Making the Dream Work

We're a generation of dreamers. We make big plans, read self-help books, and post motivational quote pictures on our Instagrams. We want to pave new paths and put big ideas into motion. But do you ever feel like even as you're "dreaming the impossible dream," you're simultaneously holding yourself back? My guess is you're not alone.

I call this a case of the rational dreamer. It's wanting to work the dream job, but worrying you won't make enough money. It's wanting to start your own business, but fearing that you'll become a "failed startup statistic." So we keep dreaming and we keep using flighty phrases like "one day I will..." or "when I win the lotto..."

It's not cowardice, it's being risk averse. It's being comfortable and not wanting to disrupt the status quo. And sometimes it's necessity -- there will always be bills and loans to pay. There's no disputing that money is a major factor in our decision making. It has to be.

But being a rational dreamer doesn't have to be a bad thing. It does mean you might have to work twice as hard and be twice as creative. Here are three tips for the rational dreamer to help you stop dreaming the dream and start achieving it.

Supplement Your Income

You're ready for a change. You want to transition into a new field. You have a job in your dream field, but it's part time. Or maybe you have a job in your dream field and it just doesn't pay enough. Here's the tough love part: it's time to supplement the income. Many times, breaking into a new field means taking a low to no paying internship. That hurts -- especially if you're giving up a decent salary to do so. The good thing about internships, though, is that the commitment is typically only a few days a week. What can you do the other days to supplement this transition? Maybe it means getting a job in retail. Maybe you have a friend who can connect you to part time employment opportunities. It's definitely not easy and requires more time than working one full time job, but if it means realizing your dreams, the investment is well worth it. I've seen this work. My dad's dream was to get his degree. This dream is hard when you're an immigrant with no financial support. He worked during the day and went to school at night - talk about a tiresome schedule. Many of my friends are working performers. In between performance jobs, they're working in restaurants, as assistants, nannying and teaching. They're supplementing their dream and keeping it alive.

Sharing is Caring

Collaborate. Collaborate. Collaborate. Do you know someone whose dream is similar to or complements yours? Let's say your dream is to be a working painter, and your friend's dream is to run a business. You provide the product and your friend runs the financials. Two people working together towards a common goal. There are several benefits to working alongside someone. The first is accountability. When you're working with someone, your responsibility extends beyond yourself. You've made a commitment to someone else and their dream as well, which means you're more likely to meet goals and deadlines and push yourself to work even when you don't feel like it. This means greater progress. The second is speed. If two heads are better than one, then four hands are WAY better than two. And the third is moral support. When your energy drops or you're feeling discouraged, there's someone to lean on and give you the push (or motivational Instagram photo) you needed. A word of caution about collaborating -- be careful that your partner is reliable and that you're not involving an entire neighborhood of people. It's true -- too many cooks do spoil the broth.

15 Minute Rule

"My dream is insurmountable. It's a really big undertaking, and I don't know where to start." Okay ready for this? Cliché bomb: Rome wasn't built in a day. Every journey starts with a first step. The Great Wall of China... Actually, I don't know where I'm going with that one. I'll stop. But you get my point. You have to start somewhere, and it doesn't all have to be done at once. I try to hold myself to the 15 minute rule -- if I can get fifteen minutes of work done each night, that's fifteen MORE minutes of work than was done before I started. It's a small goal, but by the end of the week, you're pushing two hours of work. And if you did 20 minutes each night, you'd be pushing two and a HALF hours of work! No -- your business will not be built in one week, but hey, neither was Rome. When I start big writing projects, I force myself to write two pages a night. I've got fourteen pages (minimum) by the end of the week. And many times, it's more than that. But this 15 minute rule allows me to pace myself, set reasonable goals, and make slow and steady progress. I never become so overwhelmed that I give up -- I just know that if I get frustrated, I'll pick back up the next night with a clearer head. And because I've settled into this habit, I'm very likely to keep it up.