Once upon a time there was a young boy who dreamed of owning a lion. He would wake up every morning and plan his day around how he could learn more about lion behavior. He watched animal planet, he attended webinars, and he scoured over magazines and websites devoted to lions. Shockingly, lions didn’t scare the young man. They fascinated him. He was enamored by their strength. Captivated by their power. Convinced that the world would be better if he could have a savage lion of his own, the young boy determined in his mind that he would do everything within his power to make his dream of owning a lion become a reality. Finally after many years of saving and research and education and preparation, the young man got a lion of his very own. It was an amazing and energizing experience at first. With his young lion cub at his side, the young boy spent every waking hour nurturing it. The perfect afternoon was spent rolling around on the ground with his lion, teaching him to fetch, and having fun with the lion. The young man didn’t go many places or have many outside interests because he was so smitten by the idea of growing his lion into a heathy strong lion that one day might protect him and even his family. The young man even hoped on some level that his lion might even protect the whole community one day. Yes, this was a special lion indeed. Based on his years of research and preparation, the young man payed special attention to feeding his lion. He knew that in order for his lion cub to grow into the fierce adult protector he dreamed about, he needed food. And lots of it. So the young man fed his lion. And he fed it some more. And he fed it some more. And his baby lion grew into a giant enormous king lion. The king lion was truly majestic. He stood tall and strong and he was capable of protecting not only the young man’s family, but also the whole community. The young man’s dream had become a reality! One day, when the young man was fully invested in continuing to grow the lion he decided to spend some extra time with what had now become his obsession. As he walked into the lion’s den, the young man felt tired from all of his work with the lion, but proud of his accomplishment. He turned the corner and laid eyes on his dream. The lion looked more formidable than ever. He was perfect. Strong. Impressive. Then the most surprising thing happened. The lion king looked at the young man that had dreamed of him for years. He looked at the same boy that had prepared and researched and worked to make this lion king so strong and formidable. And in an instant…the lion ate him.
And the moral of the story is: Don’t dream about a life that will one day eat you up.
We live in a world where we are constantly encouraged to “dream big”. To pursue a life that is purpose driven and that brings us tremendous fulfillment, success, or influence. While I’m all for living an intentional life that is focused on goal attainment, my fear is that many people create lives that are driven solely by the outcomes. How many people do you know that are so focused on their long-term goals that they miss the beauty of everyday. The young man in our story surrendered everything so that he could have a lion that ended up killing him. Many people that I see in my clinical office surrender their relationships for their jobs. Or they surrender their peace for the opportunity to be “more successful”. Or they surrender their character to get more influence or more opportunity. I encourage you to dream and to dream big. But I also caution you to guard yourself against the temptation to let your long term goals be the catalyst for decisions that will create stress and chaos that is simply not worth it in the long run. In short, don’t dream about a life that will one day eat you up.