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Who Says You Can’t Live Your Dreams?

Valerie Young

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 211 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

Dreamers beware: for every dream there are 10 naysayers just waiting to dash it. It almost happened to Beverly Goodman Park. Park was close to 60 when her marriage ended. At an age when most people are contemplating retirement, Park decided to pursue a long-held dream of becoming an attorney. A lot of people told her she was too old. Undaunted, Park went to law school while working full-time, passed the bar exam, and at 61, landed a job at a law firm. Of her critics she says, "I thought this age stuff was baloney."

Walter Anderson, author of The Greatest Risk of All, says by the time we are in our 20s, we will have heard 25,000 "can’ts." Don’t expect a lot of support for your "foolish dreams." Instead, be prepared to reach deep within to turn "can’t" into "can." Here are two motivation-boosting tips to get you started:

Become the Future "You"

Dreams, by their very nature, are about the future. With so many present-day demands your dream can start to feel distant. The more far-off the goal, the less likely it is you will act on it.

How can you make sure your dream doesn’t fall prey to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome? By bringing it into the present. To do this you must become the future "you." Here’s how: The next time someone asks what you do for a living, try answering, not in terms of the present, but as if you were actively engaged in pursing your dream right this minute. In other words, squelch your pat "I’m an accountant/in sales/a social worker/a homemaker" response and instead try saying something like: "I’m an aspiring mystery writer," or "I’m looking into returning to school to become an oceanographer," or "I’m in the process of changing careers to pursue my love of gourmet cooking."

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t written a single page of your future bestseller, sent away for one college catalog, or lifted a finger to pursue your passion for cooking. What does matter is that the dream that once felt elusive will suddenly begin to feel real. And when that happens, you will be amazed at how much sooner you’ll get the change ball rolling. Before you know it, you will actually BE the future you!

Get Inspired

Someone who knows a lot about the power of "acting as if" is Steven Spielberg. Hoping to fulfill his filmmaking dreams, Spielberg explains that he snuck onto the lot of Universal Studios and became a "squatter" in an empty office. He even bought plastic letters to mount his name in the building directory. Security guards and exec’s alike thought the guy belonged there. His high jinks paid off. Spielberg’s first directorial break came when the studio bigwigs finally saw his first film and liked what they saw.

This and other success stories can be found in Mischief Marketing: How the Rich, Famous, & Successful Really Got Their Careers and Businesses Going. Author Ray Simon reveals how famous people as diverse as Mother Teresa, Duke Ellington, Andy Kaufman, rap artist Big Pun, and Benjamin Franklin really got started in life and how you can use their mischievous techniques to do the same.

As encouraging as success stories can be, learning about another’s failure can be just as inspiring. Did you know that Bob Dylan was booed off the stage at his high school talent show? Or that Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper job for "lacking ideas?" Or that Thomas Edison failed to perfect the light bulb until his ten-thousandth try? How many "can’ts" do you think these dreamers had to endure?

And when faced with a dream-buster, these "failure stories" can make great comebacks, too. Would Parks’ critics have been so quick to discourage had she pointed out that Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 80 years-old and that, of her over 1,500 paintings, 25 percent were produced when she was past 100?

"Persistence," said Robert Half, "is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite." As anyone who has ever chased a dream will tell you, disappointment, self-doubt, and failure go with the territory. The trick is to recognize these setbacks for what they really are – bumps in the road, not the end of the road.

Publisher Katherine Graham said it well: "To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?" This is your life we’re talking about here. So what are you waiting for? Catch a dream, have some fun and start turning can’t into can!

There are 11 comments. Add yours.

  1. Paula

    I once heard Tony Hillerman say that, when he was hawking his first mystery novel to publishers, one editor replied that it was a good story but he needed to get rid of “all that Indian stuff.” Fortunately, he ignored them, because “that Indian stuff” was one of the factors that made his novels (ultimately) a huge success.

    I think this illustrates a general point: Oftentimes, if you’re doing something unusual or unexpected, people will put it down or try to squelch it because they’re more comfortable with the “usual.” But the unusual is what makes your work distinctive, and that’s what your audience will find appealing.

  2. Christina

    What if you don’t know anymore what your dreams are? I am doing something now that brings in the money – a means to an end. Yet I don’t wake up raring to go because I love it; in fact, I hate just about every part of it. But, it is a great way to make the most money in the least amount of time – recouping previous losses.

  3. That’s easier said than done. I have failed as an electrician because I cannot pass the tests. I still work at it though because my boss is patient with me and I work hard. I am still looking for that dream job that will take me into my retirement as I am 55 now and I do not know what my dreams are!

  4. Laura Kennedy

    I love this article! And it jives with my own experience. I’ve usually been able to make whatever I want to happen happen. My current problem is that at this point in my life, my “dream” is elusive. I’ve been sniffing around, trying various things, and nothing really speaks to me. Or rather a lot of things do, but none with a voice that stands out from the rest. And I need to generate income. So right now I’m in search of a dream. How do you find one?

  5. Della Pitre

    Thanks for this article, Valerie…it came at a good time for me. A great bit of encouragement as I am pushing forward to take the leap. I finally feel ready, am clarifying my dreams and hope to see where it takes me soon. These type of articles always cements what is needed for inspiration and the ‘get up and go’ attitude that you sometimes lack or are afraid to do until you read something like this and think…’hmm, I could do that….I CAN do that!’ So thanks again!

  6. This is a most inspiring article. It was uplifting and made me feel even more hopeful and conscious that my dreams can and will be realized and that by keeping a positive “I can” attitude I create the energy to fulfill my dreams. Thank you for the gift of inspiration.

  7. Bonnie Pond

    Thanks for an inspiring article. Like Beverly Park, I am almost 60 and creating a new career/unconventional business for myself. It’s hard work, it’s scary at times, and lots of people just don’t “get it.” They just look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I tell them what I plan to do. I suppose some people think that at my age I should just stay “retired” and be done with it. Sometimes we just have to get out there and go for it, no matter what others think. I don’t think age is necessarily a limiting factor and am enthusiastic and excited about moving forward. No sitting in a rocking chair and waiting to die for me! Here’s to all those out there working to create their dream lives!

  8. Love it! Thanks for the inspiration. I so needed that today. It’s important to surround ourselves with messages that remind us who we really are and not who we think, or that others think we are!

    I too am an outof the box business — going for it has looked foolish and whacky to some. That must mean I’m on the right path,eh?

  9. WOW! Thank you all for these great comments! I’ll see if I can’t shed some light on finding your calling in my next article. Just don’t give up, do one small step every day towards your dream and it will happen!

  10. Awesome article Valerie! Thanks for writing this. It is always wonderful reading your articles.

    Shanshine smiles

  11. rob williams

    My job may be ending in 2 years. I will be 56. What I want to do is play drums. ( had to retire because of hearing loss), and web site design. ( i wll take some courses)


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