Your Dreams are Making You Miserable

Introduction from Alana:

Over the past year or so, I have gotten to know Jon McGraw, a principle partner with Vision Pursue, a Performance Mindset training and software company.  In addition to being my personal coach (I am participating in View More: Vision Pursue program!), Jon is one of the most genuine, sincere people with whom I interact. 

To better understand the perspective from which Jon shares his thoughts below, you might be interested to know he attended Kansas State University with a major in business finance and walked on the football team, 1997-2001.  He was then a second round pick in the NFL draft to the New York Jets where he played three seasons.  Next, he played for the Detroit Lions for two seasons before playing his final five seasons for his home town team, the Kansas City Chiefs.  Jon’s last season was 2011.  Jon was actively involved as acting president of the Jon McGraw Foundation and other charitable causes during his career.

These experiences make him uniquely positioned to help professional athletes and executives to enhance their performance in all aspects of their lives.


Guest Post from Jon McGraw, Partner, Vision Pursue

Conventional wisdom says that if we work hard and smart, we can succeed, and be happy, fulfilled, content, and in control. We are taught to have a dream and pursue it with great effort and passion. I did this. I set a goal of playing pro football and pursued it with everything that I had. I walked on at a big time Division 1 football program, earned a scholarship along with All Conference honors, and then spent 10 seasons playing in the NFL. Talk about a scenario for life long satisfaction and fulfillment, right?? Wrong! Most of the time I was so stressed out that my life experience became one big means to an end. I was always living for tomorrow, sacrificing today. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, I had loads of talent and work ethic to overcome this, but it came at a price.

Has your success come at a price and does it seem that the cost may end up being more than the benefit? We hope that someday it will all be worth it, but deep down we know something’s wrong. Not only is this paradigm stealing our peace of mind, relationships, and physical health, it is negatively impacting our performance at work. While many think of me as an overachiever, based on my talent and work ethic, I underachieved. By far my greatest limiting factor was my own mindset.

What does this mean for you? First, this has very little to do with your current life situation. You don’t need to change jobs or sell everything and live off the land. Not to say you won’t, but at least it will be your choice and not your conditioned mind’s. The problem is our mindset. Once the mind is working right, everything else will follow. Our mindset, by far plays the biggest role in determining the nature of our life experience. Second, what are you chasing and why are you chasing it? Do you believe that whatever “it” is, is the answer? And third, what is the cost?

Let me be clear, the problem is not that we have dreams or goals. The problem is how our minds make them primary. We attach some irrational value to them that by definition diminishes what we currently have, our current life. Our life experience becomes mired in dissatisfaction or anxiety. Dissatisfaction because our dream is primary and we need it in order to be happy. Anxiety because “what if [we] never get there…” This is what drives investors to risk going to prison for insider trading just to make another million. Or successful professional athletes to risk their careers and reputations by taking steroids. It’s a mental illness that most have to varying degrees. Our lives become all about doing something else, with someone else, somewhere else. For many of us, much of the world seems to be one big obstacle preventing us from having a great life experience. If you’re thinking, “this doesn’t describe me” ask yourself how much of your life is frustrating, annoying, restless? How often are you self-medicating by over eating, over drinking, over spending, getting overly attached to sporting events, or spending a most of your free time watching TV? Could it be these are distractions and numbing mechanisms?

The great thing about waking up from conditioned thinking is that it’s aligned with a healthier mental, emotional, physical, and relational state. It’s also aligned with improved performance. The latest in sports and performance psychology has proven this to be the case. Athletes who train themselves to derive fulfillment and enjoyment from the process, not the results, perform at a higher level without unhealthy amounts of stress. This allows them to enjoy playing the game for the sake of playing the game. This also means less of a need for unhealthy forms of self-medication. I saw this happen first hand toward the end of my own career when I lessened my focus on the outcome.

If you train your mind to derive its enjoyment and fulfillment from the process, everything improves. So is it ok to have dreams? Sure, just know they won’t make you happy on their own. And if they won’t make you happy, should they still be a dream?

Final thought – If accomplishing your dreams (success) doesn’t equal happiness, then where does happiness come from? Mindset.  Shift your mindset, and the rest will follow!

2 thoughts to “Your Dreams are Making You Miserable”

  1. Love this post! Yes, happiness is within us all along–not at some point in the future when we “get” something from outside of us. It’s the ability to know our true self–to connect inwardly to that presence that we are–and to see and experience that in others. This is leadership and living life as it’s meant to be; in this momen.

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