Don't Use Family as an Excuse to Not Follow Your Dreams | The BridgeMaker

Don’t Use Family as an Excuse to Not Follow Your Dreams

By on Nov 12, 2009


What is life, without the pursuit of a dream? – Vanilla Sky


The United States celebrates Thanksgiving at the end of the month. Supposedly, it’s the holiday with the most travel – even more than Christmas. People crisscross the country to share the holiday with family.

It’s a time to connect, catch up and enjoy each other’s company (plus, according to Hollywood, have huge emotional blowouts). With all this travel, it’s obvious that families don’t stay put. They move around. A lot.

Yet when I told people that I was selling my house in Toronto and moving to France (then Spain), I often heard “I’d love to do that, but I have kids” or “I can’t right now because my parents are getting older.” I’ve also talked to people who have considered giving up a dream to move closer to family not because they want to but because they feel they had to.

I’m all for strong family connections and for being (emotionally) close, but far too often people will use family as an excuse to not do something that scares them, or that they feel should be a dream, but really isn’t.

If everyone had had this attitude world geography would look quite different and countries wouldn’t need immigration policies because there wouldn’t be any immigration.

People pick up and move their families all the time, and for the whole of human history people have moved away from family and not just survived, but thrived.

So, why do people say that they couldn’t possibly get up and go because of family obligations?

I see four reasons:
1. I think my family is too weak to handle the experience
2. My extended family would fall apart if I move away
3. I don’t really want to do what I say I want to do
4. I’m afraid for the future and afraid of death

Weak Family

When someone says “I would travel more, but I don’t want to disrupt my children’s lives” it’s like they think their children are fragile creatures unable to adapt and thrive in a wide variety of situations. Millions of families each year pick up and move somewhere different, whether it’s out of necessity, for work, or by desire.

There’s a whole set of families that don’t just live in one place and their children don’t need years of therapy to recover from the experience. Human beings were once highly nomadic, always on the move. It’s in our genes.

You don’t think your family is somehow less equipped to handle traveling than the majority of the human race, do you?

The Family Hub

When I was considering moving from Ontario to southern Europe, my relationship with my parents and my siblings came close to stopping me. At the time I was single and I had no children. My brother and sister both had spouses and kids. Over the years it had sort of fallen on me that I would be the one to take care of my parents when they got older. My siblings were happy to do it, but since I had no kids, it just seemed to make sense.

But then I asked myself who I was living for? Was it for me or for my parents?

I made the move across the ocean because I realized the family did not revolve around me. And this past January that point was proven when my mother had a serious bout of pneumonia and my brother and sister stepped up and did what they needed to help her.

A good friend of mine is a single child and chose over a decade ago to leave her single mother behind and move to Newfoundland. And instead of trying to convince her not to go, her mother encouraged her.

So remember – this is your life, not the life of your family. Make the choices that are best for you and family will cope.

All Talk No Action

I understand this concept intimately. I’m a talker. I love to explore ideas, to try on new futures with my words but I often have no intention of following through.

The verbal exploration is enough. For example, recently I’ve been dreaming about going to try out living somewhere else, as I talked about last month in my Change Junkie post. So, if I met someone who was going to move to Italy, I’d likely say:

Oh, wow, that’s so cool. I’ve always wanted to go live there.

That person would probably ask:

So why don’t you?

And I would tell them in a state of total self-awareness that I’m just blowing smoke. The words have no substance to them. The idea of living in Italy is totally awesome, but given the direction I’ve chosen for my life at the moment, it’s highly unlikely it would happen.

Problems arise however when people don’t have that same level of self-awareness. They can’t make the distinction between pipe dreams and real desires. These people then act on none of their dreams because after talking so much they can’t distinguish reality from daydream and can’t recognize the dreams that they really do want to follow through on.

Fear of the Future

When people expressed their envy at my impending trans-Atlantic adventure, I asked them why they didn’t pursue whatever dream they were saying “someday” to. The most common response went something like this:

I um, well you know. It’s… I have a lot… my family is… um, I just can’t.

To that (at the time) I had no answer. These people, although they might have talked about dreams, weren’t ready to face them. The idea of making a major change in their life freaked them out too much and filled them with questions like:

  • What if I don’t like what I change my life into
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I succeed? Do I deserve to be happy?

And many other similar questions.

Although at the time I had no answer, over the years since making the big leap, I’ve become fascinated by the reasons why not and by the fear that people fear about doing something they love.

And for that reason I started Someday Syndrome, helping people conquer that fear through stories about my own Someday Journey and through the journeys of other people.

It’s also why I write for sites such as The Bridgemaker because no one should look at their dreams and say “my family is… um, I just can’t.”

Alex Fayle, of Someday Syndrome, is a former procrastinator who uses his visionary ability to uncover hidden patterns and help you break the procrastination obstacle so that you can finally find freedom and start living the life you desire. Learn more about how you can start loving life again at

  • Jnly

    Its not that i believe those things.. i believe it’s my turn to take care of them and i’ve seen the things we have been through… why not make them better?

  • @Gerlaine
    My pleasure! Glad I could help!

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  • 1. I think my family is too weak to handle the experience.

    I am guilty of thinking this way! I have no problem living my dreams. My family is strong and they can live without my support. This has helped me to make a new decision.

    Thank you.

  • @Janet
    I figure if I tell people like it is, they’ll do the same for me and I’ll realize what I’m doing that doesn’t help me achieve my dreams.

    I remember friends in elementary school who had to do activities because their parents never got a chance to as children. It always made me sad.

    Worrying about opinions of others, especially relatives, really can screw up our dreams. And as you say – our dreams can also make those around us uncomfortable and therefore unsupportive. It’s a hard balance to create. I remember in my Professional Organizing business where my clients would have to stop organizing because the changes in family routines (ie where Mom does everything) caused too many troubles and stress.

    It starts with small steps. Build up mini victories and you’ll build up the courage to make big changes.

    Glad to hear that fear isn’t ruling your life. I too let fear of my own writing hold me back from following my dream for 25 years. It’s amazing how freeing it is to not live by that fear, eh?