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How To Make Your Dreams Come True in 9 Simple Steps

How To Make Your Dreams Come True in 9 Simple Steps

What do you dream about? Running your own business? Completing that 5K? Traveling the world? Buying a house? What do you spend your days fantasizing about, wishing was your reality?

No matter what your dream is, you can accomplish it. You don’t have to watch as another year goes by with you being no closer to your goal than you were the last year. You can move from where you are to where you want to go.

By following these nine steps, you can make your dreams come true.

1. Do some stripping

Stripping down your goals, that is! Strip down all the fluff that covers up the true goal you are after. By peeling back all the layers surrounding your objective, you can clearly evaluate what it is you really want.

Have you been dreaming about quitting your job? If so, is your ultimate goal to find a better position, start your own business, or to obtain more flexibility in your work? Depending on what your answer is, how you go about getting prepared so you can quit your job will be very different.

The more specific you can be about what your dream really is, the easier it will be to chart the path to getting there.

2. Look fear in the eyes

Whenever you decide to go after something you want, fear often shows up.

It’s easy to understand why. You’re moving beyond what’s familiar. You’re moving beyond your comfort zone. As such, it is normal to experience some resistance, and resistance often shows its ugly head in the form of fear.

But don’t let fear get the best of you. Don’t let it paralyze you. Don’t let it keep you in a state of dreaming about your dreams instead of living your dreams.

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Here’s what you do: whenever you feel the fear, acknowledge it. And then ask yourself this: What’s worse, the fear of moving beyond your comfort zone into the unknown journey of relentlessly pursuing your dream, or deferring your dream to get rid of the fear (which also means staying in your current position)?

Anaïs Nin summed it up beautifully when she said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

When you’re sure you’re ready to blossom, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

3. Set your boats on fire

This passage from W.H. Murray’s book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, describes why commitment is essential: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Until you are totally committed to making your dream come true, there will numerous things that will pop up to deter you. And if you aren’t really committed, then those distractions will succeed. To ensure you are unwavering in your quest to moving forward toward your goal, you need to burn your boats.

Back in the 1500s when Hernan Cortez led his army of men in a conquest of Mexico, he ordered that the boats they arrived in be burned. He did this to prevent anyone from turning back and abandoning the mission. In essence, he ensured commitment to the battle by eliminating all opportunity to abort the assignment.

So if your goal is to travel to Thailand, go ahead and book your ticket. If you’ve been longing to run a 5K, sign yourself up for that race. If you want to buy that house, give notice to your landlord that you won’t be renewing your lease. Do something concrete that guarantees you to move forward by preventing all opportunity to turn back.

Then don’t look back. Start stealing instead.

4. Shamelessly steal

As Pablo Picasso put it, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.

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You’re probably not the first person to work towards achieving your particular dream. As such, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Immerse yourself with great ideas and techniques that others have shown to work.

Search out people who have been successful at what you are trying to accomplish, then study them. Watch what they do, don’t do, and identify best practices you can apply. There’s lots to learn, but it will be worth it once you realize how much this step will help you reach your dream.

As you spend time studying others who have been successful at what you’re trying to do, you’ll also get a healthy dose of inspiration to fuel you along your journey. You can then use all that knowledge to help you with the next step.

5. Build a plan

Clarity, commitment, inspiration, and know how will serve you well in reaching your dreams. But they have to be combined with a real plan to actually move you along the path to making your dream come true.

Harvey MacKay put it best when he said, “A dream is just a dream, a goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.”

When you work on a goal with no plan of how to achieve it, your efforts are more likely to be disjointed. Without the focus a plan brings, you’re more likely to complete tasks willy nilly, and drift around rather than progressing methodically toward your goal. This leads to both sporadic and less than optimal results. You don’t want to go that route.

You’ve got to build a plan to get you from where you are to where you want to go. It will keep you on track, and minimize the detours that slow or delay your progress toward your goal.

So if your dream is to write your first book, your plan could be to get up an hour earlier and write one thousand words a day prior to going to work. That way, when you set your alarm each day, you know what time to set your clock for. And when you wake up, you’ll know that it’s time to fire up the laptop to get typing.

Besides, one of the great things about a plan is it helps you to track your progress along the way as well.

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6. Set a deadline

Deadlines have magical powers. When set, they stop procrastination in its tracks and whip you into gear so you start getting things done.

Even though you have a plan, you may spend lots and lots of time noodling over whether or not you need to learn more, or if your plan is just right, or if you need to go check Facebook again (you don’t). And then you’ll wake up, look at the calendar and months will have passed, and you’ll have barely moved an inch toward your goal.

But a deadline changes all that. Because you know you can’t miss it, you do what you need to do to get things done.

So give yourself a due date. And then tell someone who will hold you accountable. Be sure to give them permission to kick your butt or a provide a sufficiently effective guilt trip if you come close to missing it.

7. Do the work

There’s no way around this. You’ve got to do the work. You’ve got to work your plan.

Push yourself to do it when you feel like working. And push yourself to do it when you don’t feel like working.

Over time you will see results, and then you can move on to the next step.

8. Praise the progress

A lot of times your dreams don’t happen in one day. They take time. And sometimes you’ll need a bit of encouragement along the way to keep you going. So whenever you hit certain milestones, stop what you’re doing, take a pause and give yourself a high five for all the progress you’ve made.

You deserve it, and although you may not be exactly where you want to go, you are definitely farther than where you started. And that’s worth celebrating. It’s also fuel to keep you going a little farther.

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9. Don’t go it alone

Change can be tough. And not just on you, but the people who interact with you on a regular basis. The people who will be impacted by the changes you make in your life.

As you work to make your dreams come true, consider letting those in your circle know what’s going on with you. It’ll give them a chance to encourage you, support you, and hold you accountable when needed.

Depending on what your goal is, you might even find someone willing to take the journey with you.

It’s time to make your dreams a reality. Your dreams don’t have to stay just dreams. They can absolutely be your reality. But the majority of the time, dreams come true only as a result of us doing what’s necessary to make them happen.

You just have to do the work.

By implementing these steps, you’ll look back a year from now (maybe sooner) at all you have accomplished, and smile.

Because you’ll know that dreams do come true.

Because yours finally did.

After you did the work.

Featured photo credit: Make a wis_Unsplash via s3.amazonaws.com

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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