Dreams Can Come True:
The 7 Key Lessons to Turning Dreams into Reality
Early on in his career, college
football coaching legend Lou Holtz made a list of 107 things he wanted to
accomplish in his life. Among them were to go white water rafting, see the
pyramids, meet the Pope, have dinner at the White House with a sitting president
and be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It took Holtz and his wife 25
years but together they've accomplished 99 of those original goals.
My own dreams list includes
attending a national political convention (okay I'm weird), witnessing the
opening ceremony at the Olympics, spending at least a month on every continent,
studying with a master antique book restorer, learning to water paint, taking
swimming lessons, taking a year-long sabbatical and routinely having summers
big dream that's been on the front burner for about three years now has been
finding a house with a view. I work at home so where I live is really important
to me. I have this thing about wanting to live in the country. Not in the woods
though. I need space. Rolling hills, fields, maybe some cows in the background
(I love cows!). Think pastoral, bucolic, peaceful, private.
I've been doing a fair amount of
reflecting on the evolution of this dream and what I've learned in the process.
What I've discovered is that there are seven key lessons to realizing a dream.
Lesson #1: Listen to Your Inner Voices
My obsession with a view began
five years ago when I started vacationing on a small peaceful lake in central
New Hampshire. There's nothing much to do there but sit out on the deck and gaze
on the reflection of the mountains reflected in the lake and listen for the
enchantingly eerie call of the loons.
Despite carting up dozens of
books I found I rarely picked them up because it would mean taking my eyes off
the view. I found it utterly mesmerizing. This little voice inside kept
whispering, "Pay attention Valerie, pay attention." Like most people I ignored
these inner callings.
As the voice grew louder, it
became clear that while everyone enjoys a view, I craved one. I needed the
experience of having a view not for just one week out of the year but every day.
I didn't know quite how I was going to pull it off but I knew I had to listen.
Lesson #2: Put Your Dreams Out There
Few people reach their dreams
alone. You never know who might help you get where you want to be. It could be a
casual acquaintance, your dentist, a neighbor, a coworker... But one thing is for
sure, if you keep your dreams to yourself, you'll never find out.
Throughout the last presidential
election, I shared my dream of one day attending a national political convention
with anyone who would listen. One such person was a seminar attendee who
happened to be very high up at NBC news. Realizing an opportunity when I saw
one, I pitched myself as an over-qualified but very eager intern willing to do
whatever needed to be done... from making coffee, to making copies to doing van
runs to the airport. He handed me his business card and told me he'd see what he
Despite my champion's best
efforts, he wasn't able to get me in. While witnessing the democratic process in
action didn't pan out, deliberately putting my dream out there got me closer
than ever before. And, hey there's always 2008!
Lesson #3: Be Selective About
Who You Talk to About Your Dream
While making your dreams known is
the key to finding champions, teachers, and other supporters, you also need to
mindful of where NOT to look.
Take my friend Carol. She's a
great person, but she's a bit of a cynic. When I told Carol that I wanted a
house with a view, her response was, "Wouldn't we all?" While walking my dog
along a roaring stream I realized how healing I find the sound of moving water.
So I added a bubbling brook to my wish list, to which Carol replied, "Well, you
can't always get what you want."
Carol is right of course. You
can't always get what you want. But does the risk of not reaching a goal mean
you just throw up your hands in defeat? As opera diva Beverly Sills once reminds
us, "You may be disappointed if we fail, but you are doomed if we don't try."
Anyone can develop a sense of
optimism even natural cynics. If you're prone to negative thinking, read my
article If You Think You Can't Change Course You're Right available at
Lesson #4: Believe You Can
Henry Ford once said, "If you
think you can, or if you think you can't, you're right." As trite as this last
lesson may sound, believing your dream is attainable is fundamental to its
I need to be inspired as much as
the next person. One place both Barbara Winter and I both go to when we need a
boost of inspiration are the Making Dreams Happen CDs of which we are both a
part. Listening once again to one of Barbara Sher's presentations reminded me of
the powerful link between passion and belief.
Barbara was telling the group how
deep down inside we all know what we want. "When someone says they don't know
what they want," she says, "what they really mean is they don't think that what
they want is possible." In other words, the reason most people never even
attempt to go after their dream is because they don't think they can.
I knew getting my dream house
with a view wouldn't be easy. First I'd have to do all the painting, repairing,
and landscaping required to get my current house in shape to sell. Then I'd have
to put the house on the market, which, since I planned to sell it myself meant
taking photos, placing ads for open houses, and learning about all the legal
hoops involved in selling real estate. I'd also need to spend countless hours
scouring real estate listings, going to open houses and doing drive bys. I got
so desperate at one point that I wrote to homeowners to see if they'd like to
By far though I knew the most
daunting task would be packing. You see I come from a long line of pack rats
which meant confronting the monumental task of sorting through and packing 12
years of accumulated stuff, only to begin the unpacking all over again on the
Between my travel schedule and my
work commitments, I knew that achieving my dream would not be easy... but I always
new it was possible. As Louisa May Alcott once wrote, "We all have our own life
to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving... And we all have the power to
make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing."
Lesson #5: Take the Long View
Every so often I get a call for a
career consultation from someone who is having one of those "job from hell"
days. The desire for immediate relief is understandable. After all when your job
is toxic job you just want o-u-t, NOW!
Like these clients, you probably
don't want to hear this, but deep down you already know that making any real
change takes time. At the same time you have to start somewhere. And the fact of
the matter is that the next two years or five years or ten years are going to
come and go as quickly as the last ones did whether you do anything about your
dream or not.
So where would you rather be when
that time arrives in the same place you are now or where you want to be? Yes,
change takes time but it's the small steps that will get you to that better
future. Which leads us to our next lesson...
Lesson #6: Start Where You Are
The key to achieving any goal is
to simply start. Start somewhere... anywhere. If you're so up to your ears in
debt, then start by making a plan to become debt free. If your life is so busy
that you haven't taken the time to even know what your dreams are, take some
time this very week to find a quiet space and tune into your inner callings. If
you need information about becoming an equine massage therapist, or bringing
your product idea to market, or getting paid for your home design finesse then
get busy by finding and then learning from those who have already done it. The
bottom line here do what you can, but do something!
If you're having trouble getting
started, click here for six tips that can help
Lesson #7: Live in the Now
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Helen Hunt talked about
how she got the career she always wanted. Although she wasn't offering it as a
tip, Hunt's own experience of being grateful for what she had is informative.
You see, for Hunt the four Emmys, the five Golden
Globes, the Oscar and all of the rest were but icing on an already rich cake.
Reflecting on her years as part of the Mad About You television show's creative
team, Hunt told Rose, "If none of these other things had happened and I'd had
only that, I would have been a very, very lucky actress."
(To read all of Helen Hunt's success tips go to
It would have been easy to focus
on what I didn't like about the house I already had it was a busy street, the
houses were too close together, one of my neighbors drove me up the wall. And
yet, despite aggressively pursing my dream house, I never lost sight of what I
On the most basic level, I had
more than millions of people around the world a roof over my head, a bed to
sleep in, heat, safety. It was also a warm, inviting, and aesthetically pleasing
home. If I'd lived in that home for the rest of my life, I would have still been
very lucky indeed.
The lesson here is to not
focus so much on what lies ahead that you fail to appreciate past and present
blessings. Taking stock of how rich your life is right now will make any future
success all the sweeter.
A Room With a View
It took three years, but here I
sit one month into my fabulous new home in the country. Perched on a hill, the
house offers views on all four sides... cows in the east pasture, grand sunsets
over the hills to the west, woods outside my office window to the north, and I
was happy to report to Carol, a bubbling brook to my south.
"Well that's nice for her," you
may be thinking, "but I don't have that kind of money." I understand what it's
like to be strapped. When I left my high paying corporate job eleven years ago
my income dipped nearly in half. There have been times I've wondered how I'd pay
the bills. Over time I've managed to build my income up to more than my previous
salary. Still, I didn't buy a "starter mansion" and I'm not a wealthy person.
Money, or the lack of money, is
not necessarily a prerequisite to realizing a dream. True, if I hadn't had the
good fortune to have had a starter home to sell I could not have afforded the
house I got. But that doesn't mean I couldn't have found another way to get my
For example, I could have found a
lower priced fixer upper. Or, I could have rented. Even better, I probably could
have lived rent free as a property caretaker. (For true tales of
people living the caretaker life visit
My new dream? Summers off! I
can't swing it this year, but I'm seriously looking at taking off for at least a
portion of the summer of 06.
So what are your dreams? Which
one is speaking to you loudest right now? Where can you find support for your
dream? Who do you need to make a conscious effort not to share your dream with?
What are you grateful for right now?
Whether it's finding the cure for
cancer, or improving the schools in your community, or finding your dream job,
there may be many steps, but there is only one next action. What small
step can you take not tomorrow, not next week, but literally this very day in
the service of your dream?
Learn how you can Fast Track Your Dream of working at
what you love on your own terms.
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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