Somewhere along the line, we give up our dreams because the chances of them ever turning true are getting more and more slim as reality takes hold. Then we start settling for a job that is not extremely rewarding but pays the bill, a relationship that is no longer characterized by love but compromise, hobbies that don’t exercise our strengths but serve the purpose of killing time and loneliness. We know deep down that there is more to life than this but somehow we’ve lost the desire and motivation make it better.

People who put their dreams on the backburner for others’ sake might be noble but can’t be authentically happy. They tend to hold those who are at the receiving end of their sacrifices responsible for living their dreams. This is a common phenomenon among Chinese parents and children. So many parents automatically put their dreams on hold for their children and expect payback in the form of academic excellence.

In my previous post “How to Motivate Kids with no Interests and Talents”, I asked parents to redefine success as parents and as their child and pay equal if not more attention to building their children’s characters and virtuous qualities. But then I realize that this transformation can’t really take happen if parents have unfinished business with fulfilling their own dreams.

Growing up with my cousins in their parents’ home, I always felt inferior and an outsider. I worked much harder than my three cousins and my sister and was the only child of my generation who went to college. This gave me a sense of satisfaction and worth and all my life I had been driven to succeed.

As I grew spiritually as a Christian, I took it to heart the teaching of the Bible about one couldn’t serve two masters. So I pushed my dream aside and served God wholeheartedly. But the thing about dream is that it never truly goes away and always resurfaces when triggered by an event or another person’s accomplishment. A few years ago, as I was struggling to hold on to my faith, the God I used to be so intimate with grew distant and silent. I was lost and depressed. My life felt like a total failure: my marriage was on the verge of ruin, my teen daughter was hostile to me, friends turned away as I separated myself from a church community that supported me and I was a vital part of. On top of that, it pained me to realize that I hadn’t realized my dream of financial success.

So I began to look for entrepreneurial opportunities to rekindle my dream. I collaborated with a good friend to start a jewelry business, looked into the prospect of opening a self-serving yogurt store, got to the point of signing the lease and then backed out. At the back of my mind, I was fully aware that brick-and-mortar retail was getting increasingly challenging and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be tied up by a store.

Finally I picked up writing and then reading, which seemed to anchor me down. Overtime it has developed into a hobby and strength, something I’ll be devoting the rest of my life to. Only when I found the passion of my life did I realize the value of doing something one truly loves and how much it contributes to her authentic happiness. And the best part is it’s not even directly associated with financial reward. The reward is in itself.

As I am living my dream using my signature strengths and developing new talents, I am at last able to set others free of keeping my dreams alive. Right now Michelle is faced with college decisions. In her own words “I’m spending 90% of my time thinking about college. I can’t stand waiting anymore!” Every time she asks for my advice, I encourage her to go after her heart and my support would be unconditional. This always puts a smile on her face.

Dreams and hope are vital to one’s well-being. You aren’t doing yourself any favor by saying “I’ll get to it when …” Go after it now with energy and zeal no matter how big or small your dream is. If you dream is to run a marathon, start training today. If you desire to play an instrument, take lessons now. If you know in your heart that your job is a misfit, find the courage to look for or start something different that will allow you to utilize your strengths and gifts. In most cases, you have more options than you think you do.

When you are living your own dreams, you’ll not only increase the set-range of your own happiness but also bring joy and freedom to those whose lives are closely connected to yours.