How to move forward when a dream ends — learn

Doug Keating
6 min readApr 22, 2018


Moving forward when a dream ends is tough. The bigger the dream the harder it is to move on. Each time a big dream of mine died I struggled to move forward.

Last week’s blog post was about what I decided to do when my dreams did not happen. At the end of that blog post, I described why it is important to move on after a dream dies. It is easy to say, but much harder to do.

This week I will start sharing one approach for how to move forward when a dream ends. It will take me a few weeks to describe all the details.

I am going to share some personal examples that you have not heard before. This approach has worked well for me. I hope it helps you.

Learn the lessons you need to know

The first step in moving forward is to think critically about what happened.

Why did your dream end? What are the lessons that you need to know so that you can move forward successfully?

It is important that you learn and grow or you will likely be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Smart people learn from their mistakes. Successful people leverage those lessons to their advantage in the future.

Dumb people do not learn. They keep doing the same things over and over hoping for a different result.

It is an easy trap to fall into. I know because I have been that guy. The one who thinks if I try a little harder things will improve. Sometimes they don’t.

More effort does not always produce better results. It is a lie many believe.

The most successful people I know are learners.
The most successful people I know are learners.

Ask yourself some really hard questions

Make sure that you ask yourself the hard questions.

Questions like what role did I play in causing my dream to end.

What mistakes did I make?

What could I have done differently?

It may be convenient to blame others or circumstances for why your dream ended.

In fact, the easier road to take is to tell yourself that it is not your fault. Perhaps some of it is not. But, the truth is that all of us share some responsibility for what happens to our dreams.

You will learn the most when you ask hard questions.
You will learn the most when you ask hard questions.

Holding yourself accountable requires analysis

For example, I am at least 50% responsible, if not more, for why your mother and I divorced. I blamed her when it happened, but that is not fair.

During the aftermath, I spent a lot of time thinking about what went wrong and asked myself many hard questions.

After that analysis, I finally recognized that I did a lot of things wrong. I needed to hold myself accountable for the numerous mistakes I made as a husband, and learn from them.

The list of mistakes I made is way too long to include here. Instead, an example is provided below.

You cannot blame your way into a better future. Andy Stanley.

I worked way too hard when I was married

One big mistake that I made as a husband was to put work before our family.

The reality is that I worked way too hard when I was married.

There were several legitimate reasons to justify my addiction to work. We were a one-income family living in the DC metro area. I put a lot of pressure on myself to provide for the family. I felt like we deserved to live in a big house and own nice things.

To support that lifestyle I spent long hours in the office advancing my career. A typical day started at 5:30 AM. I was in the office 10–12 hours a day.

It should not be surprising that I did not make many, if any, of your sports practices or school events. I was MIA.

I spent way too many hours in the office.
I spent way too many hours in the office.

The work did not end when I finally got home

I would get home from work late in the day, eat dinner alone, and then take out my laptop and work a few more hours.

A normal work week for me was over 60 hours. The norm is 40.

By Friday I was really tired. I spent many weekends working and catching up on sleep. I was sure to attend your sports games and make it to church Sunday mornings, but not much else.

When we took vacations I worked fewer hours, but I still worked. I remember sitting on the beach in the Outer Banks with my blackberry in hand hammering out emails rather than relaxing.

It was really rare that I would take an entire day off from work.

It is how I lived. It was a problem.

Over 60% of Americans admit that they work while on vacation.
Over 60% of Americans admit that they work while on vacation.

Working long hours is not a badge of honor

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with working hard. Everyone should.

I am a big fan of working hard, and even long hours when necessary. But, working ridiculous hours is not impressive.

Busy is not a badge of honor. I know many professionals who brag about all the hours they work as if it is something to be admired.

I used to do the same thing because I did not know any better. I shared the details above to illustrate a mistake, not to make myself sound important.

I regret that I put work above our family on a regular basis. It is a mistake I see many people make, especially men.

Your mother would ask me to work less and spend more time at home. I ignored her many requests and paid the price.

I work fewer hours these days

Nowadays I still work hard, but I do not spend nearly as much time in the office. I established boundaries and routines to make sure that I do other things besides put in long hours at the office.

It is a rare thing that I work on weekends. I still do when needed, like during the last holiday season.

But, that is the exception, not the norm. I also take more time off and do not work while on vacation.

One of the reasons we travel to Europe every summer is that it is nearly impossible for me to work while there. It is one of several safeguards that I put in place to prevent me from reverting back to bad habits.

Our trips to Europe have been great fun.
Our trips to Europe have been great fun.

I am more fulfilled and much happier

Work is not my number one priority in life anymore. Other things are like spending time with loved ones.

As a result, I feel more fulfilled and am much happier.

For example, we have spent a lot more time together since the divorce. I do not work on the weekends when we are together.

It has been a great joy to me getting to know both of you much better than before. You are fine young men. Both of you have probably noticed the difference in me now that work is not my number one priority.

At least I hope you do.

We have a lot of fun these days hanging out together.
We have a lot of fun these days hanging out together.

Learning life lessons will help you move forward

When a dream ends, you must make the decision to move on.

Start the journey by taking the time to learn and grow.

Figure out what happened. Identify the role you played, the mistakes you made, and what you will do differently next time.

If you do, you will learn. You will grow, and your life will get better. At least that is what my experience tells me.

If you do not learn, don’t be surprised if you get the same result next time.


I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.



Doug Keating

Leader and learner. husband and father. Novice blogger,, Founder of All The Way Leadership!