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How to Achieve Your Dreams in the Face of Naysayers

Not everyone will support your goals. Here are five ways to respond so you can conquer your dreams no matter what.

Photo Credit: Sol&Co
Photo Credit: Sol&Co

“That’s not the way things are done around here”. 

There I was, bursting at the seams with excitement as I shared the vision for my new career direction, only to be told yet again (by yet another recruitment agent) that this simply wasn’t going to happen.

It was 2013 and I had just moved from London to Sydney after qualifying as a coach (following the obligatory Quarter Life Crisis and existential soul-searching required), and I had BIG dreams. 

As a multi-passionate I believed I had hit upon the perfect solution – a part time marketing role in a 9-5 that would give me all the flexibility I needed to launch a coaching business to support other women, whilst benefiting from everything the corporate world had to offer…

…but absolutely no-one cared!  Certainly, no-one was willing to help me make it happen. There I was, daring to follow my passions, but as they didn’t fit into a neat little box I wasn’t viewed as a trail-blazer, I was just the problem child no-one knew what to do with.

After much perseverance, I found a way to have my ‘career cake’ and eat it too; by combining a three-day-per-week senior marketing role in a Fortune 500, with a six figure passion-driven coaching business. 

I know first-hand how soul-crushing it is to share our burning desires with the world, only to be met with discouragement or comments such as ‘What do you want to do that for?’

Without knowing how to respond in these moments, it may be the very thing that validates our inner critic and causes us to give up altogether.

So what can we do when know that settling for good enough is no longer, well, good enough?

Here are 5 ways to deal with the naysayers so that you can conquer your dreams no matter what:

1. Stay in your own lane. 

A sure-fire way of getting side-tracked by naysayer comments is by slipping into comparison traps.  Holding myself to other’s versions of success in the corporate world is hands down what drove me into a full-blown Quarter Life Crisis, personal burnout and illness in the first place.  When I finally had the confidence to create a multi-passionate career of my design and combine a part time 9-5 with my own business, I was concerned of how it might be perceived, but instead I had countless people ask me, ‘How did you do that?’

Remember that everyone’s version of success is entirely personal – make sure you know what it means to you and stay true to this with every fibre of your being. 

2. Don’t accept their fears as your own.  

Remember that negative feedback from others is almost always a reflection of their own concerns and doubts and has nothing to do with you.  We all have a ‘success story’ shaped by values, experiences and beliefs.  Some people have been raised to believe that the sky is the limit and we can be anything we want to be; while others are told that success means a stable job with a monthly pay check.   It is possible that what you have shared has triggered something in the other person. Potentially hearing your dreams is a reminder they haven’t followed their own, or perhaps they believe that by talking you out of it they are protecting you from failures they experienced themselves.  It is important to show compassion rather than defensiveness; instead inspire them to see what is possible when we take a risk and follow our heart.

3. Ask for their support, not their agreement. 

At the end of the day, your dreams are no-one else’s business, and you do not need anyone else’s permission.  You can simply say, ‘I know it’s a bit of a different direction and there will no doubt be challenges along the way, which is why it means so much to me to have your support’. 

Try reframing negative comments with empowered responses (which often has the impact of shifting their perspective in the process).

For example,  if someone asks, ‘Isn’t it a bit crazy to make changes at this point in your career?’  you could say with a smile, ‘I would be crazy if I didn’t take the opportunity to do something more fulfilling’.

If they say, ‘What if it doesn’t work?’  rather than justify yourself, you could respond with ‘I would rather try and fail than wonder what might have been’.

4. Bring them on the journey. 

Take the time to help others better understand your goals and show them how it can work, rather than responding defensively.  If it’s your partner, explain how achieving these goals is a win-win for you and your family, and will contribute to the things you both value for your future.  Speak in the context of your shared vision so that it becomes more meaningful and relevant, and you’re more likely to get the buy-in you long for.   

5. Share your passion and enthusiasm

It’s infectious!  Not only will you attract like-minded people to you as a result, you’ll make it easy for others to know what it is you are working towards and how to help you get there. 

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