What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail? This is how Elizabeth Gilbert flipped the popular question "what would you do if you knew you could not fail?" on it's head in her book Big Magic, and it really got me thinking.
While the answer to this question might seem fairly straightforward - that answer being to not do the thing that would result in failure, obviously - I don't think it's quite that simple. Because if your answer is not to do that thing anyway, then I guess you're faced with a question of whether or not you really mean it when you dream about the things you dream about.
Please don't mistake me for some person sitting on the other side of taking the plunge, preaching to you on her pedestal of realised success after shrugging off my fears and replacing them only with the brave and dogged pursuit of what it is she wants. I'm currently still only dipping my toe into the pool of my dreams but I think it's important for me (and maybe for you) to ask myself what exactly my dreams mean to me.
I like to think that my dreams are born from a pure need to create, to make something and put it out there just because I have nowhere else to put it. If this is my only motivator then the reality of failure wouldn't be enough to deter me. For failure would be harsh criticism from the general populous, or nobody ever acknowledging my efforts ever. And as sensitive as I am, I don't care enough about what everyone thinks to turn away from my dreams. (Or, to put it more honestly, I have recently shed the part of me the moved only when given the approval or permission of other people, and I have no interest in re-introducting that part of myself into existence. I have dreams to chase). So, I'd like to think that the pure need to create and the joy I find in it is enough for me.
But, so much of my dreams are attached significant financial success. So without that financial success, do I not want my dreams? I want financial security, for sure, but if that's the main thing that's governing my passions, then my answer to the question of guaranteed failure and my subsequent destitution (because that's the opposite of financial success, right?) would be to pack my dreams up right now and shove them in the attic of my mind, never to be touched again. Because, real talk, I hold no romantic notions about poverty and struggling.
I think the question is sobering in the excited haze and frenzy that comes with finally going after what you want. Not because I never considered failure as a possibility (an almost guaranteed one) but because I never considered what I would do in the face of that failure. Would I continue to create or would I pack it all away, with a small shrug and saying "eh, I tried."? It's really easy to talk passionately about chasing our dreams, it's really really easy to be brave and determined and resilient when it's all still in your head. But the truest test of whether or not you mean it will come in the face of failure. And I hope that when that time comes, that I can let myself fail, and that after some ice cream and commiserations, I will continue to create.
I guess I'll have to wait and see. I'll keep you posted.