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Why Dreaming is Killing Your Dream

Are your dreams holding you back? Find out why and how to overcome it.
Why Dreaming is Actually Killing Your Dreams - Article by Jeremy Ames, CEO and Co-Founder of Guidant Financial.

In October 2009, a group of researchers from Duke, Loyola College, and Baruch College conducted a study to test the impacts of customer choices when faced with different menu options. What they found was disturbing.

In the initial study, half of the participants received a menu filled with unhealthy options like French fries and chicken nuggets. The other half received a menu with the same items, plus a side salad. What do you expect happened to the group that had the healthy option?

If you guessed that most participants didn’t opt for the side salad, you’d be right. Yet that wasn’t even the disturbing part. Customers in the group with the salad option actually chose less healthy options overall. Even worse, the customers with the highest graded levels of self-control made the least healthy choices.

In this case, the presence of a salad on the menu has a liberating effect on people who value healthy choices,” Gavan Fitzsimons, a professor of marketing and psychology at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business who conducted the research, said. “We find that simply seeing, and perhaps briefly considering, the healthy option fulfills their need to make healthy choices, freeing the person to give in to temptation and make an unhealthy choice. In fact, when this happens people become so detached from their health-related goals, they go to extremes and choose the least healthy item on the menu.”  

So now that you know why McDonald’s carries salads on their menus, how does this relate to dreams of business ownership?

Dreams are fun. They fill us with warmth as we imagine a better future — without all the headaches of reality. We imagine owning a business. We imagine having freedom of our time, pursuing a purpose that ignites our passion, and, of course, immense financial success. We tell ourselves that our dream is multiple years in the future… a future far enough out that our dream isn’t spoiled by thoughts of the actions we need to take now to get there. 

Man day dreaming in an office space.

That’s the problem with dreams. They give us the satisfaction of working toward our dreams without doing any of the work that makes them a possibility in the future.

Our dreams are the rice cakes of reality. They fill us with empty calories at the moment, all while we barrel toward a future of regret. In the study, the researchers explained this phenomenon as “vicarious goal fulfillment,” where the mere act of thinking about achieving a goal can undermine our motivations — and even steer us toward making decisions that could lessen our chances of success in the long run.

To counteract this human tendency, we need to leverage our future desires to drive action today.

If we want a fit body, we don’t sit on our couch and dream of having 6-pack abs. We get a gym membership, lace up our sneakers, and get to work.

If you want to be a business owner in the future, there are things you can do to set yourself up for success today. That doesn’t mean you have to commit to that future right now. But it does mean that your actions today will either increase or decrease the possibilities down the line, including the opportunity to one day own a business.

The key is not to wait. The longer you spend dreaming without taking action, the less your subconscious will believe that an entrepreneur is hiding inside you.

Philosopher Lao Tzu said, “The journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step.”

So, take a small step today toward your dream. Plan to take another small step each quarter. Keep doing that, and your future will fill with possibilities — the kind that may be even bigger than your dreams.

Ready to take a small step toward achieving your dream today? Check out my article on 4 Things to Do NOW to Create a Future as an Entrepreneur.

If you’re ready to take your business dream to the next level, partner with Guidant Financial and join the ranks of over 30,000 U.S. small businesses that we’ve helped launch and grow. Whether you’re starting fresh or scaling up, we can help you reach your business dream.

Call us today at 425-289-3200 for a free, no-pressure business consultation to get started — or pre-qualify in minutes for business financing now!


Jeremy Ames is the Co-Founder and CEO of Guidant Financial, a company that has helped launch of over 30,000 small businesses since 2003. Jeremy’s experience as a business owner spans both franchises and start-ups. He has owned three franchise businesses across the real estate, personal services, and wellness sectors and also founded or co-founded five other businesses, including ventures in the media and business services industries. He is a staunch advocate for small business ownership, believing it to be the best route to personal and financial independence.

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