What do you do when your lifelong dreams become reality, yet you feel unhappy or even empty inside? Maybe you’re disappointed, deflated, or even depressed after the biggest moments of your life or career.
It may seem odd and even contradictory, but we have to learn how to be happy after we get what we want. Why? Because we put our hopes and expectations in something – a dream – that can never fill our deepest needs and desires.
“I’m honored to be part of your dreams coming true,” said the art director at my publishing house. “I know you dreamed of getting published, and I love being part of an author’s dream come true.” It was exciting to write Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back for a respected publisher, but the truth is that it wasn’t exactly a dream come true. Writing a book would’ve been a dream come true fifteen years ago — and I would’ve felt empty and unhappy after it happened. Things are different today.
Feeling empty and unhappy when your dreams come true is surprisingly normal! You worked toward your goals and dreamed of how happy you’d be. You had no idea what it would actually feel like when your dreams came true. You weren’t prepared for the emptiness and disappointment — and you certainly never thought you’d be searching for tips on how to be happy after your dreams come true. You thought happiness was part of success.
Here’s what actor and comedian Jim Carrey said about dreams coming true: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
What, then, is the answer? How do you find happiness after success? I’m glad you asked!
How to Be Happy When Your Dreams Come True
This article is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project — and it’s inspired by Genesis 42. A few chapters earlier Joseph dreamed that his brothers and father would bow down before him. He had two dreams like this…and his dreams came true 20 years later. Was Joseph happy when his dreams finally became reality? Nope. In fact, Genesis 42 was one of the lowest and saddest points of Joseph’s life.
Joseph’s dreams — which he had while sleeping — were from God. Despite this, Joseph’s dreams coming true didn’t make him happy. Why? Perhaps because he wasn’t created to achieve goals and experience success. Joseph was created for more…and so are we.
1. Consider the source of your dreams and plans
Joseph didn’t dream of becoming a rich, powerful, influential man. He didn’t plan anything in his life, in fact. He was favored by his father Jacob, sold into slavery by his brothers, and unfairly imprisoned in Egypt for years. Joseph’s didn’t conceive and try to achieve his dreams; rather, his dreams were given by God. Joseph didn’t expect anything. He trusted and feared God above all else. Maybe God was Joseph’s dream…and maybe God was Joseph’s dream come true. Maybe this is why Joseph’s story ended “happily ever after” — because he let God’s dreams for his live take precedence over his own will.
Where do your dreams come from? Having dreams is exciting. Working toward your goals is challenging. Actually experiencing a dream come true is a highlight of life! And success can make you happy if your heart (and dream) is in the right place. Who or what is the source of your dreams? Your job is to figure out where your dreams come from (your parents? your ego? God? your friends? your wounds?). Knowing the source will help you be happy when your dreams actually come true.
2. Participate with God’s dreams and plans for your life
Joseph had few choices in his life, but when he was given an opportunity to succeed he jumped at it. Joseph took one step at a time and followed up on one opportunity at a time. He walked through open doors and did the best he could in every situation. Joseph participated in God’s plans and dreams for his life by speaking up, taking risks, asking for help, and sharing his true thoughts and feelings. Joseph wasn’t always happy, and his dreams took a long time to come true. And yet he kept moving forward, making the best of every situation, and trusting God with his future.
Keeping walking toward your dreams. Becoming a published author, making millions of dollars, traveling the world, getting your medical degree, finding your dream job — those are good dreams to have! And they may very well be from God. He created you with certain inclinations, drives, gifts, abilities, interests. God’s dreams for you are bigger than you could dream for yourself! And if you do the work in front of you, walk through open doors and keep moving forward you will be happy when your dreams come true. Choose to participate with God’s dreams and plans for your life, to partner with Him, and to let Him lead the way.
3. Put dreams in their proper place
Genesis 42 tells us how Joseph’s dreams came true (his brother did bow before him). Genesis 42 also tells us that Joseph wasn’t happy when his dreams came true. In fact, he wept. Joseph was overcome with despair and grief because it wasn’t what he expected. The dreams he had as a young man were nothing like the reality he experienced 20 years later. He was heartbroken. Joseph hadn’t been working toward his dreams all those years; in fact, Genesis 42:9 tells us he remembered his dreams. Joseph’s dreams weren’t his number one goal or reason for living. They were in their proper place.
How important are your dreams? If your dreams are more important than anything, then you won’t be truly, deeply, permanently happy (joyful!) when they come true. Your dreams can’t be everything you want them to be. They can’t fill you with life, light, joy or peace. Achieving your goals and dreams isn’t why God put you here on earth, and that’s why you feel unhappy and empty when your dreams come true. You were created for something bigger, more exciting, and more fulfilling — and that something is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you make Jesus your dream, then it won’t matter what happens in your life. Your experiences might be happy or sad, safe or scary, exciting or boring, joyful or grievous…but your peace and joy will always be the same. You won’t have to search for tips on how to be happy when your dreams come true because you’ll be filled with the only true source of freedom, hope, and life.
What sort of relationship do you have with Jesus? How does He fit into the dreams and plans you have for your life? Your thoughts — big and little — are welcome below.
With His love,
P.S. Are you struggling to make a decision or find the right path in your life? Read an Easy Way to Stop Overthinking God’s Will for Your Life.