eh? It's absolutely true, but I don't think you can know it's true until you try a bunch of things. Don't wait around for The One Perfect Thing. Just do anything that seems moderately entertaining. Try photography, learn a foreign language, go to that new restaurant down the street. Be open to anything and everything, and pay attention. Soon enough you'll delight in the formerly mundane, "practical" things. Even folding laundry can make you happy.
posted by desjardins at 6:54 PM on January 22, 2008 [7 favorites]

What were your dreams as a child? Why did you abandon them? Out of fear or practicality? If either of those, maybe you could adopt those dreams again.

Also: learn to play an instrument. Then start a band. Join a gym and remake your body, then completely change your look. Don't smoke too much pot. Try out for American Idol. Go skydiving. Approach a beautiful stranger and try and get her phone number. Buy a motorcycle and drive in one direction until you run out of road. Get out of your box. Face down your worst fears. Join the Marines. Join the Peace Corps.

You need to shake yourself up. Even if you don't find any goals or dreams, you'll feel better about things.
posted by Camofrog at 7:07 PM on January 22, 2008

You may have a mild, chronic depression. I have found volunteer work and meditation helps.
posted by Jay Reimenschneider at 7:16 PM on January 22, 2008

Try little things. Don't worry about Big Goals and writing the Great American Novel; do some things you've never done before. You may find something that really motivates you along the way.

I find 43 Things to be great for this -- inspiration from other people's lists, a place to keep your own list, and a supportive community.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:19 PM on January 22, 2008

I don't have any goals or dreams for my life. I used to when I was a child, but I just can't come up with anything I can do as far as work or pleasure that would truly make me happy.

OK. Predictions: 26, unmarried, no long term commitments. You're a little overweight, you go to the dentist three times a year. You don't own a car and wish you could travel more. You have some debt that you're not really working to pay off. You look for work at work, and you hate yourself for it because you think you're probably really good at what you do, but nothing excites you enough there to be serious about making a difference at your company.

I work 40 hours a week, but my work doesn't excite me. After going home, I hang out with my roommate.

You have siblings, maybe a younger and an older brother. You 'settled' for this job because it was the first thing that came along and you bit it hard because you thought it might offer some stability when all you wanted to do was look for something better and with more pay. You kind of envy your roommate, who seems to be more together than you and smells better. But you kind of wish that he moved out and that you could live alone, even if you were to just sit around in your pajamas and play Final Fantasy 11, and of course on a PS2 because you won't spring for an XBox because it's too much money.

I know I should do something more. When I think about what I'd rather be doing, my mind goes blank. I feel like I've become so bogged down in practicality that I've lost the ability to have hopes and aspirations.I just don't know how to go about it.

Currently your dreams consist of thinking that if all it took to be a Marine was climbing a bare cliff face, then you would totally join the Marines. Your dreams consist of imagining what kind of weight you could take off if you ordered Hip Hop Abs and did the complete course, but you're too embarrassed because you think about if your roommate found out you were doing Hip Hop Abs. You don't hang out with work friends very much because they seem content with their lives and you don't want to bore them, which is exactly what you think you would do.

I want to be able to dream big dreams, and find out what truly makes me happy.

- First you need to be realistic.
- Take a survey of what you think is really wrong. Do you put clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper? Do something about that and every little thing that you are doing that makes you full of fail at home.
- The worst thing I can think of is not taking the garbage out and letting flies lay eggs on dishes in the sink.
- Do you speak up enough at work/asked for a raise recently/grown balls and managed tasks successfully and generally been an office star? No? Do that, too.
- Figure out exactly how much you will need to pay off your debts, which probably aren't very considerable really, are they? Then seek the opportunity to pay it off in a year. Maybe you need to find a group house to live in where you'll pay less rent, have a little less private space, but have the chance to hang out with other young professionals after work.
- Make a definite plan for a trip and go alone. Don't plan to see your parents. Leave your hometown behind and go somewhere you would not plan on and don't plan on anything except a night or two in a hotel and drinks down in the bar up the road. Speak up. Wear sunscreen. Look left and right when you cross the street. Keep your nose clean. Wash your penis. Wear a tie, even when you don't have to. Get a real haircut and tell the barber to use a razor on the back of your neck. Buy a safety razor and throw away the electric. Learn to really make coffee. Buy a jacket and go out to a club, with your roommate, have two drinks, flirt with some people, pass out your business card, go home with something to talk about. This is how you develop dreams and make them realities: you get the out of the house and you get on with it.
posted by parmanparman at 7:25 PM on January 22, 2008 [7 favorites]

I do have depression problems and am seeing a therapist.

As for my dreams as a child, I wanted to be a dictator or a baseball player. I think both dreams are a bit impractical. But, if there's anything I can be that would give me the same feeling, I'd definitely be open to it.
posted by reenum at 7:47 PM on January 22, 2008

As people we are social animals; we influence and are influenced by each other. Think about someone you've met who impressed you. A mentor, teacher, role model, etc. Ask yourself what about that person registered with you? Was it their presence? conviction? the way others reacted to them? Think about whether those qualities could apply to you with a little hard work. I don't mean become someone else and lose yourself, but rather to realize that you can remake yourself into whatever you want to be.
posted by ziegenRAWK at 7:49 PM on January 22, 2008

I pretty much agree with what has been said here. That is, you really must "do" in order to find what you're passionate about doing. As an adult, it takes more effort to try doing different things, but you have to make the effort. To start, you can just pick anything.

But I also think there is something hard-wired in us that makes us hyper-passionate about life when we're kids, and less so when we become adults. Maybe it's because we're supposed to spend that time during our youth finding out who we are and what we're passionate about, and then as adults we're supposed to have found that One Thing and be executing our dreams? I don't know.

But I do know that kids are always dying to go to the park, dying to run outside and play in the snow, or to do this or that other thing, and their parents simply aren't. In our youth we can work and play all day and pull all-nighters and late-nighters and do it all again the next day, but a decade or two later we value going to bed early. I'm hardly ever SO EXCITED to do anything the way I was in my youth. So I try not to kill myself over reaching for a feeling that I'll probably never have again.

That said, I certainly do enjoy a great deal of pleasure from my hobbies, and travel, and reading, and my wonderful dogs. (Notice that "work" doesn't make it onto my list, but I've pretty much decided that anything I have to do is something that will never bring me pleasure for long. It's why they call it "work." I know other people disagree, but I tell you, if my job were to play with my dogs from 9-5 every day, I'd grow to hate that as much as any other job. This is why I freelance and try to do different things as often as I can; it breaks up the hatred-bound monotony.) It sounds like, to start, you need to pick up some hobbies. You may try out a whole mess of things that you don't develop any passion for, but along the way you'll meet other people or learn new things, some of which you'll eventually be excited about. It just takes doing.
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:55 PM on January 22, 2008

Nthing the do-stuff idea. You want a home run and aren't going to get it. You need to let go of that idea in order to avoid the suffering that comes from not getting it. You don't want to let go of it because then what chance does it have of happening? Answer: the same chance - very slim. Accept that nothing will fall in your lap and that what you are waiting for isn't looking for you and won't find you. It doesn't work like that. You have to find it, and it won't happen from the couch. You don't want it to require you to work, you just want to know. You feel like you should know naturally and shouldn't have to go out on safari and find it. But that's what it takes. So decide if that's what you want because it is a choice.

Instead of waiting for an epiphany, you need to get started on a slow-build process. This sucks for someone who wants it all right now, because you feel like so much time will slip away as you piddle around on useless little shit (in your mind) that you "know" isn't the answer you want. But you do have to release and trust and be patient. These little things will not only help you zero in on what you do like and what you do well, but will expose you to people and ideas you weren't expecting to find, but which interest you.

Taking that pottery class may expose you to this guy who runs an investment club, which sounds interesting, and some of the people in that club may be on a softball team, which sounds fun, which goes out for beers after games, which you like, which introduces you to a bartender who builds furniture, which you try your hand at, which shows you that you're good at and enjoy working with tools, which leads you to sculpture or engine repair or... you see what I mean. Will Rogers said, "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there." So make some movement. Do things even when you know they aren't the answer, if only because they will expose you to other things and will give you so much momentum over time. You have the rest of your life, so be willing spend some of that time as currency, making investments that will pay off over time, but not immediately.

Any time you have the remotest whisper of interest in something, make yourself pursue it even if you don't have enough interest to feel like actually doing it. Keep doing this. Go out into the world and bump into things. Saying that you have no interest in anything, aside from being a symptom of your depression, assumes that you know what everything is like, which you don't.

Also, stop dismissing possibilities. You mention that you are bogged down in practicalities. This is mind poison! Seriously, let go and risk failure and try things. Some of this, again, is your depression speaking. There's probably a bit of learned helplessness going on. Google that. You find very logical and reasonable reasons why you can't do x, y, or z. Even though that makes complete sense in your head and doesn't seem like a delusion, you need to deliberately stop listening to that voice and go attempt things.

This was not a turn I was able to make right away. It took a long time but eventually I shifted from seeing obstacles to seeing possibilities. It's still new to me. I realized I was the guy at work, for example, that always pointed out why things wouldn't work. I could torpedo basically any idea. My concerns and predictions were well founded in experience and keen observation, but I watched people around me not let the possible snags stop them from getting started. I felt they were being careless and were wasting time starting things without considering the obstacles because they'd just waste a bunch of effort and have to go back and fix everything or abandon it and start over. But then I watched them succeed time and again while I remained stalled. They got the ball rolling and committed to success, and within that frame were able to handle the snags well enough when/if they arose despite not predicting or planning or pre-solving. I realized I was doing that in my personal life too. So cultivate the confidence that you can do things and focus on the goal, not the obstacles.

That's step 1. Step 2 is making yourself get started on those possibilities and following through. If an idea requires research, do it. If it requires an action step such as a call or email or visit, do it even though it seems sure to go nowhere. You will be genuinely surprised by the number of things that do pan out.

This is going to take a while - many years probably. The secret may be that that's what life is - letting go of the illusion of control over the future, or of an idealized future, and instead living our lives right now, being willing to let life happen over time as we learn and grow.
posted by kookoobirdz at 10:48 PM on January 22, 2008 [6 favorites]

I know I should do something more.

"Should" is what we say when the main reason we're doing something is a (sometimes quite vague) fear of being judged negatively (perhaps by ourselves) and/or experiencing bad feelings. Try not to talk to yourself in those terms so much. If anything is worth doing you can find a better reason for it than "I should".

Maybe you could start saying "I want" instead? It doesn't mean that everything you do has to be explicitly selfish, just that you learn to find more meaningful motivation for doing things. "I should call my mother (because I'll feel bad if I don't)" becomes "I want to call my mother (because I love her)".

Fear of negative consequences is a pretty bad long term motivator. Work on cultivating a different kind of attitude in small ways and I think you'll find you have more energy for new things.
posted by teleskiving at 1:42 AM on January 23, 2008

One more thought: I think it's helpful to maintain a distinction between what you want to do and what you feel like doing. While I think it's possible to live a life based around what you want, that is going to mean doing a lot of things that you don't feel like doing. By recognizing the difference between "I don't want to" and "I don't feel like it" you gain an extra level of control over the situation.
posted by teleskiving at 1:51 AM on January 23, 2008

Just don't fall for the typical life trap. This world today that we live in is so full of potential; if there's ever a time to find one's dreams it's now. However, it will take some serious sacrifices - are you prepared? You may have to break with friends and family and give up things you've relied upon for your whole life. Fortunately, if things don't work out, you can usually regress back.

First, start a journal - write 30 minutes of stream-of-consciousness at the moment that you wake up in the morning.

Also, set aside 30-45 minutes a day to mediate on your existence in the world.

After you get comfortable with letting your mind experiment, do this exercise: imagine that you're the last living human in the world. Visualize this world as vividly as you can. What would you do if there were no other people around to affect you?
posted by brandnew at 4:22 AM on January 23, 2008

It's already been mentioned once, but I find 43Things an amazing tool - It's great been able to track openly what you're working towards, and get inspiration from other people both in how they approach goals they share with you, and by looking around to see what other people are working towards.

People use it for everything from tracking the little things in life to scoping out their life changing master plans.

Since you're obviously comfortably looking for solutions to issues online, it would seem a perfect tool to help you figure out what it is you're looking for, just sign up, pick a couple of goals, subscribe to some random people and see what happens.
posted by paulfreeman at 5:43 AM on January 23, 2008

I second the volunteer idea.

Ever since I was 13 or so, everyone around me always talked about their hopes, dreams, what they wanted to be when they grew up. Nothing partically interested me. Nor was I born with any "natural talent"
Today, it still sometimes gets to me.

I found this quote that I thought was great:

"We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by."
Will Rogers

Throughout life, and through series of misfortunes I, my family and friends have dealt with, I have found one thing that gives me a 'reason'... and that certainly isn't my lame job.
It's to help others. To see others happy.
And I don't have to be anyone 'special' to do these things.

Things like donating food or toys, serving food to homeless, helping an elderly person across the street, giving someone directions, etc. I feel it should be everyone's duty to help each other out. Even though a lot of people disagree or couldn't care less..
posted by KogeLiz at 6:40 AM on January 23, 2008

Oh and the following help me:

1. Watching a GOOD movie
2. Reading a GOOD book
3. Taking a vacation
4. Volunteering

Good = offers some sort of insight or inspiriation into real life.
(meaning not porn, violence, ex-con meets up with the end of the world action, slap-stick comedy)
posted by KogeLiz at 6:48 AM on January 23, 2008

I felt (and still feel, from time to time) exactly the same way.

The only relief I got was from deeply examining my life. I started acting more impulsively and selfishly, as well. Basically, trying to get over the feeling that your life is not yours anymore.

What is it you do when you're not working? What are your "guilty pleasures" - things that you do when no one else is around? No, I'm not talking about that.

I found that it was listening to music and reading about about the bands I'm into. So I started taking guitar lessons and writing songs. Because it turns out I have the "childish" dream of being in a rock and roll band.

When I finally allowed myself to pursue this goal, I felt like my life was worth living again - that sense of wonder and possibility was there again.

It's not a complete change in mentality. Sometimes I still feel like I'm just a corporate whore. But, I do feel quite a bit better about my life.
posted by kpmcguire at 11:28 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

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