When I was a kid, I dreamed of competing in the Olympics.
Later in life, I dreamed of becoming a pilot and learning how to skydive.
Then, I dreamed of publishing a novel, writing the screenplay for a box office hit, learning to speak fluent Italian, living in France, and fulfilling a whole host of rock-star-eque fantasies.
None of these dreams panned out. The excuses vary, but the reasons behind each unaccomplished flight of fancy are remarkably similar. If you find yourself stuck with a collection of incomplete dreams, you may have fallen prey to one of these common pitfalls.
1. Not allowing yourself to believe that your dream can become reality
One of the things that can hold people back is that they don't give themselves permission to dream.
They think, Oh, I wish I could do [X], or, Wouldn't it be nice if I could be [Y]?
And before they allow themselves to flesh out the fantasy, a little voice says, You must be joking--you can't do [X] and Who do you think you are to be [Y]? Before the seedling of success can flourish, it dies due to lack of nourishment.
Dreams can't turn into reality if they're not allowed to take shape. Allowing dreams the freedom to form makes them more likely to come true.
2. Failing to define success
The point at which a dream is realized differs from person to person; what you consider success may vary wildly from what a parent, partner, or peer considers success.
For example, if you harbor a dream of becoming a photographer, what does that mean to you? Are you a photographer if you take beautiful pictures? If someone pays you for your work? If you generate a livable income from your photography?
How you define the point at which your dream has turned into reality determines whether or not you have actually achieved your goal.
3. Succumbing to FOMO
Jason Silva, in his mesmerizing discourse on the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), says,
[T]here is a gnawing anxiety in realizing that you can't possibly have it all. You can't possibly mainline space and time through the optic nerve and have and swallow it whole.
The realization that committing time, energy, and resources to the pursuit of one big dream can be overwhelming. The "gnawing anxiety" of choosing one path and forgoing all other possibilities has the curious effect of making us wish that we were doing anything and everything else--if we let it.
4. Passing on a plan
A plan provides a framework for accomplishing your goal. Without it, you remain stuck in one place with little idea of how to move forward.
There are two schools of thought on designing your plan of action towards realizing your dreams: working backwards and working forwards.
Author and success coach Jack Canfield is squarely in the Working Backwards camp. In The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are From Where You Want to Be, Canfield writes
Yet another way [to chunk down a major goal] is to start from the end and look backwards. You simply close your eyes and imagine that it is now the future and you have already achieved your goal. Then just look back and see what you had to do to get to where you now are. What was the last thing you did? And then the thing before that, and the thing before that, until you arrive at the first action you had to start with.
Master Coach Tonya Leigh, on the other hand, is more in the Working Forwards camp.
In "How I Wiggled My Way to Success," she writes about the concept of taking small steps away from the life that you do not want and towards the life that you do. You do not need to know or plan every single step; you do need to pay attention to the things that make you feel alive and consciously choose those.
Which approach you take does not matter, as long as you make a plan.
5. Not doing the work
It's not enough to dream; you must also take action towards your goal. And oftentimes, you must do the work without promise of reward or compensation.
This pitfall is particularly discouraging because we expect to see results from our actions. Putting in long hours doing grueling work and still faced with the possibility of failure can deter us from our big dreams.
As many products and programs warn, results may vary. We have little control over the outcome of our efforts, but the results will never come in if we don't do the work first.
As you pursue greatness--and if you have big dreams, you are pursuing greatness--many fears and questions will come up. You may judge your dreams as being unrealistic. You may convince yourself that you've already tried and already failed and ask why you continue to try. You may make the excuse that you have a job, a family, or other limitation that prevents you from going after your goals.
But if you're willing to let go of everything else in favor of your big dream, success is inevitable.
A version of this post originally appeared on lynndaue.com.