At the risk of sounding arrogant my view is that the world consists of two fundamental personalities, those who persevere and simply refuse to give up on their dreams, and those who give in to fear, uncertainty, and doubt and walk away from their dreams. That's not meant to be arrogant, it's accurate.
So, what's your biggest, boldest, most important dream--the one you will never really let yourself off the hook for? It may be personal or professional. Go ahead put it out there, no need to light it up in neon, just jot it down as you read this and then test it against the "5 ways to keep your dream alive" below.
"We give up on our dreams and we give up on ourselves."
I've had the incredible privilege of working with an amazing cross-section of people in my writing, consulting, and mentoring. From billionaires such as Ross Perot, Larry Ellison, Michael Milken, and Steve Forbes--who have realized their dreams on unimagined scale--to 20-somethings with nothing more than a dream. The single most consistent trait among those who have gone from dream to realization is an almost religious commitment to themselves.
We give up on our dreams and we give up on ourselves. It doesn't much matter what that dream is. It might be playing on a major league sports team, running a F500 company, or being a committed parent and spouse. All of these are choices that we make to endure certain hardships and sacrifices with the singular objective of realizing our dream.
So, why do we give up? Because we confuse happiness with convenience. Happiness is not the absence of struggle or the avoidance of effort, and even pain. Happiness is the pride of having achieved what you set out to achieve, or at the very least to have given it everything you have, and then some.
"...dreams find their way out of any container. They eat through the layers of regret and loss and show up at your doorstep time and again."
And here's the problem with giving up on the dreams that are most important to you. Dreams do not disappear. You may be able to distract yourself from them by putting them into a tidy compartment inside your head or your heart. You may fill your life with activities to keep your mind and heart occupied. But dreams find their way out of any container. They eat through the layers of regret and loss and show up at your doorstep time and again.
So, take that dream you just jotted down and think about whether you're doing each of the following to make your dream a reality
Five Ways To Keep Your Dream Alive
1 - Don't Keep Your Dream Hidden
Be honest with yourself about what matters most and put it out there in bright lights. Don't allow the world at large, or even those closest to you, to convince you of all the reasons that your dream is folly. You are the only one who will ultimately be accountable to yourself for what you give up on. Write your dream out. Make it the startup screen on your mobile device and the wallpaper on your laptop. Create a log and a web site. Tell people about your dream so that you are publicly accountable for it.
"But I'm not ready," you're saying. "I still need to think about it." Let me share a secret with you. Dreams only become reality if you do something about them. Once you make them tangible they take on a life of their own, and they will shape you as much as you shape them.
2 - Work on Your Dream Every Day
"The path to your dreams is not in your head, it's in the many failures and small steps forward that you take every day to move closer to them."
One of the biggest challenges I see with people I work with who have a dream is that they fail to visualize what it will look like when they have achieved it because they do nothing to breathe life into it. For example, I constantly come across people who want to write a book. So, I ask them, what do you do every day to move closer to that dream? The overwhelming response is silence. Why not write 500 words a day? I ask, Because I'm not sure what to write about, they tell me. Why not write 200 words a day? Because some days I just don't have the time. Why not keep a diary of the things you'd like to write about? Yes, you see where this is going. Time passes whether you use it or not. If you write 500 words of crap on Monday-Friday and 300 words of brilliant prose on Saturday you're 300 words closer to your dream not 2500 words further away from it. We fear doing something every day because we fear daily failure. Get over it. The path to your dreams is paved with the many failures and the few small steps forward.
3 - Remind Yourself of Why Your Dream Is Important To You
"I was't going to let the pattens of my past define the limits of my future."
When you are at the end of your rope and all hope seems lost remind yourself of why you had the dream to begin with. Write letters to your future self about why the dream is important. Tuck them away and then go back to them to recall the passion and the power of your dream. I still go back and read letters I had written to myself in my twenties about my dream to build a business, be an author, and go on the speaking circuit. At the time they were baseless. I had the grammar of a 5th grader and I was terrified of speaking in public. But I was't going to let the pattens of my past define the limits of my future. In fact, if I had my way I'd have every couple who gets married write a long letter to their spouse on the day they were married. The letter would outline all of the wonderful reasons why they decided to get married in the first place. It would list the many positive and endearing qualities of their spouse. And then they would seal those letters in an envelope to be opened when the going got really rough, when doubts and fear set in. No, that alone is not going to save a marriage? I'm not that naive. But it would save some by reminding them of why they wanted to do this to begin with.
4 - Don't Allow Fear and Negativity to Guide Your Decisions.
Yes, that's easy to say, but I have been clenched in the jaws of fear, I know what it feels like to be despondent about the potential death of a dream. years ago one of my companies was one the verge of collapse. Colleagues and friends gave me sound advice, "Let go," "Move on," "It's not worth it." And that makes perfect sense for them to say. It's supportive and caring. But it was not their dream, it was mine, and only I knew what I would be able to live with. I had 30 people on payroll to whom I had made a commitment. I was not going to walk away from them. I was not going to give up. My soul would not rest knowing that I let raw emotion and fear stand in the way. Will Smith said it best, "If you and I get on a treadmill to see who can stay on the longest I will win or I will die before I get off." Madness? Yes, the kind that dreams are built with. I sold the business. Heroic? No! Committed? yes!
5 - Support the Dreams Of Others
Dreamers needs each other. One of the best ways to reinforce the value of your own dreams is to find ways to support the dreams of others. In my mentoring so much of what I do is little more than provide encouragement and support for people who have little more than an embryo of a dream, fragile and barely formed. In doing that I've realized that many times I am simply reinforcing my own conviction in my dreams. Will this ensure that they realize their dreams. No. Will it help them avoid the disappointment of not having tried? Damn straight it will!
Look, I understand that there are times when forces well beyond our control will derail our dreams. I've been there; we all have. Life is great at putting a bend in the road when we're going full throttle. We are all human, we make mistakes and we are subject to circumstances and people who simply don't care about our dreams. But even broken and battered you still have a choice; avoid more heartache, play it safe and stop dreaming, or dream an even bigger dream.