Do you have a secret dream career or a passion you’ve always wanted to pursue? If you’re like most of my clients, you’ve probably decided it’s silly, or that it’s too late.
The best part of working with Kelly Mathews for this year’s Challenge was watching as what she thought were her ‘impossible’ goals ‘regaining her confidence, getting regular time alone and taking a dream vacation’became reality. We began by talking about the dreams she had: At first she resisted the possibility of achieving them, as she didn’t think it was realistic given the busy lifestyle she felt trapped in. Here are the steps I took Kelly through to help her achieve her goals. You can apply them in your own life, too.
1. Acknowledge what you long for
When I first met with Kelly and asked her to describe an unfulfilled dream, she told me she’d give anything to travel for a month by herself. She was desperate for more ‘alone’ time, and she wanted to be able to enjoy her own agenda every day; to walk through castles for hours, for example, without a travel companion who might not share that interest. Admitting this truth out loud’something she’d never done before’was a powerful release for her.
So don’t be afraid to confide your dreams to someone you trust to be non-judgmental and supportive, especially if they’re the type of person who will encourage you to take action. But if you’re surrounded by negative people who like stomping on dreams, document yours in a journal instead.
2. Believe that it’s possible
I’m convinced that our dreams can come true, and that adventures are waiting to unfold. When you take steps to make them reality, amazing things happen. Back when I was a 28-year-old GP, people laughed when I signed up for salsa lessons. But I’d long had a dream of being a professional dancer, and thankfully, I didn’t let others discourage me. I threw myself into my dance classes, and within a year I was performing with a dance team. Six years after that, I was living my dream: to have my own flamenco and salsa dance company. By then, no one was laughing!
3. Take the next step
Big dreams become reality one step at a time. The next step for Kelly, after determining her desire to travel, was deciding where she’d go. To find the answer, we visited a place I often go looking for answers with my clients: their childhood.
What were you obsessed with as a child? Remembering that can help you find clues to what might light up your life today. Kelly admitted she had read Queen Elizabeth I’s biography many times, and she had recently started a blog about the Royals. It was obvious’she should go to England. She had visited the U.K. once and had always wanted to spend more time there.
4. Keep your eyes open
After committing to your dream, watch for ‘coincidences’ that are anything but. Within an hour of voicing her dream of going to England, Kelly was offered the use of a colleague’s cottage in that country’s Lake District. Coincidence? I don’t think so. She got this miraculous offer because she spoke up. In my life and in my work with clients, I’ve seen that the path to a dream is paved with miracles.
5. Silence the ‘Who am I?’ Gremlin
Once a dream starts to unfold, it’s common for your internal resistance to show up. One of my clients began a blog and ended up getting lots of fans, yet her self-doubt just about shut her down the first week. ‘Who am I to be writing about this?’ she asked herself.
Kelly had been thrilled at the chance to stay in an English cottage, yet when it came time to nail down dates and confirm them, she resisted. Kelly told me she felt uncomfortable accepting the offer, and didn’t feel she was deserving of such generosity. ‘What if she didn’t mean it?’ she said. I pointed out that the risk of offending her colleague was far less than the risk of not following up, as the latter could mean the end of her adventure. That day Kelly emailed her colleague about staying at the cottage, received an enthusiastic reply, and finalized the dates for her trip. She’s going this February.
If you have a sincere passion for a dream, then that qualifies you to pursue it; regardless of your credentials or perceived deservedness, it’s always worth trying. Trust in yourself and the process. Your dreams don’t always lead where you expect, but you’ll always end up wiser. You will also avoid asking yourself later in life: ‘What might have happened if I’d given my dream a chance?’ It’s far better to take a risk in honour of a dream than to forever regret that you never gave it a try.
This article was originally titled "’It’s never too late’" in the November 2011 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!