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Dealing with the DreamCrushers

Posted by on Feb 22, 2012 | 19 Comments

This post is a follow-up to this previous post: Choosing”Impossible” Challenges

Some of us have goals that may reside outside the realm of “sane” by societal standards.  Those goals may involve running an ultramarathon, quitting a “secure” job to do something more intrinsically rewarding, traveling the world, homeschooling your children, starting an unusual business, moving to somewhere new… whatever.  Invariably you’ll encounter the DreamCrushers.

DreamCrushers are the people that… well, try to crush your dreams.  These are the people that work to keep you in line.  These are the people that try to set limits on what you can accomplish.  These are the people that assure we’ll be stuck in mediocrity.

So who are these DreamCrushers?

Superiority Douches: Sometimes they’re painfully apparent.  These are the douchy people that bluntly tell us we’re not good enough or our dreams are stupid.  These are the people that have no problem sharing their opinions of our inferiority. The internet is about with these people.

Most of the time, however, DreamCrushers are much more insidious.  They’re the people closest to us.  And their objections aren’t obviously destructive like the Superiority Douches.

Cautious Loved Ones: These are our spouses and family that want what’s best for us.  They want us to be safe and secure.  As such, they want to limit our exposure to risk.  Their intentions are good, but they fill us with crippling fear.  They want to place us in a protective bubble.

The Jealous Friends: These are the “frenemies” that girlie mags talk about.  They put up a front of being a fiend friend, then use passive-aggressiveness to harm us.  You know, they tell us the dress makes us look great when in reality it accentuates our love handles.  These are the people that seem like they want us to succeed, but then do everything in their power to thwart our efforts.  This group isn’t limited to friends; they could be family members or even spouses.

The Projectionist: Freud defined “projection” as a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others originate those feelings (thanks Wikipedia).  The projectionist expresses their own thoughts or beliefs on others.  When it comes to DreamCrushers, the projectionist often relays their insecurity about their own abilities.  This is FAR more common than most of us would expect as we have a tendency to frame others’ actions with our own beliefs and attitudes.

The Analyst: These people use logic and reason to tell you why you’ll fail.  They’re the polar opposite of dreamers.  They see the world as a set of concrete black and white variables.  If your dream violates any of these variables, they have no problem telling you why you’ll fail.

The American Dreamers: These are the people that believe in the American Dream- graduate from a good college, big house, white picket fences, 1.8 kids, a Volvo or Caravan, a summer cottage on the lake, etc.  This group believes you have to put in your time at a job you may not like to earn money to buy stuff you probably won’t use.  Keeping up with the Jones’ and maintaining a nice appearance trump everything else, credit card debt be damned!  This group assumes everyone needs to live the “dream” and cannot fathom an alternate route.

The Devil’s Advocate: The Devil’s Advocate will voice their objection to everything you do.  This person usually comes off as argumentative, and will jump at the opportunity to disagree with anything society deems “unusual.”  The Devil’s Advocate is easy to recognize because they almost always qualify their objections by saying they’re playing devil’s advocate.  They may believe they’re doing you a service by showing you the potential pitfalls of your plans, but they do nothing to offer support or encouragement.

All of these groups can effectively kill our dreams.  Why?  We tend to look to those close to us for approval.  Each of these ‘personalities’ withhold approval as a means of keeping us from taking a serious stab at our dreams.  Since their approval is important to us, they have power over our dreams.

Knowing the motives of people in mind is important, especially when they’re trying to thwart your dreams.  Don’t let these people stand in your way, even if they claim to be on your side.  Understand you don’t need their approval. Go out and do awesome stuff!






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  1. Trish Reeves
    February 28, 2012

    I’m certainly done with keeping up with all the American Dreamers I wrote about in one of my recent posts. Thanks for this.

  2. Richard
    February 26, 2012

    There’s a big difference between playing Devil’s Advocate and being a negative arse. As outlined above, some people will say ‘I’m playing Devil’s Advocate’ just to be objectionable, but others will point out pitfalls or potential problems that an individual may not recognise for themselves.

    I think the examples you give, Jason, are slightly too black and white. My wife, for example, isn’t a big risk taker and far from filling me with crippling fear, she’s probably the reason we’ve still got a roof over our heads and food on the table. She just isn’t afraid of telling me when my ideas are crap and is very supportive when my ideas are good (on the rare occasion they are…).

    My point, in a nutshell, is that there can be good points to some of the people you list – they’re not all out to crush your dreams.

  3. Paul Wallis
    February 25, 2012

    Thanks for the encouraging comments. This came at a great time for me as I’m currently attempting to start my triathlon training for this year, but I’m told I need to wear shoes to compete. Not too sure what type of “shoes” are permissable though, but I intend to find out.

  4. FoxyReign
    February 25, 2012

    I thought I was looking for barefoot running here?

  5. Andy
    February 23, 2012

    “You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”

  6. niki_in_france
    February 22, 2012

    Fantastic post again Jason, made me think of my favourite quote by Rumi “Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”

  7. Erik
    February 22, 2012

    Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
    Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
    Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
    Don’t hang around, baby, two’s a crowd

  8. Brian G
    February 22, 2012

    How far you apply conventional wisdom, listen and act upon the opinions of others, and dutifully follow the pack is all dependent on how well you know yourself. Knowing who you are is paramount in life.

    If you don’t know yourself then often a person finds themselves paying more attention to external factors than he/she should. This could be to help discover who you are as a person which can be a good thing, or — worse — mold yourself to match those external drivers. Being someone you’re not never ends well.

    Finding who you are takes time, longer for some than others.

    • Jason
      February 23, 2012

      Brian- that’s the REAL benefit of college. 😉

  9. Rob Y
    February 22, 2012

    Or as my friend Logan H. espouses on “Do Epic Shit!” 🙂

    Seriously, don’t let anybody tell you that you CAN’T do something. I only play Devil’s Advocate on here because I hope to keep folks from falling into the same pitfalls I did as I grew and matured in the sport; mistakes that almost caused me to leave the sport; burnout, injury etc… I’ve seen A LOT of folks come and go in the sport; a lot of friends. It’s very sad. So I try to dispense caution and advice where I can.

    However, I totally empathize the attitude to just go out there and do it! Throwing caution to the wind. I get it. After all, I think most of us who follow your blog are those who are considered risk takers (or would be if we just have the courage) and would rather risk electric shock by peeing on that electric fence than have somebody else tell us about the experience! 🙂

    • Brian G
      February 22, 2012

      Rob has the correct idea of Devil’s Advocate. The main goal in playing that role is to ensure you think and try a harder and work through ideas you may not have thought of so you produce a better result. The purpose of it is not to defeat you or make you feel inferior.

      All organizations that produce anything worthwhile — architecture, software, automobiles, book writing, whatever — goes through this process during design.

      • Jason
        February 23, 2012

        I don’t think the kind of comments Rob makes are what I would consider to be the Devil’s Advocate I discussed in the post. Rob is also encouraging and gives advice with his “devil’s advocate” comments. That’s a positive thing.

        I was referring to the people that sabotage your efforts under the guise of trying to help by pointing out the flaws.

        It’s sort of like the people that say “You’re fat. [long pause] Ha, ha, just kidding.” It’s all about intent.

    • Liz
      February 22, 2012

      Devil’s Advocate – IMO unwelcome unless explicitly invited. You play devil’s advocate for your own benefit. Sorry you’re sad that you’ve seen friends leave the sport, etc; perhaps they’re not sad to be gone, having learned their own lessons in their own ways.

      • Rob Y
        February 23, 2012

        True. But your forgetting that this is a public blog site. Jason is sharing his experiences, trials and errors with us AND asks for commentary. If the Devil’s Advocate wasn’t invited then why have a blog and why have it open for comments? Comments aren’t only for people who 100% agree with the poster, what would the point of that be? Also you’re wrong about my friends, to a person they (at least to me and publicly) are sad to be away from the sport and wished they’d done things differently. But such is life, we all have to forge our own path right?

        • Liz
          February 23, 2012

          Umm… I haven’t forgotten a thing. I’m saying that I don’t welcome a Devil’s Advocate unless I invite them; NOT that YOU are not welcome HERE. And, I think the DA that Jason described is the sort that pokes holes for his/her own benefit. That may or may not describe you and/or the role you seem to think you’re playing – I have no idea, other than from your post in this thread. As for your friends, it’s their prerogative to return to running.

          • Rob Y
            February 23, 2012

            Naw, I don’t consider myself a DA; at least within the definition Jason described. I’m merely somebody who’s been running/racing for a long time; especially ultras and who wants to see others succeed in their goals and dreams. I also realize that it’s not always “sunshine, rainbows and unicorns”; that to succeed takes hard work and dedication and that there are no shortcuts to success. No magic potion, no magic cross-training regimen that’s going to get you to that 100 mile finish line (or whatever your running goal may be). So maybe I appear a DA in the sense that I don’t always agree 100% with the advice or directions Jason prescribes; but I think that’s only natural. Good to have a variety of opposing views on this site I think.

  10. Fitz
    February 22, 2012

    I think the farther into Group 2 (from Choosing”Impossible” Challenges) the more you can feed off these DreamCrushers. Like you just want to prove them wrong out of spite.

  11. Shelahd
    February 22, 2012

    I can’t tell you how perfectly timed this post is for me Jason. THANK YOU!

  12. briderdt
    February 22, 2012

    “Crabs in a pot” syndrome. You can keep crabs in a pot without a lid — every time one tries to climb out, the others grab ahold and drag it back in…