How do you stay motivated chasing your dreams (while also dealing with loneliness)?

A student wrote to me:

How do you stay motivated chasing your dreams (while also dealing with loneliness)?

Here’s what I wrote:

I’ll be honest and say that I never actively chased my dreams. I just like to start on many projects at once. Some projects will succeed, and some others will fail. And I’ll do that again when I get bored.

I will say that the career-defining moments for me have always been to say “YES!” to every opportunity that comes by way – even if I have zero experience or know nothing about the subject:

– Edit a book about science? YES!
– Help a WW2 veteran to write his memoirs? YES!
– Sell electronics to people worldwide? YES!
– Conduct workshops to a bunch of engineers? YES!
– Give a talk to a bunch of CEOs and people from the media? YES!
– Teach data analysis and Excel and coding at University level? YES!
– Write a white paper to invite policymakers and academics for a discussion? YES!
– Coordinate the running of an international conference? YES!
– Talk to government officials in China and make arrangements for filming in China (even with my poor command of Chinese)? YES!

Did it scare the hell out of me? Absolutely!!!!!!!! I was afraid and quite daunted. Sometimes I asked myself why I even bother to give myself so much stress while I spent days, weeks, even months of my life rushing to learn and prepare myself so that I can do it well. (Some of the things I listed above didn’t go well at all, but it was still valuable experience that opened up more doors for me anyway)

So I’ll say this. I’m a firm believer of this philosophy of life: Say yes first, and then figure it out later.

Partly because I like the challenge and the adrenaline rush, but at the same time, I know that I won’t get such experience ever again if I say “No.” It has been incredibly rewarding. I do hope many of you will find the courage to adopt this philosophy of life for yourself.

I think a lot of us undermine ourselves from going forward in life because we are too afraid of failure to even get started trying. But failure is educational, especially when you know how to evaluate what went wrong. And as I said elsewhere, the working world is pretty forgiving. If you make a mistake, you still can make changes since the work you do goes through multiple rounds of revisions.

Have I been lonely during these periods? Yes, incredibly lonely because I am the only one doing them and often times, have no one else to turn to. But I guess because I have deadlines to rush to (do or die), the loneliness doesn’t stand in the way of my work. In fact, once you get sufficiently busy and you’re into the zone, you tend to forget that you’re lonely. And that helps, I suppose. :)

So jiayou~! You can always message me if you need a listening ear. :)

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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