Making Your Big Dreams Happen
You’ve dreamt big. Now that a new year—and a new decade—is upon us, it’s time to make that big dream happen.
Maybe you’ve decided you want to start your own business or quit your job in order to pursue your passions. Perhaps you want to move to a bigger home or move across the country. Maybe you just to make a personal change by running a marathon, writing a novel, or reaching your goal weight.
All of that might sound impossible when first deciding that’s what you want. And certainly, some dreams will take more work (and time) than others to pull off. Here are a few things to consider when taking that leap of faith and making those big dreams a reality in 2020.
Visualize Your Dream
When you decide on a big life goal, you need to make it crystal clear what it means to you; this is not the time to be vague. Paint an ideal picture in your head to make it as easy as possible to imagine yourself actually doing it.
For example, if you want to take a big trip, start digging into the details right away, even if it might not happen for a couple of years. Ask yourself questions like, Where you want to go and why? What are the major sights you want to see? Choose not only cities to visit but also go online and research your ideal hotels. Look up airfare and local transportation. Do you want to take a train or bus to get around? Google can be your friend here. And whenever you can, talk to people who have been there or even better, people who live there.
Or maybe you’re ready to move to a new town—or new country. Start “window shopping” possible new homes, restaurants you might go to, new hobbies you could pick up.
Another way to visualize your dream is to create a vision board. This can be a Pinterest board or a collage you construct out of images and words you cut out of magazines. The process of collecting these images will help you narrow down what you want (or don’t want), and the finished product will help you focus on your dream over the course of the year.
The more details you gather up from the very beginning, the more “real” it will become in your head, and the more information you will have for the planning stage (below).
Believe in Yourself
If you really want a big dream to happen, you must believe in yourself and erase all doubts. You deserve to have a successful business, to travel the world, to look great in evening attire. In fact, you deserve it more than anyone else, and it’s about time you got what you wanted. In fact, why don’t you have it already?
This rationale may sound over-the-top, but it’s the secret sauce to having your dreams come true. As a prime example, consider a group of four young men from working-class backgrounds who rose to the top of their field: The Beatles.
They didn’t become so successful just because they were good, or because they happened to be in the right place at the right time. To be sure, they worked really hard at what they wanted, and they were smart about how to get ahead. But it was their unwavering belief that they would be successful that got them to the top. As one writer from The Daily Beast explained, “The Beatles’ secret ingredient was arrogance.”
“Unlike most of us, they (The Beatles) remained arrogant until their ability finally matched their ambition. Arrogance was the reason they abandoned everything but music. George failed out of high school and bailed on his electrical job. John flunked art college. Paul skipped his final exams, squandering his shot at university. Ringo, who barely had an education, ditched his five-year machinist apprenticeship after four years to play drums at a summer camp. Music was all The Beatles had left. It was their only shot.”
In other words, they became successful because they believed in themselves and did what they thought they needed to make their dreams happen. (Having said that, for every band like the Beatles, there were plenty of others who didn’t achieve their level of success. So be careful: few dreams are worth taking out a second mortgage on your home.)
Change Is Hard
All big dreams and life-altering moments involve change. Just like The Beatles eventual path to their dream of being successful, you’ll have to make some difficult changes (and likely some sacrifices) along the way.
Life coach Alissa Shilander-Hardin points out that “it’s not situations that are keeping us from our dreams…but ourselves.” We have to get “out of our heads” and look at the work ahead of us.
What does that look like in reality? Depending on your dream, you might have to start getting up earlier (or staying up later) to fit in exercise or writing, or doing your business after your regular job. Maybe you’ll have to create a budget and cut out extraneous spending or change the way you eat.
As productivity expert Vishal Kataria writes, “When people start something new, it feels amazing. They feel a surge of energy as they begin to shape their vision.”
However, Kataria goes on to explain that when this work gets harder for people, somehow their efforts start to decline. This could be attributed to a variety of reasons , including but not limited to new responsibilities, lack of time and self-imposed defeat.
All these reasons, Kataria says, add up to one thing: “Aversion against discomfort.”
So when you first realize that pursuing your big dream won’t be easy, you’ll be all the more prepared to experience the discomfort that inevitably comes from rearranging your life around. But if you want it enough, you can fight through the difficult moments to keep going.
Make Concrete Plans to Make It Happen
This is when you get down to the details. What do you need to do make your big dream happen?
Start by breaking down the big tasks into smaller tasks; things that seem more doable. Don’t forget to write it all of it down.
Let’s say, for example, that your dream is writing a book. The idea of writing 40,000+ words might seem overwhelming. So you start small. Create an outline of the book, chapter by chapter. Give it a title. Consider the audience. Once you’ve done your pre-planning, start writing. Maybe you can do 500 words a day. That might not seem like a lot, but at that pace, you can write a 40K nonfiction book in 80 days. That’s less than three months!
Here’s another useful example. You want to start a new business. You can do the first steps, such as setting up a bank account and registering your website domain name, in a day. The other things, like building a website, marketing your business, dealing with accounting issues, and so forth will take some time, but you can do them a little at a time.
Set a Date
As you think of the process you’ll need to make your dream a reality, give yourself a deadline.
It doesn’t have to be absolute (all or nothing), but having a concrete date will shift you into gear. So tell yourself you’ll have a book written by July, or you’ll lose 20 pounds before you go on that trip next summer.
As an example: after years in the same place, I was ready to change jobs. Well over a year beforehand, I started telling people that I would no longer be working in the same place by December 2012 either because the Mayan prophecy had come true or because I got a new job. That was my go-to line any time it came up.
Telling people had the double effect of solidifying my resolve as well as holding myself accountable. I really didn’t want to face people if I was in the same place in January 2013. (And as it turned out, I was out six months ahead of my deadline!)
Spread the Word
It’s one thing to have a secret deep down inside, but you need to hold yourself accountable for this dream to happen. One of the best ways to keep yourself moving forward is to tell people about it. Let your most supportive friends and family in on your big plans.
Once you start telling people that you’re going to quit your job or go to Tahiti, it becomes a real thing in your head—it’s not just a crazy idea, but it’s real.
It’s worth noting a caveat: some people might offer resistance or discouragement. In fact, the people closest to us often find our dreams threatening or scary. What if you climb that mountain? Will you still love them? If you lose all that weight, will you start looking for a new partner? For these reasons, some people recommend you keep your dreams to yourself.
Personally, I disagree with that logic. It’s inevitable that someone will challenge your goal sooner or later. So when you encounter such resistance, this is an opportunity to explain why your dream is so important and demonstrate the steps you’re taking to make it happen. Be prepared for some people to not share your enthusiasm but don’t let the naysayers bring you down.
Expect the Obstacles
Not every dream happens the way we think it will. In fact, it’s almost a certainty that you will have small failures or setbacks along the way.
If you’re saving money for something big, that’s when the car will break down or the dog will need to go to the vet. If you’re trying to build a new business, your website might take longer than you thought or you’ll find out that a supplier isn’t available.
Shilander-Hardin points out that “any parent, successful person, therapist or life coach will tell you that failure is a part of the journey. It just depends on if you learn and pick yourself back up and push onward and upward or fall and don’t get up.”
She suggests that if you can’t figure out the steps to achieving your dreams or you encounter a barrier you can’t figure out the way around, that’s when seeking out coaching can help you move forward.
Whatever happens, you can’t give up. You have to keep going. Acknowledge the disappointment, the failure, and the temporary string of bad luck.
Do One Thing Every Day
When you’re working towards your dream, one of the best strategies is to break it into smaller pieces. By looking at a big change in terms of baby steps, it won’t seem so difficult.
A great way to do this is to do one thing, however small, every day. This will allow you to make regular progress towards your goal.
Why is this important? As you strive to bring your dream to life, you’ll likely discover that life is the biggest obstacle. Something is always getting in the way of us changing our lives.
What could you do each day? You might add to your vision board, writing in your journal, taking one step forward on your business plan, or making one call to a prospect.
These may seem like small things but doing something every day takes you just a little closer, and progress is a huge motivator in tough times.
Now it’s your turn!
Tell us about your big dreams, both the ones you have already achieved and the next big one you’re working on now!