Dreams remain just that until you take action toward their reality. Giant leaps are great, but there is power in small steps. Even a single, small step toward something you really want breathes life into that thing and announces that you are ready. It gives you energy toward the next step.
I was recently asked in an interview, "What would you tell someone who says they are literally in the same place they were a year ago and no closer to where they want to be?" It's a great question, and I have experienced this frustration personally. I knew for years that I wanted to be a life coach and self-help writer. I did coach training after earning degrees in business and psychology and working with a mentor coach, but still put off my own dream. Each fall I journaled my frustration at being stuck in the same place as the end of another year approached.
There are many reasons why we don't achieve our dreams and goals, sometimes for years, or never. Most of the time the lack of action is based on fear -- fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being good enough. Fear of Failure + Fear of Success = Paralysis. They probably didn't teach that equation in your high school math class but should have. Most people understand the fear of failure, but don't realize there is also sometimes an underlying fear of success rooted in the changes and demands success will require. Most commonly, people don't believe they are good enough or worthy of having their dreams come true, even those of us willing to do the work necessary to make it happen. And we hide our feelings in excuses like not having enough time, money or education. However, people who are afraid of change will make a change at the point it becomes significantly more uncomfortable to stay in the spot they're in than it is to face the change they need to make. But that tipping of the scale does not always happen.
Here is what I tell you if you literally can't bear the thought of reflecting on another year and you are, yet again as I was, in the same place, unhappy, and a more fulfilling life is still just a notion.
1. Take one small step today. The exhilaration from actually taking a step creates the energy needed for the next step. Think about what you want to achieve and do one thing toward it whether it's researching schools that offer the degree or certificate you want to get, looking for Facebook groups doing what you want to do, fixing your resume for a new job or connecting with the local small business development center.
2. Give yourself a deadline. Make one year from the day you take your first step your absolute deadline and determine what you will accomplish by that date. You may end up revising exactly what you will have achieved as you complete your research and planning stages, but the deadline is firm. You are promising yourself you will not be where you are today in one year from now.
3. Clear your schedule in every way possible to meet that deadline. Making time can include getting less sleep for a short period of time, using your lunchtime to work for yourself, reducing television time, and enlisting the help of others. Even if you are only stealing 15 or 30 minutes per day to take a step, take the step.
4. Create a plan of what you will achieve each week, each month and within six months so that when your deadline approaches you are on target to achieve your goal. Identify 1-3 big goals and 2-4 sub goals followed by the steps you will take to achieve each.
5. Identify your accountability person. This person is often a coach, but can be a Facebook group, SCORE mentor or other advocate, but it has to be someone whom you will feel compelled to please. You will never want to tell this person you didn't do your steps this week. Your accountability person will not buy into your excuses which is why they are almost never friends or family.
6. Take small steps every day until the deadline. Follow your plan. If you are able to do all your tasks for the week in one day, your plan probably isn't aggressive enough. Maybe you don't need a full year to accomplish your goals. You may need longer than a year but start with a plan for a year. It is important to take action at least a few times a week, if not daily, to keep the momentum going.
7. Partner your small steps with nourishment for the soul such as 10 minutes of meditation, 20 minutes of walking/exercise daily, and 10 minutes of quiet time in nature at least 3 times a week- daily if you can manage it. This keeps you in touch with your inner self, nurtures inspiration and calms anxiety. These are vital components in goal achievement.
8. Believe you can achieve it. Picture how you will feel when you do. Have someone with whom you can share your fears and victories. Fear, obstacles and successes are all part of the process. You will have days where you are an overachiever and days where you are full of doubts. It's normal. Perseverance is the key. Celebrate the steps you are taking.
If you have a dream or a goal, rest assured, you are already good enough and deserve to achieve it. You just need a plan, support and a commitment to yourself, which may require you to change your mind in a few ways. Dreams do come true and not just for other people. But, a dream stays just a dream without a concrete goal, a deadline, and a plan. And, action, action, action! You will never get where you want to go by standing still. If you are still breathing, it's not too late. Take just one small step, and then another. When you're at the end of another year looking back, make the reflection a giant, happy celebration of your dreams coming true.