Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ali Luke.
Have you ever dismissed a dream out of hand because you knew it was going to cost too much?
I’ve just finished a Masters degree in Creative Writing. My college offers a PhD program – which I didn’t even bother looking into.
Sure, I love being a student. I love being around other writers who are focused on their craft. But a PhD? First, being a Doctor of Creative Writing just sounds silly. And obviously, it’s going to cost a load of money.
Last night, something shifted. I realised that a PhD in Creative Writing wouldn’t be quite so ludicrous after all – I’m coaching writers now, and want to stay on top of my game. In some form or other, I’m always going to be learning.
So I figured I’d take a look, and see what astronomical fee I’d need to pay to take a PhD.
Turns out, less per year than my Masters cost.
It would be a big commitment, sure – but a feasible one.
Dollars and Dimes
I’m guessing that at some point, you’ve had a similar experience. You’ve looked into something which you expected to be totally out of reach – and you realised it was possible.
Travel is a popular one. I’ve always assumed that round-the-world travel was only for the rich. After reading Tim Ferriss and Chris Guillebeau, I know that actually, it’s possible to do that sort of travel on a budget – even spending less than I’d be spending on rent back home.
It’s not my dream (at least, not at the moment), but it’s an option.
What expensive dreams do you have? Do you really know if they’ll cost that much?
For instance, a lot of the folks I talk to think that starting up a business takes a huge chunk of cash. Seeing as you’re reading Productive Flourishing, you’ve probably got your head around that one. You don’t need a bank loan to start a small business. You can get going with just a few dollars for a website domain and hosting. (Not convinced? Read The Rebirth of Entrepreneurialism.)
Money can be earnt – or borrowed or given. If you start to run low on money, you can cut back your spending or increase your income. It might not be easy to do, but it’s a straightforward concept.
But whenever you go for a dream, you’ve got other, less tangible, costs.
We all have twenty four hours in a day. Sure, if you’re rich, you can pay people to take care of the more mundane aspects of your life – but you still can only experience twenty four hours in one day and seven days in one week.
I know it’s obvious. But we’re not always very good at remembering it.
How much is your time worth? How much time will your dream cost?
It might not take as much time as you think – contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to work crazy hours to succeed in running a small business.
But it might take more. I tend to have a rose-tinted view about how long a project will take. I have to tell myself that a PhD would be a very significant time investment and that, at the moment, it’s not one I’m willing to commit to.
You can’t get your time back. That’s a good reason to go for your dreams (rather than spend your time settling for second-best) – but make sure that they really are your dreams, and that they’re worth it, to you.
Time on its own doesn’t give you much. If you’re exhausted or stressed out, you won’t be able to use your time well.
However passionate you are about your dreams, they’ll require energy. This is pretty obvious with physical energy – however much you love running, you’re not going to attempt three marathons in a day.
When it comes to mental and creative energy, it’s harder to see your limits. If you’ve cleared a full day to work on your book, you might think you can write solidly for eight hours.
You might be able to sit there and physically type for eight hours, but producing good, thoughtful work takes a lot of energy. You’ll have peak times in the day when you feel in the zone – and times when all you want to do is nap.
How much energy will your dream take? You probably won’t know until you try it out.
Don’t run yourself into the ground. Learn and respect your limits.
Sure, you can usually replace energy – by relaxing or sleeping. But if you get to the point of real burnout, you’ll be struggling to get back onto the path towards your dreams.
What are your dreams?
What will they cost – in terms of your money, time and energy? Is it as much as you think?