We all have dreams for ourselves and our lives, and as business people, we have dreams for our careers.
We usually associate dreams with something good. We talk about a wonderful experience as something that was "beyond our wildest dreams" or "more than we ever dreamed of". We describe an unexpected pleasure as "something we've only ever dreamed about" and talk about "the stuff that dreams are made of".
Dreams are happy. Dreams are good.
They are also very, very possible.
I believe you can make your dreams your reality.
"Reality can destroy the dream; why shouldn't the dream destroy reality?"
We all know that if we want to live the life of our dreams we need to have a plan and set goals. Teachers, motivational speakers and coaches have been telling us this for years... but it isn't working! Very few people are actually living the life they thought they would. The life they dreamed they would.
Because we sabotage our plans. Unconsciously, of course, but very effectively all the same!
We commit this sabotage in three ways:
1. We don't believe in ourselves.
2. We don't make a plan for our own dreams.
3. We don't review our plan regularly, to keep up to date with the changes that are happening in our lives.
These three factors are all interlinked, but in order to fully understand why we're not living our dream, we need to examine each one individually.
1. We Don't Believe in Ourselves
If we want to realise our dreams we do need to have a plan and set goals, but a plan on its own is not enough. We also need to have good self-esteem (self-esteem is the degree to which we value ourselves) because it is our belief about ourselves that really impacts on what we achieve in life.
If we have high self-esteem we value ourselves. We think good things about ourselves, we like ourselves and we think we are worthy and capable.
If we have low self-esteem we don't value ourselves. We don't like ourselves, and think we think we are useless, worthless and not good enough. We certainly don't think we are capable of achieving much.
The sad thing about self-esteem is that it is not necessarily based on truth or fact.
As a child, we learned to judge our worth based on what other people said or did to us - significant people like our parents, siblings, teachers and friends. It didn't matter whether what they said or did was conscious and direct, or unconscious and indirect, it still had an impact. If our ideas and opinions were listened to, we learnt that what we had to say was worthwhile. If we were ignored or told we were silly, we learnt that our opinions were stupid or didn't count. If the significant people in our lives spent time with us, we learnt that we were lovable and nice to be around, but if they never had time for us, we learnt that we were not lovable or nice to be around.
The result is that we evaluated our worth based on how we were treated (or even how we perceived we were treated). Although these evaluations may not be valid, they have the power to affect everything in our lives, because we continue to believe the things we believed as a child, right into our adulthood. Our mind continues to judge us now as it did then.
We hear it in that little voice in our head. The one that talks to us, constantly saying things like "You shouldn't be doing this, you really aren't good enough, you are making a fool of yourself, this is not for you...."
The executive in the boardroom who learned as a child that his opinion didn't count, will find it hard to express his opinion, because the little voice in his head will be telling him to keep his mouth shut to avoid making a fool of himself. But, the woman who grew up with love and recognition will not be shy to go up to new colleagues and make friends – she knows she is good company.
An even sadder thing about our self-esteem is that it is self-perpetuating - we only see or believe what we expect to see or believe about ourselves.
For example, if someone believes they are a good public speaker, they will readily accept the praise and acknowledgment they get for delivering a great presentation. And even if the presentation goes badly, and they get negative feedback, they will just write if off to an audience who didn't understand what they were trying to say, or to the audio visual equipment not being up to scratch. They just won't believe it is their own lack of ability.
On the other hand, if someone has low self-esteem, they will only see and believe those things that prove they are useless. They won't pay attention to the 20 wonderful evaluations giving star ratings, but they will take to heart the one evaluation with a criticism.
Our past shapes our beliefs about ourselves - what our strengths and weaknesses are, what we are capable or incapable of achieving, and what we should or ought to be doing or not doing. This is critically important because it is our beliefs and feelings that cause us to behave the way we do.
Most people think that how we behave and what we achieve is the result of what happens to us, our environment, or the situations we find ourselves in, but this is not true. It is not the event that causes our behaviour - it is our beliefs and feelings about the event that cause our behaviour.
For example, you may think, "if my wife cheats on me, I'll leave her" or "if my husband hits me, I'll leave him".
But, you forget about your beliefs and emotions - and beliefs and emotions change everything.
If your husband hits you, you may decide NOT to leave. Because you love him, because you believe you won't find anyone better, because you believe you can't cope without him, because you believe you should stay together 'until death do us part'.... and so on.
Different individuals experience the same situations in different ways – there is no 'reality'. Our behaviour or response depends on our beliefs and feelings – on our perception.
For example, the rand /dollar exchange rate suddenly drops drastically. Instead of being R7.00 to it is now R2.00 to How would you react?
If you are a holiday-maker planning to go on holiday in the USA on a tight budget, you will know that this is a positive change for you and you will be delighted that you will have so much more spending money. You will quickly make your currency exchange so as not to lose out.
If you are an expatriate working in a foreign country and being paid in dollars, you will know this is a negative change for you and will be disappointed that you are not able to send so much money home to your family. You may start wondering if it is worth it to work so far away from home, for so little money.
If you are retired and living off your money invested in dollars in an offshore account, you will be devastated. You will cut back drastically on your monthly spending so as to manage on your fixed dollar income each month.
Our behaviour depends on our beliefs and feelings – on our perception.
What you are capable of achieving depends on what you believe you can achieve.
"Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't – you are right."
So you need to become aware of what that little voice in your head is saying. Is it sabotaging you and telling you that you can't, or perhaps shouldn't, achieve your dreams?
"The most important judgement we will ever have to pass in life
is the judgement we make on ourselves."
Stop the sabotage!
Review your set of beliefs about yourself and create new beliefs based on your current reality. You may need some help doing this, as our beliefs are mostly unconscious. (Even conscious beliefs are so much a part of us that we don't realise how they influence our behaviour). Have a few sessions with a psychologist to help you unpack your beliefs. Then create new beliefs that do allow you to achieve your goals.
It may be a good idea to write down a list of affirmations about yourself, and pin these somewhere where you can read them everyday. Keep adding to your list. An affirmation is a positive statement about yourself such as "I am organised and efficient", "I am fun to be around"," I am capable of making sound decisions". The idea behind reading these affirmations is that you replace the negative self talk you have been hearing in your head, with positive self talk because...
"Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve."
2. We Don't Make a Plan for our own Dreams
Do you want to get to the end of your life and realise that you have lived someone else's dream?
If the answer is 'no', then your plan needs to be about your dreams, because if you are not living your dream then you are living someone else's!
To do this, you need to become clear about what your dream is. Ask yourself important questions like:
What are my values?
What is my purpose?
What is my vision?
How am I going to get there?
It is important to know what your values are, because values give you direction. If you have to make an important decision in life, it is your values that will help you make that decision. Your values act as your compass, and you need to know where your true north is if you don't want to lose yourself as you travel the pathways of life.
Living a fulfilling versus an impoverished life has nothing to do with money – it has to do with achieving your goals according to your values.
Let me share a personal example.
I was offered a phenomenal job working for a company based in another city. The salary was fantastic, the perks even better, and I would have enjoyed the work in the main. My little eyes flashed dollar signs, just like in the cartoons, and I was extremely tempted, but at the same time I was ambivalent – I didn't want to work for someone else in an 'eight to five' job, and I didn't want to live in that city. Being confused and uncertain, I asked a few people for their opinion. Most said it was a great financial and career move - none understood what was most important for me. In the end it was my values that helped me to decide. I turned the job down because it wasn't right for me. It didn't fit my values of independence, change, variation, family. It would have given me lots of money, but money is not my true north.
Ask yourself: "What is true north for me?"
Here is a list of values. Which are the most important to you? Choose only three.
To do this, think about which of these you values you would compromise and which values you would never compromise.
It is not as easy as you think to choose only three – it requires a lot of thought, and you need to be conscious of your inner voice and how it influences your choices.
Again, watch out for sabotage.
Ask yourself, "Are these really my values?" What is the little voice in your head saying? Whose voice is it really? Mom's? Dad's?
Stop the sabotage!
Choose your own values.
Put some time and effort into doing this - don't just accept that the values you were told to have as a child are your values. They may no longer be your values (and perhaps they never really were!)
Just as you must choose your own values, you must also choose your own purpose.
It is important to have a purpose because your purpose is the big picture of your life.
Most of us want to know what our purpose is in life.
Deepak Chopra said,
"The three big questions all people ask:
Who am I?
What do I want?
What is my purpose?"
Your purpose is the long-term reason why you are doing something. It gives meaning to your life. Your actions and goals are the short term means to achieving your purpose.
It is far more motivating to think about your purpose than your goals.
I am reading a book on presentation skills (action)
I want to develop myself into a speaker of international calibre (goal)
I want to make a positive impact on people all over the world, and help them to help themselves so they can live the life of their dreams right now (purpose)
Knowing my purpose motivates me to do the sometimes boring actions that I need to do.
Know what your purpose is. Spend time thinking about it. But watch out for sabotage:
When you think of your purpose, become conscious of what that little voice in your head is saying. Whose voice is it really? Ask yourself: "Is this really my purpose or has it been imposed on me by significant others?"
Stop the sabotage!
Create your own purpose.
When you know your own purpose you can create your own vision.
Vision is important, because if you don't know where you are going you won't get there.
"If a man knows not what harbour he seeks, any wind is the right wind."
You need to know where you want to go. You have to know what your vision is - for yourself and your life.
To create your vision, think about:
What is your purpose and what do you want to achieve with your life?
Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
What memories would you like to have when you look back on your life?
What would you like other people to say about you and your life at your funeral?
What inspires you?
Think about all the different aspects of your life.
It may be useful to create a vision board to help you clarify your vision. A vision board is a collection of pictures of things you want in life. Put this collection where you can see it. This focuses your unconscious mind, which in turn steers your choices toward making the vision real.
Beware - most people create the identical vision board... a mansion, a luxury car, a pile of cash, a good looking spouse, a gorgeous body and a tropical beach.
Boring! This is our culture's idea of the perfect life. Even a handsome millionaire, director of his own company, with a Ferrari in his garage and a mansion with a private beach will produce this sort of vision board. But is this really what you want?
To really work, your vision board must come not from society's impositions, but from your own deep and unique inner self.
Watch out for Sabotage. Ask yourself, "Am I living my life or somebody else's?" Is this really my vision for myself? Become aware of what the little voice in your head is saying. Whose voice is it?
Stop the sabotage!
Choose your own vision.
In creating your vision, there is just one tip I would like to give you:
Don't place too much emphasis on what time will destroy (body, looks etc), rather focus on that which time will enhance.
For example, don't go to gym to make yourself look like a twenty-something year old - you are fighting a losing battle. Go to gym to be fit, healthy and have energy – in this you can succeed.
Once you have got your vision you need to ask yourself: "How am I going to get there?"
The HOW is about the short-term steps that you need to take to achieve your final vision. It is not enough just to have a vision – no matter how amazing that vision is! You need to take action to make it happen.
"The vision must be followed by the venture.
It is not enough to stare up the steps - we must step up the stairs."
Ask yourself: What little steps do I need to take to achieve my vision? What are the five most important things I need to do today to get to my dreams? We can refer to these little steps as our goals. It is by achieving our goals that we are able to realise our dream.
This is the part where so many people sabotage themselves. They do believe in themselves. They do have a fabulous dream...But they don't DO anything about it.
Let me give you a personal example...
For years, I had had a desire to go sailing. But that's all it was – a dream. I didn't actually do anything about going sailing. I just wished I could. Then one day, someone showed me their sailing holiday photos and, as I walked away from them, I said to myself, "I SO want to do that!" The next morning I woke up with the thought "If I want to have sailing as part of my future, I need to make it happen".
So I took the first step towards that dream – I started doing research into what sailing courses were available. The next step was to actually book a course. The third step was to inform people I was taking leave. The fourth step was to arrive for the course .... and so on.
I had no idea when I started that I was going to end up sailing on privately owned luxury yachts in the Mediterranean for three years. In fact if you had told me that I would be doing that, I would have just laughed and said "No way!" I just took the next step and ended up realising a dream!
Stop Sabotaging yourself!
Take the steps, one step at a time.
What is crucial to remember here, is... do not put your life on hold while you are taking the steps and trying to achieve your vision. The steps are part of your life. Live now!
This is your choice.
"I can choose to be happy now, or I can try to be happy when...or if..."
3. We Don't Review our Plan Regularly
By not reviewing our plan regularly, we are not keeping up to date with the changes happening in our lives as we live our dreams. Remember that life is dynamic, not static.
Know that you cannot commit to something forever, because life is not the same forever. You cannot keep attending gym on a Tuesday at 5pm for the rest of your life. Belonging to the moms and tots group is not so cool when your kid is 16!
Your visions will change - and that's fine. Be creative and flexible. Allow for change.
You cannot live the life of your dreams if you are rigid and stuck in an old dream.
When I followed my sailing dream, I had intended to do it for only six months. But, when fabulous opportunities presented themselves, I adjusted my plan. I ended up sailing for three years and had some amazing experiences.
After three years, however, I was ready for a new dream – working on luxury yachts was not something I wanted to do forever! Now I am striving towards my goal of becoming an international speaker.
Let me share with you the case of a man I know who is stuck in an old dream...
When he was working as an articled clerk in an accounting firm he was given a beautiful leather briefcase. At the time, he put it away telling himself that he would use it when he passed his Board Exam. Well, he failed his Board Exam and so did not allow himself his reward. He never rewrote the exam and, over twenty years later, he still has not used his briefcase. Everyone else thinks he is a successful businessman – after all he has been financial director of an international company – but he himself believes he is a failure. He still dreams about writing the Board Exam and using his briefcase. But, this is an old dream. He has proved he does not need that qualification, and he has too many new responsibilities (like having a beautiful family) to start studying again, but still it holds him back. Being stuck in his old dream prevents him from moving forward freely toward new dreams and greater success.
Don't sabotage yourself - go with the flow...
"The greatest mistake in life is confusing your dreams with reality.
The greatest tragedy in life is surrendering your dreams to reality."
A Sabotage-Stopping Summary
Believe in yourself
Have a healthy self-esteem. The most important judgement we will ever have to pass in life is the judgement we make on ourselves. Whether you achieve your goals or not depends on your beliefs.
Henry Ford said: "Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't – you are right."
To achieve your dreams....believe you can!
Make a Plan for Your own, Unique Dreams
Have dreams that are entirely yours based on your own values and your own purpose. Create your own vision – not the vision imposed on you by society, but a vision that is uniquely yours.
Have you taken the time to even think about what you really want? If you want to achieve your dreams, you must know what they are. You must know what your vision is - for yourself and for your life - and then put that into action by taking the little steps that will get you there.
Review Your Plan Regularly
Keep up to date with the changes that are happening in your life, as you live your dream. Life is dynamic, not static. Realise that you cannot commit to something forever – life is not the same forever. Your visions will change - and that's absolutely fine. There are no rules. Be creative and flexible. Keep changing what you do as required. Have balance!
Then you can enjoy every minute of the life of your dreams!
Living the life of your dreams does take time and effort, and many people feel that they don't have the time to do what's necessary. If this is what you are telling yourself, the real message you're sending out is, "I am not worth spending time on. I am not important enough. Other people, things, or organisations are more important than me".
That message is coming through loud and clear and you believe it!
Now is the time for YOU and YOUR dreams.
"I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."
William Ernest Henley, from the poem 'Invictus'