Getting ahead in life can be challenging. It requires hard work. It requires determination. And just when you think it should all be falling into place, you realize you’re heading in the wrong direction. At times like this we wonder: do we keep moving forward toward our dreams, or should we just call it and give up?
The Choice to Make
Given the choice between trying once again after a series of failures and simply accepting life as it is and giving up on our dreams, I lean strongly on the side of following our dreams. In fact, I wouldn’t say it’s so much leaning as it is standing right behind our dreams looking over at the other choice with a pair of binoculars. Dreams are something to be pursued until our dying day.
It’s not just about achieving our dreams. It’s also about living life. Sit and watch TV or paint a picture? Take another nap or write a book? Sit and listen to boring gossip or learn lines for a play? Why in the world would we want to give up on our dreams?
Not to mention, when we paint and write and rehearse, we become better. We become smarter. We become more interesting – more amazing. The more we pursue our dreams, the closer we get to them. But regardless of when we catch them, we are always becoming more like them as we try.
So how do we know the right way to catch our dreams? How do we make sure we are doing the right things? How do we find the strength and stamina when things get tough? By following three simple rules.
1. Learn and Adjust
No matter what we want to do, we won’t know it all and we won’t be doing all the right things. You may be the best farmer in the world, but if you want to create and sell your produce as a national brand, you will have to learn a lot about marketing and packaging, and a ton of other things.
You may be the best stage actor in the world, but if you want to hit the small or big screen, you will have to change a lot about what you do; you will no longer go through a script line by line, but by skipping around a line here and a line there. And when you speak, you no longer want to cast your voice out to be heard by an auditorium; you need to speak normally and casually.
To make sure we are on the right track, we want to be constantly learning, and constantly thinking “are the things I’m doing today the things I need to be doing? What should I do differently?” Read daily, at least one book a month. Evaluate yourself kindly, but honestly. Make sure you are doing the right things to catch your dreams.
2. Take Small Simple Steps
Making huge changes is hard. Our minds reject them. We are built on habits. Our brains work hard and has a lot to do, so it builds efficiency circuits we call habits. It lets us mindlessly do things we’ve done over and over with less energy.
So when we try to introduce new actions, the brain fights it. It has not created an efficiency circuit for these new activities, so it tries to bring us back to the things that require less energy.
Additionally, new things set the brain on edge. When it sees something that it’s unsure about, it likes to trigger our fight or flight response. When things rise to the level of requiring more than what we are ready to give, this response can be triggered.
So, to avoid wrestling with our own built-in booby traps, we simply need to come up with a different approach. Instead of taking big steps toward our goals, like completely changing our diet, we take small steps, by introducing a new serving of vegetables each day. Our fight or flight response is not triggered, we slowly build a habit, and over time we continually increase our good habit until we find ourselves enjoying a healthy lifestyle.
3. Focus and Have Faith
We not only need to learn more, and make small changes over time, we also need to focus on one thing at a time and let the other non-urgent things fall by the wayside.
I have a lot of goals that I focus on each year: a few for my relationships, one on money, one on my business, one on health, one on volunteering, one on my musical aptitude and a few more. Most of these are baseline goals – they are just there to make sure I don’t neglect one thing while going after another.
Yet sometimes I think about those baseline goals. When I do simple weight lifting, I often think I should start increasing the amount. But then I remind myself to let that go. I am focusing on other things. If that becomes something I should focus on, when the time is right, I will be drawn to do it. Trying to focus on it while I’m focusing on other things will only burn me out and make me less successful in all of them.
Sometimes we simply need to find the key things to focus on and believe that the other things will fall in line where they should. If we are headed in the right direction, we need to rest easy knowing that we are focused on the right things for now, and, as we need to focus on other things, they will be obvious to us.
Three Simple Steps to Achieving Your Dreams
If you want a magic wand to catch your dreams, then you won’t achieve them. The act of pursuing them and making them real is where the magic is.
But you can still catch them if you just take these three easy steps:
1. Learn and Adjust: Read at least a book a month and prepare to apply what you learn.
2. Take Small Simple Steps: Find the right-sized action to take and move forward!
3. Focus and Have Faith: Focus on the key things you want; believe the rest will fall in line.
You can do it! Chase your dreams. As Oprah said: “The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”