How To Cope When Your Dreams Are Crushed: 7 Effective Tips

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Consult a counselor to help you deal with your dreams being crushed. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.

Life isn’t always what we want it to be.

Unfortunately, the best-laid plans can be utterly destroyed by a twist of fate. The pesky thing about unforeseen circumstances is that they are impossible to plan for, being unforeseen and all.

It might be Lisa, an athlete who’s been competing since she was a child. She started in the peewee leagues, moved on to her school’s athletic program, where she competed in regional competitions, and finally made her way as a rookie into her sport after she graduated! And all that for her to tear a ligament in her knee that will never fully heal. Now, she’s unable to compete and be the athlete she always dreamed of being.

Maybe it’s Devin, a guy who dreamed about having a loving family all throughout his not-so-great childhood. Finally, he meets “the one,” they have their own careers established, they get settled down, and start talking about the future. Then, on the way home from work, a drunk driver plows into his wife, utterly destroying that dream and shattering his life.

Life can be terrible at times. And if you’re here, reading an article about coping when your dreams are crushed, chances are pretty good that life isn’t going so well for you at the moment.

That’s okay. Truly. You’re not alone in experiencing these losses and setbacks.

The good news is that there are ways to move forward. Granted, it may take a long time, and you may have to do a fair amount of work to heal some of the damage that crushed dreams cause.

You may never go back to the person you were before your situation happened, and that’s okay too. We shouldn’t try to, because then we haven’t had any opportunity to grow or change.

Here are the steps you’ll have to go through to cope with your dreams being crushed.

1. Accept your reality.

We don’t always have control over what happens to us. That fact is a bitter pill that many people have a difficult time swallowing. Instead of accepting their reality, they wrap themselves up in denial or drown out the truth in self-destructive habits.

Ignoring the truth won’t change it. Drowning it in alcohol or self-destructive behaviors won’t make it any less real. Lying to yourself that things aren’t the way they are will trap you in a perpetual cycle of misery and denial.

Accept your reality, no matter how awful, so you can find a way to move forward instead of staying trapped in place.

2. Allow yourself to feel your emotions.

You’re going to be feeling a lot of emotions. Try to let yourself feel your emotions when you’re able to.

So many people get hung up in the grieving and healing process because they don’t let themselves feel their emotions. They shove them down and never return to readdress them. That’s a problem because it interrupts your brain’s natural healing processes.

Being sad, angry, or whatever you feel is your brain working to process the overall experience.

Granted, it’s a busy life. “I can’t have a mental breakdown right now! I have things to do!”

Totally understood. Life doesn’t stop for our suffering.

However, you’ll have to deal with it sooner or later. Whatever you don’t deal with now will compound, and you’ll have to deal with it later. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe twenty years from now.

But a traumatic experience like having your dreams crushed is not something that just disappears into the ether.

3. Look for a way to pivot.

Failure is a step on the path to success. There are very few people who immediately accomplish what they set out to do. In fact, some people have set out on the path of their life’s dreams only to discover an entirely different path that they didn’t even know they may have wanted.

Your dreams being crushed doesn’t have to be the end of your story. It doesn’t even have to be the end of that particular road, really. Instead, you may be able to use the experience you’ve already acquired to pivot into something that can provide a similar fulfillment.

The situation may be the death of that specific dream, but the birth of something else. Maybe there are goals and dreams of a similar nature that you can shift your trajectory toward.

4. Create new goals.

Dreams aren’t always a healthy or a good thing. Some people use their dreams as a means of escaping their life through a fantasy that doesn’t exist. And when that fantasy doesn’t come true, it’s jarring because they now have to cope with the reality of the situation they are experiencing, in addition to losing the particular dream.

Goals are better than dreams because goals are more tangible. People don’t really dream about the thing that’s supposed to happen next week, do they? You might reach a culmination of a long-term dream next week, but most of the time, dreams are wishful thinking for a future that is not promised.

Stop dreaming and start setting more goals. Focus more on the process of working toward those goals instead of the outcome of the goal. After all, you can’t control whether or not you will succeed at that goal. All you can do is put your best effort in and hope that things go somewhat according to plan.

5. Get busy living your life.

Don’t sit around and mope. Don’t let depression derail the rest of your life when you can help it. Keep doing the things that you’re supposed to be doing.

Force yourself to eat regularly, even if it’s just a small meal a day. Make yourself get cleaned up and dressed for the day, even when you really don’t want to. Take a hot shower. Visualize the stress and pain being washed away from your body and down the drain. It can be a helpful visualization meditation.

Get outside at least once a day if you can, even if it’s just to get a takeout coffee or send some post. Have a clear out of things you don’t want or need – sell them, donate them, bin them as appropriate.

Just try to do things – anything really that can give your mind a break from dwelling on what remains of your dream.

6. You are more than your dreams and goals.

People struggle for a sense of identity. As a result, they often look to external accomplishments to show the world who they are. Sometimes it’s about their qualities; other times, it’s about a particular accomplishment.

The person who is an athlete may focus their identity around their athleticism. And why wouldn’t they? How much work does it take to be a competitive athlete? Sure, you have the competitions, which may be in the public eye, but spectators aren’t seeing all of the additional work. There’s the training, practice, good eating habits and diet, dealing with self-doubt, suffering the sting of loss, soaring high of victory, and so much more. Yet, that person is devoting so much of their life to being an athlete. What else are they going to know if that dream ends?

Maybe it’s the doctor who spends eight years in school, multiple years in residency, and reaches a point of burning out where they can no longer stand to do their job. Maybe it’s the family man who seeks a divorce because of his partner’s unfaithfulness. Maybe it’s the woman who struggled long and hard to achieve her dream of becoming an attorney, only to find out that it’s not what she thought it was going to be like.

We often want to define ourselves by our dreams and goals, but your dreams and goals aren’t who you are. You are still you.

“But if I’m not XYZ, then what I am?” You are you. And you are the person who can look at the world, pick a new goal, and strive for a new experience to round out this thing we call life.

And that may feel like an impossible thing to do if you’re buried in the loss of your dream. It’s okay. Take the time to mourn. Be sad. Be angry. You’re right; it’s not fair! But hey, sometimes that’s just how it is.

7. Consider counseling with a certified mental health therapist.

Are you familiar with what a traumatic experience is?

You might be thinking, “Of course I am! It’s something terrible that happens! Right?”

Well, sort of.

The common social perception of a traumatic experience usually ties to severe experiences like sexual assault, violence, accidents, and natural disasters.

The reality is that trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. And yes, having your dreams crushed and your life thrown into severe disarray can easily fall within the realm of a traumatic event.

A person who finds out their partner has been cheating on them may have their whole life turned inside out from the betrayal, loss of their living situation, and the severe changes that will bring.

A person who dedicates eight years of their life to schooling only to find out that they aren’t suited for the job they’re going into can have their whole perception of self burned to the ground.

A person who has been training to be a competitive athlete since they were a child now has to deal with the uncertain future and the time they spent in the past when they suffered a career-ending injury.

Having your dreams crushed, annihilated, and no longer relevant is a traumatic experience. And like any other trauma, it may not be within the realm of self-help and articles on the internet to fix.

The best thing you can do is talk to a certified mental health counselor, particularly if you feel despondent and lost. They can help you put the pieces back together, process the emotions, and create a new dream for yourself.

And if you’ve been feeling the loss of this dream for a long time, like years, it’s an even better idea to get in with a qualified professional to help you. Your life is far from over just because that particular dream didn’t work out. There is still so much you can do and see once you move through it.

Either way, if you’re interested in speaking to a counselor, click here to connect with one of the experienced counselors on BetterHelp.com.

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