What Happens When Pursuing Your Dreams Leaves You Heartbroken?

“Living a life of purpose, mission, or service can be intense, sometimes heartbreaking and exhausting, and at the same time enormously fulfilling. The paradox of fulfillment is that it is possible both to have a sense of inner peace and to experience an outer struggle at the same time.” - Co-Active Coaching by Kimsey-House, et al.

When it comes to broken hearts, most of us are familiar with the romantic sort. But what we don’t always think about or experience is the kind of heartbreak that comes from pursuing our dreams.

The truth is that sometimes pursuing our passion isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it is broken hearts and disappointment. In this line of work, I am obviously a huge advocate for living life fully expressed and for taking steps toward a fulfilling life. There is such beauty, excitement and possibility that comes from doing so.

The positive side of pursuing a fulfilling life is the part that is really easy to talk about and what we hear the most from personal development gurus. It’s the fantasy. It’s the part of the journey when you have overcome all grueling obstacles, arrived at the top of the mountain, and all you feel is pride and happiness as you look out at the gorgeous life that surrounds you.

Let’s be real though. The moment you commit to something you really care about (whether it is a person or a passion) you become vulnerable. That’s why it can be so easy to play it safe, and be complacent in our unfulfilling lives. Because putting yourself and your heart out into the unknown of life is really scary, and it feels like avoiding the pain of disappointment is better than feeling the pain of regret.

I understand this feeling, and I am still an advocate for living life without regrets. I am a big advocate for believing that living a fulfilling life isn’t just meant for some people—it is meant for ALL people. I am a big advocate for taking a leap…but the truth is that sometimes a net does not appear.

Sometimes it takes so much effort to get the bravery and determination to actually put our vulnerable, passionate selves out there that there is a subconscious assumption that the hard part is over. We did it! We started on our path and now everything is going to be easy and amazing and wonderful!

Now, Life is brilliant and I believe the Universe supports us always. Sometimes that support IS easy, and if you practice gratitude it becomes easier to see the beauty of it. Inevitably, though, some obstacle will come your way, and it will be hard. It will be harder than you thought, and maybe you wonder why on earth is there more struggle. Haven’t you grown enough or suffered enough?

You may feel like you can’t handle any more stress or pain or disappointment, and the gravity of it all may leave you feeling just out of reach of your happy ending. And that is when the heartbreak sets in. Some people call this “the dip.” It happens after you decided to follow your heart, you became vulnerable, and you started to believe that you can achieve your dreams.

It also happens is one of the most valuable parts of your entire journey.

During this time of heartbreak you have the opportunity to show yourself just how strong and committed you really are. It is the moment you learn to recover and that recovering isn’t just a fluke, but a tool that can empower you to keep going even in the face of inevitable times of disappointment and sadness.

What do I mean by “recovering”? I mean taking a look at the pieces of your heart smashed by that one critic, or that one publisher’s rejection, or the lack of funding, or the internal saboteurs, or whatever it may be, and picking up the pieces with as much love and kindness as you can.

It may take a little while for all the pieces to be totally healed and put back together, but that isn’t all that recovery is about. Recovery is about knowing that you CAN pick up the pieces when things fall apart.

So often we are afraid to take a leap because we are afraid of what will happen when there is no net. We don’t have faith in the net, and the fear of just falling is too great so we never leap at all.

It is my belief that sometimes there really isn’t a net, but once you fall, crash, and bravely get back up again, the fall feels a little less intimidating. In those moments, witness your own strength, despite the pain, and know that you can recover again because you have done it before. When the fear arises you can let it pass because you know that when things don’t go as planned, or when your heart gets broken on the path of living a creative, passionate life, that you WILL recover.

It has taken me a long time to create that foundation of recovery, and to totally believe in my ability to get back up no matter what knocks me down. I used to move forward because I had faith that nothing else bad was going to happen to me again. I had to trick myself, in a sense. Now I move forward because I have faith in my ability to recover when times get rough.

I understand now that life is never going to be perfect or easy all the time, but that doesn’t matter because nothing will keep me down forever. Nothing will break my heart such that it never mends. As I continue to follow my path of fulfillment, I no longer pretend that failure doesn’t hurt or that setbacks are a breeze. I let myself fully feel the disappointment and the pain. I let my heart be broken, and then I move forward with love and self-compassion.

Being open to the pain hasn’t made me weaker or less clear. In fact, it is the total opposite. I am no longer afraid of disappointment or being sad, because I no longer believe those things will break me beyond repair. I know that whatever happens I will recover and because of that I am more willing to put myself out there and commit to my dreams than ever before.

The next time you get knocked down, focus on your ability to recover. Focus on the strength you have to keep going even with the pain or the disappointment, rather than ignoring it or becoming resentful of it. These challenges are your ally, not your enemy, and they will show you just how amazing you truly are.