At some point in our lives, we have all been asked the age old question: “What do you want to be when you grown up?” For some, the answer is continuously evolving or changing, in a constant state of flux. For others, the path they have decided for themselves stays quite static. But let me ask you a question – is what or who you want to be when you grow up being decided by the brave you or the practical you?

As creatures of habit living in a socially structured civilisation, we often found ourselves bound by the shackles of social expectations. Not only does society’s opinion of what one should be or do have a large influence, close connections like role models, family members, friends and significant others can play significant roles in influencing the paths we chose to take. How often have you heard someone sharing their dream and then hearing someone use ‘logic’ against it – that someone at times even being himself or herself!

Now before you start thinking that I am going to be taking the role of a spiritual advisor whom strongly suggests everyone follows his or her dream no matter the cost nor the dream, think again. I am trying to open you to the question of why you want to be or become the profession or role you have decided on, how do you decide which passion you follow professionally, and whether you are being brave or practical and why. I may sound slightly focused towards the brave role because I believe there is not enough critical thinking surrounding the topic.

Source of inspiration

This article was inspired by one of (many) television shows I am following known as Jane the Virgin (highly recommended to readers that enjoy some telenovella style drama) which showed Jane telling a love interest what she wanted to be if she were practical – a teacher – or brave – a writer.

It made me think – how often do people actually have the same profession as both their practical and brave dream? How often do people go for the practical option in search of security and safety whilst watching people on their Facebook living their dream? No matter what you decide to do, you want to be happy with what you choose, right? The hope for all of us is to find your ideal balance and seek the life you deserve.

A dream tends to be a passion. Passion can be defined as a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything. Some people have one passion whereas others are swimming in a dozen passions.

There are five main reasons I know of stopping people from pursuing their passions: the need for security (to pay the bills), lack of determination, unaware of their own passions, social pressure, and the biggest one of them all: Fear of failure/not being good enough. Let’s examine these in detail to try and get to the core of why it is easier to be practical than to be brave.

Reason: The need for security

Now this one is stemmed into the very core of our beings. I know that it is going to feel like you’ve heard this for the hundredth time and you are probably right; “How are you going to pay your bills?” or “But you’ve got bills to pay!” when you express a certain dream of yours. I find this rather curious since it would be suggesting that a lot of dreams are in relatively unstable professions like the arts. Are we all secretly artists?

You could say that safety is engrained into our DNA. I like to refer to Maslov’s pyramid of needs regarding human needs because I believe it is rather accurate. After a person has secured their physiological needs, they seek safety. This includes ‘security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, and of property’. These safety needs should be met before a person can proceed toward self-actualization. For this specific article, we are going to look into employment.

What do we gain from being employed? We gain a security of income, a purpose, a social environment, a challenge, pride, joy, a sense of achievement and many other things. Of course, not every job or employment leads to such positive outcomes, but one can hope. It can also come with stress, high demands, long hours and other unhealthy prospects.

Security can be compared to setting up roots. It gives you a place where you call home; where you get your food from, know your neighboring plants, and the ability to grow. Not everyone needs roots; some people want to fly freely. The question is whether you would prefer to feel the security of roots or the liberty of wings?

Even though the thought of flying seems exciting and glamorous, loads of people do prefer the security to the wild and free feelings. It may not be something people enjoy admitting because we are encouraged to follow our wildest dreams and told we cannot be happy without traveling the entire globe and trying every new thing.

My solution:

Often, the security of an income allows you to explore your alternative passions in your free time. The dreams are supported by the security. How will you be enjoying your dreams? Is it possible to combine security and bravery? You have some sway in the answer to that question.

Reason: Lack of determination

Why is there so much procrastination? I believe one of the biggest troubles is combining short-term interests with long-term interests. Short-term, we tend to focus on our instinctual and primal needs. Think of the seven sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. These focal points (known as sins to some) tend to make us lose our way to our dreams. We want to feel desired, fulfilled, and happy on a daily basis.

Long term, we sometimes want different things than we do in the short term. This gap between short-term intentions and long-term intentions can cause a chasm between what we want long-term (ambitions and dreams) versus short-term spur of the moment feelings. When you have a dream that you believe in and it is your long-term ambition to live your dream, why would you procrastinate and ‘waste’ your time?

Common reasons we ‘waste’ time include perhaps because you are stressed, perhaps because you are tired or perhaps you are distracted. If you are feeling stressed, you tend to do whatever you can to alleviate the unpleasant feelings rather than focusing on your ambitions.

My solution:

Getting lost in the instinctual and primal needs will make you feel good for the moment yet probably you will regret it later on. I believe one of the best ways to avoid having regrets is to do the best you can, given the chasm between the short-term and long-term whilst you try to align the two. Do not let your bestial nature control you constantly.

Reason: Unaware of their own passions

How can you follow your dreams if you don’t know what you want to do? We are increasingly expected to know what we want to do or to be at an earlier age. It feels like after our age hits the double digits, there should be an idea of what you love to do and how you will follow those dreams into becoming a reality.

Some of us are lucky and find what they want to do in life quite quickly. Others believe they’ve found it early but discover their true passions later on. Then there are people that go decades without finding a trace of a passion or a big dream. Maybe we aren’t all meant to have big dreams and filled to the brim with passions. I do hope everyone has at least one passion. It is a wonderful feeling to embrace a passion and to be able to pursue it to get this deep pure happiness.

Unfortunately, I believe it is not the case. I have a close friend of mine who does not feel he has a single passion other than his girlfriend. I can tell that it isn’t doing him any favours. It is difficult to find a passion when your only passion is a person, how will you compare another passion in the form of a sport or a hobby or another pastime? I’ve tried to help him, best I can come up with is to figure out how you realized the person was a passion and then try to take the same approach to other potential passions.

My solution:

Try to do a new activity weekly if you want to find a new passion. Get out of your comfort zone because that safe place will not allow you to grow into figuring out these parts of you that seem rather well hidden. Explore new activities if you want to see whether you have more passions just waiting to be discovered.

Reason: Social pressure

Friends and family have a huge influence on your life; there is no doubt about it. When you are young, your family sets the foundation of how you interact with people, your behaviour, your mannerisms, and whom you believe you should be. After you mature, you begin to build a friend network, which also set a sort of ‘standard’ for society in your direct surrounding. 

Your network tends to set a standard of what you perceive as ‘normal’. If your network is completely consisting of a particular religion, those morals and beliefs will likely be imprinted on you. When people in your network are finding specific types of jobs and sticking with them, you will probably be more likely to consider those sorts of jobs. When people in your network do not have successful marriages, you will probably not believe in marriage. If people in your network are beginning to get married and get on board on the baby train, you will probably feel an obligation to begin getting on that. When people in your network are being practical and don’t believe in being brave or combining the two, that would likely have influence on your search and quest on being brave. Although your network does not define you, it does bear weight into your decision and contain significant influence.

Family can often be an interesting component of your network. They want you to be happy but they also want to protect you from any harm and keep you secure. So they will try to encourage you whilst still trying to ensure that you are able to take care of yourself. Often, the way they have chosen their path will influence on how they advice and support your chosen path. The same goes for your friends and remaining network, it really depends on who you surround yourself with.

My solution:

Remember that the majority of people are also influenced by their surroundings. It can be a domino effect. People are influenced by their own choices and upbringing. It will have an effect on how they advise on the matter. Stay true to your passions and remember that this life is your one life and you should live it how you see fit. Perhaps try to find different people in your network with different paths and see how they advise you. If possible, try to find someone that is doing what you want to do if you were brave and see what they advise for you to follow the path.

Reason: Fear of failure/not being good enough

I would personally say that this one is an important one because even if you have surpassed the other reasons on your quest to be brave to follow your dreams, the fear of not being good enough can stop a lot of people dead in your tracks. If you are free to do what you feel you were created to do, what happens when you do that and bear that part of you?

You may feel naked and exposed to the world. If the world may get to see your brave creations, will you be strong enough to bite through the comments and potential criticism? We already feel like our own worst critic, and then imagine having everyone look at a very vulnerable part of you, exposed.

It is a lot to ask from anyone. Being strong for a short while is one thing but remaining strong after you have gotten on the rollercoaster of pursuing your passions is a whole other story. Yes, it may not be the easiest road. In fact, it will probably be the most challenging and difficult. To begin and to continue, however, someday there could be a turning point. The important thing is to figure out whether you would be willing to face the darkness to see the beauty of the light.

My solution:

Bearing your soul through your passion is not an easy thing to do. It requires determination, belief in yourself, commitment, and perseverance. Is this something you can live without? If the answer is no, then find a way to enjoy your passion and either find baby steps or just face the fear full on.


“We may place blame, give reasons, and even have excuses; but in the end, it is an act of cowardice to not follow your dreams.” ― Steve Maraboli

Why have people been more geared towards practical thinking than bravery? I believe it is a combination of different reasons. Also, we are currently living in a time where people are more encouraged to follow their dreams. People who lived during the World War and experienced that side were more focused on the need to survive. The Maslov’s pyramid demonstrated time and time again that people need to have some security through income. When we do not have an income, how will there be food on the table?

I realized as I was writing this article, I sound as if I am trying to lead the reader to the path of the brave. Instead, I would say that it is vital to question what you do and why you do it. Maybe the questioning will lead you to more self-discovery and allow more understanding of your inner workings. Personally, I wonder what my path will end up looking like. I have multiple passions I greatly enjoy and although part of me has worried that choosing one passion over the other may lead to it being neglected, I feel it is time to make some life decisions that will lead me to where I need to be. I am ready for what may come.