I was emailing with a graduate of my Getting Unstuck course about her ongoing progress since the class ended and we were discussing the issue of living our dreams. What came up is the tension between staying on our own path of exploration and discovery and getting involved in helping others realize their dreams. This is a tension I see all the time, especially with people who are "helper" types, constantly on the look-out for ways to nurture and support the people around them.
This is what happens. As we work to implement our vision for our careers, we inevitably meet and connect with people who are working on their own career dreams. Sometimes in those connections, we will find people whose dreams intersect with our own; they are pursuing a path that is similar to ours or they need our help to create their dreams.
For people who like to support and help others, this is often a difficult moment. They see someone who could use their help and they are drawn to "fix" things or to own more of the other person's career dream than is healthy or necessary. They begin focusing on ways to help their fellow traveler and they lose focus on what they want to explore and make happen in their own lives.
If helping another person realize their career dreams also makes your dreams come true, then by all means, go for it. You have found a situation where you can help each other travel on the same path.
Often this is not the case though. Helping someone on their path is merely a distraction from us following our own. Sometimes it is even a convenient excuse for not creating our career vision--we are so busy being helping and nurturing other people, how could we possibly have time for our own dreams?
One thing I think we need to examine as part of ongoing professional development is the extent to which we may be expending energy and creativity on behalf of other people in our lives. How much of how we are living our lives is in support of someone else's goals, rather than a healthy expression of our own? This includes putting all of our energy into the goals of the company or organization where we work, rather than into our own development.
This is not to say that we should be selfish, looking out only for ourselves. But we need to seek balance, making sure that we are not sacrificing what we want in order to support everyone else.
The next time you're feeling stuck or unhappy in your career, take a look at how you may be supporting other people's dreams at the expense of your own. Try to find a way to get more balance and to take back your own vision. It can work wonders, I've found.