We all have dreams or aspirations; the challenge most people face is when to chase them. All too often, our dreams remain a plan and never come to fruition. Life gets in the way and we become satisfied with the status quo.
For some people, the idea of their dreams is enough. But for an increasing number, especially Millennials (and I predict generations to come), just the idea is not enough. They want to do, feel and experience the possibilities life has to offer.
The decision to chase or not to chase your dreams hinges on a variety of variables and is a very personal decision. However, with increased information and resources available, and a shift towards a gig economy, getting started is easier than ever.
After five years of climbing the ladder at a Fortune 50 company, I decided to stop procrastinating and start chasing my dreams. I had always wanted more out of life, but going after it was something I continually promised myself I would do later, when I had more time. I got real with myself and realized that later would always be just that – a future event, if I didn’t make the choice to turn later into right now. I had yet to form clearly defined goals or know where I was going, but I knew that standing still wasn’t working for me. So, I started moving forward, one step at a time.
I still have a long way to go and many different things to try, but after the first six months of committing to chasing my dreams I have already published my first book and am on my way to helping others find passion and purpose in their lives.
Jumping into change and shaking things up is definitely intimidating. But with the right attitude and unwavering persistence, I truly believe we can all accomplish great things. I have outlined 5 lessons learned along the way to help you stay the course and follow your dreams!
You don’t need a perfect plan to start. The first steps are usually the scariest and hardest, especially if you don’t know where to begin or exactly where you are going. Our hopes and dreams are uniquely special to us; we cherish and envision them as the perfect fairy tales of our future. However, putting your dreams on a pedestal and waiting for enough time, money and energy won’t ever turn them into reality -- you have to dive in and make it happen. It doesn’t matter if you start with baby steps or leaps and bounds. Each movement forward works to create the momentum you need to continue on. Take the opportunities even if you are unsure, say yes even if you don’t have time, and try even if you don’t know what you are doing.
When the opportunity arose to coauthor a book with Curt, I was busier than ever. I had no exquisite plan for my life other than knowing I didn’t want it spent sitting behind a desk. However, I did know that this particular opportunity aligned with my natural strengths and skillset and allowed me to pursue something I was passionate about. I dove-in head first. Whether this project is something I will pursue for one year or fifty is yet to be determined, but that is part of the experience. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as blazing your own trail and seeing where it takes you.
You know more than you think you do (and if you don’t you will figure it out.) Nobody enters a new industry an expert. Sure, certain skills come more naturally to some people than others, but mastering anything takes time, practice and patience. If you are truly passionate about something, you are already well ahead of the average person. If you are able to align that drive and motivation with your natural strengths and talents, you greatly increase your odds of success in whatever it is you are striving to be or accomplish. Mix in some dedication and confidence and you have the foundation necessary to begin tackling your vision.
Did I feel ready to author a book, launch a website and develop a marketing campaign? Heck no! As I started writing the book, I had lots of doubts. But each time I shared with others an idea that I was writing on, I was met with enthusiasm and agreement. I was not an expert on life success or lifestyle design, but that was OK. Experiencing the process and learning as I went, were just as relatable to others (if not more so) than reflecting back on the material. Jumping in without a fully baked plan ultimately worked to my advantage. It kept the process flexible and organic. Weaknesses became learning opportunities and strengths became competitive advantages. Taken together, this resulted in extraordinary personal growth.
You have to get comfortable with being vulnerable. Dreams are uniquely personal and play a big part in how we see ourselves. To actively chase your dreams, you must put them out there and risk that the reality may diverge from the idea. In your mind, you have full control over your dreams. In the real world, they are subject to the harsh realities of regulation, financial constraints, and criticism. It is much easier to keep your ideas safe and comfortable in your own head. You must do some soul-searching and ask yourself if the risk of exposing your dreams is worth the reward of achieving them. If the answer is yes, take some time to think through the different possibilities and variations of making your dreams come true to help manage expectations.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read and write. Although I didn’t start out in corporate communications, I quickly found myself taking on more and more writing projects that directed me on a path toward that role. Over the years I started writing a variety of different fiction books, but never seemed to get very far. From the outside, leveraging my personal and professional experience to write a book may seem like a no brainer, but for me it wasn’t quite so obvious. That wasn’t my dream, or so I thought. I knew I wanted to work for myself and help people, but I hadn’t considered doing so in this capacity. Taking a chance and voicing some of my thoughts and wishes to Curt opened the door to possibilities I had never imagined and ultimately led to publishing my first book.
It will get harder before it gets easier. The 2009 movie He’s Just Not That Into You does a great job of explaining the concept of being the rule vs. the exception. We tend to see how things are, and then think that somehow we are going to defy the odds and be different. However, in most cases, we follow the pattern and fall prey to the rule. Yes, your idea may be great and your skills exceptional, but starting a business or altering your life takes a lot of work and adjustment. You must be unconditionally passionate about your endeavor and prepare to sacrifice time, energy and finances. We all hope to be the exception, but you must be prepared for the inevitable challenges ahead, or you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
As I am in the early stages of building my business, I am working a corporate job and managing other side projects while I see the direction this journey takes me. Juggling all of the roles and responsibilities in my life can be exhausting. I knew starting a side hustle would take a lot of extra work and willpower. What I didn’t consider was the emotional toll. What would my friends and family think? How would my spouse feel about the financial investment? When would I find time for housework? And forget about taking time to recharge! While I have been fortunate enough to receive nothing but support and encouragement from everyone in my life, I did have to get creative and work through some unexpected challenges that I know were just the beginning.
Regardless of the outcome, the experience is worth it. In science, no experiment is a failure. Every unproven hypothesis is part of the process to reaching the correct answer. Even if you get the correct answer the first time, you often have to perform tests on other variables to support your findings. Life is very much the same. Regardless of the outcome of your endeavors, the knowledge gained along the way takes you closer to achieving your dreams. You may find success right out of the gate, or your aspirations may evolve throughout the process. The main thing is to learn from your experiences, good or bad, and know that you are moving in the right direction.
I still do not know how this project will evolve, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am grateful for the experience. I learned that it’s not as scary as it seems to go after what you want, even if it doesn’t go as planned. I have a better understanding of myself for it and have built deeper relationships with many of the people in my life. I may not have outsized sales or followers yet, but I have the experiences and that is enough to keep me moving forward in pursuit of my dreams. I hope you do the same!