I'm tired of chasing my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they plan to be, and hook up with them later. --Seen on Twitter
As a classical music teacher, I get people coming in to my studio every day who have had a dream of singing or playing piano. Some of these people are in their 40s or 50s; a few are in their 20s, and I even get a few retired people each year. I understand, being a Baby Boomer myself, that many of us were talked out of our dreams by our parents, who grew up with the Depression, World War II and rationing, and other privations. I certainly was, and did not reclaim my dream until I was thirty years old. And for many of us, we came from families who had other problems: poverty, lower social status, lack of education, or some other factor that prevented us from going after "the pie in the sky." If you are one of those people, I have nothing but understanding for you.
However, at some point, we have to take charge of our lives and make our dreams a reality, or give them up. If you are ready to invest the time and effort into making your dreams materialize, then it will take a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and self-examination to make your dreams happen. At times it may not seem like it's worth the effort. However, if you are prepared to do what you must, then your success or failure can be attributed to you! Rather than living with unachieved dreams, you will be able to make your dreams real.
The first step is to realize what your dreams actually are, because many people's beliefs about their dreams are in conflict with their reality. For example, when I lived in Europe, practically everyone I knew told me, "Oh, I have always dreamed of going to Europe!" I would always say, "Fine, you take care of the plane ticket, and I will take care of everything else." In many cases, at that time a round-trip ticket was available for under $300, well within the ability of almost anyone to save up over a year or so. Yet in almost a decade, only one couple ever took me up on my offer! All those other people did not really have the dream of going to Europe, or they would have found a way to make it happen: take out a small loan, cut back on pizza delivery, or something else. A great way to understand what your dreams truly are is to try some exercises to understand what you really want to do. These "awareness exercises," while often geared towards careers, are certainly valid for all other areas of your life.
Once you have found your real dream, it is time to do something about it. The best way to make your dream a reality is to find a mentor. A mentor relationship is something that will form your entire path towards your dream, so you must choose your mentor carefully. This should be someone who has already accomplished, or is a long way towards accomplishing the dream you have. You should also be comfortable with this person, and able to work with them. Do not expect this service for free -- a mentor's time should be compensated, because your mentor is taking time away from his or her own opportunities to nurture you.
The next, and probably most important thing, is to follow your mentor's advice -- it doesn't do you any good to find a mentor if they try to help you, and you consistently throw up roadblocks to your own dreams! In that case, you need to take a hard look about whether this is a dream you really want to achieve. If so, then you may need counseling to understand why you are hindering your own progress.
Your mentor will often demand some form of accountability. If this is the case, you must keep up with it. In my own case, I must make a monthly list of smaller goals (as they change) and what I have done to achieve them. My mentor reviews this list with me each month, and points out possible areas of resistance I need to overcome. If you do not keep up with your accountability, your mentor may cut you loose and turn his or her attention to someone else, who is willing to do what it takes to accomplish their dreams. No matter how difficult the goals, you must be willing to dedicate yourself to them totally and not allow yourself to be distracted by shorter-term pleasures.
Another thing to bear in mind is that if dreams were easily achievable, everyone would be living their dreams instead of settling for something else. In some cases, your dream may seem nonsensical to others. In other cases, your dream may seem unrealistic (usually to people who have not even attempted your dream). You cannot let yourself be discouraged, even though it may take decades to accomplish your dream. Again, from my own example, I decided when I was ten years old, after taking a world history class, that I wanted to live in Europe. Everyone told me that Europe was very expensive, and that learning foreign languages was difficult. So I saved every dime I could from babysitting, from allowances, from chores, and every time my friends wanted to see a movie, or go out for pizza, I said, "I can't afford it." I studied foreign languages in school as if my life depended on it (my dream certainly did). And twenty-five years later, I had saved $35,000 and decided that I had enough money to at least live in Europe for a while, and a few months later, I was living there. This worked because if your single goal for twenty-five years is to do something, and you do not let anything stand in your way, or become more important, you are bound to accomplish your goal!
With these ideas in mind, you should be able to take concrete steps towards making your dream a reality. I wish you everything you have ever dreamed!
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