Is Following Your Dream Ruining Your Life? American Pharaoh and You
What? Isn’t it important to ‘follow your dream?’ And isn’t Victor Espinoza, the jockey for American Pharaoh, just the example we need to be inspired? After all, Victor was one of eleven children born into a poor farm family in Mexico. His first jobs were farm helper and bus driver–and now he is now a wealthy and famous sports figure.
Shouldn’t this article be about following our dream not about questioning our dreams?
Here’s the thing. Victor Espinoza did not have a dream about winning anything. After the Triple Crown, he was asked directly if he had now attained his dream. Victor responded: “I always have goals in life. I never have dreams because dreams sometimes don’t come true. But goals — I always pretty much get them done.”
Wow. No dreams? Now that doesn’t sound very ‘American.’ Isn’t this the country where anyone can be president or a rock star? Well, no it’s not that country because that is a delusion. Now wait! I’m not going all pessimistic and country-bashing. What I’m saying is that there are important differences between having goals and having dreams.
And having goals makes it more likely you will get you where you want to go. For Victor the trip from driving a bus in Mexico City to the Triple Crown was a matter of one day at a time, one goal at a time, without any notion about what the future would bring. After all, he knew couldn’t control the future. He couldn’t control how others treated him. The only person he could manage was himself.
Victor said that galloping a horse around an oval wasn’t scary after driving a bus in Mexico City. I have a personal understanding of what he means about Mexico City traffic–I’m quoting myself here (The Mercy) because I love Mexico City and because I am constitutionally unable to openly market what I’ve written: “Traffic lights are mere ‘suggestions’ and heeded only by the meek. Intersection management works as follows: When one direction of traffic has the most cars ramming through the intersection, that team dominates and stays on offense until a weenie driver among their lot is intimidated by the insults and blaring horns of the competing team. The alert opposing team recognizes the weak link and dives through the hole, backed up by an impressive offensive line. . . .There are plenty of police officers around. Most stand in horseshoe formations outside bars with televisions broadcasting the big soccer game. I don’t blame the police for ignoring traffic violators. They aren’t paid much and they’re not stupid.”
Victor Espinoza had no fear on the racetrack. Hey, the horses are even all going the same direction!
What can we learn from Victor Espinoza? We can better understand the difference between dreams and goals.
Dreams can get us to over-value people we envy and under-value the people around us—including ourselves as we are now. Dreams can be a crutch to avoid dealing with anxiety in our moment to moment lives if we believe that when the dream is achieved we will not feel sad, insecure, or anxious again. Dreams involve the actions of other people and circumstances over which we have little or no control. With dreams we can easily get tangled up in “What if” and “If only” thinking” and be too overwhelmed to do anything. If our daily life is based on one day attaining a dream very different from our life now—we are unable to enjoy being alive now. Which is the only time we have to be alive.
“Hi.” I’ll smile right now if you will.
Goals are actions within possibility. With goals we can think small—that is, focus on what we can control, the task at hand. With goals we can break tasks into simple commitments, such as “I will read a book on German philosophy for an hour a day” rather than “I will become a famous expert on German philosophy.” Or, “I will work in my garden for twenty minutes a day” rather than “I will have an incredible garden.”
Most important when we live by goals, we can measure and appreciate our success. When we accomplish the goal for the day, we have done all we need to do. We don’t feedback from others to be satisfied.
Oh, and if you still afraid to let go of ‘the dream,’ keep in mind that goals not fantasies are what bring us closer to any accomplishment.