When many of us hear this, we nod our head in agreement as we think about some unpredictable event that threw a curve ball in our plans, or we think about where we are in life now compared to where we thought we would be by now. We blame our inability to make our dreams come true on life events beyond our control that just “happen.”
Sometimes we get bummed out because it seems our plans get derailed while other people get what they want. We wonder: How did he get that great job? How did she marry a sexy guy like that? How did he get so rich? Why are her children so well behaved? How did they get so lucky?
The other day, I wondered myself: How have I been so fortunate to get so many of the things I wanted in life?
I don’t chalk it up to luck. It’s one part grateful — spending more time enjoying what I have (talented kids and loving husband for instance) than worrying about what I don’t have that I envy in others (annual family reunions and wealthy spouse for instance). But it’s also one part determination in knowing what I want and working like hell to get it.
Sometimes, it’s just as hard knowing what you want as it is getting what you want. When I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to “be” when I grew up, like many high school graduates. I knew I liked writing, so I majored in mass communications. I didn’t really even know what that meant until I started taking classes ranging from screenplay writing to public relations writing. But when I had an internship at a local television station, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a television reporter. The energy of the newsroom excited me, and the challenge of delivering a different news story every day thrilled me.
But after graduating college, I couldn’t get a job in television, despite monumental effort trying to find one, even in any small town paying minimum wage. But I had a plan for my career, and I refused to give up on my dream. Eventually, I turned my dream into a goal, and I determined what steps I would need to take to reach my goal. I painstakingly took all of those steps and more, despite many obstacles, and eventually reached my goal and got my first job as a television reporter.
Some friends of mine from college had the same dream but never became a reporter. They said they tried, but they took another job to pay the bills. I took another job too, while I was STILL trying to achieve my goal. I was determined to create a plan for my life and work to make that plan a reality, not just accept whatever life threw at me and give up.
Since my first job as a television reporter, I’ve had many other dreams come true in my life. Each time they happened because I didn’t just dream; I turned the dream into a goal. With a goal, I had to figure out all the steps needed to accomplish it — a long, arduous process that often involves constant evaluating and retooling.
But thanks to those efforts, I achieved many goals in different areas of my life:
- I reported on the air for years in a Top 50 market,
- I reported on the air in my hometown,
- I reported on the air at entertainment events,
- I found and married my soulmate,
- I gave birth to two healthy children,
- I lost all my baby weight both times,
- I bought a home in my hometown,
- I bought rental property,
- I created my own a real estate investment company,
- I nurtured my children’s passions in the arts and athletics despite our family’s financial hardships,
- I strengthened my marriage after a rocky period,
- I got the quintessential family van to drive around my kids and their friends,
- I volunteered as room mother and girl scout leader and sports coach while still maintaining my career,
- I continued to regularly engage in my lifelong love of biking despite my busy schedule, and
- I moved to a larger home to eliminate years of clutter that was negatively impacting my family’s happiness.
Those things didn’t just happen to me because I was lucky; I constantly thought about where I was and where I wanted to be in the future and designed my life to get there. I didn’t get everything I wanted, but I learned to really focus on the most important things and never gave up until I made those things a reality in my life. And it was not easy. I didn’t have wealth or connections or fame. I had many, many roadblocks along the way. But through it all, I always had persistence and surrounded myself with people who encouraged me because they cared about me as much as I cared about them. And of course I’m still working towards new goals today.
You can do the same. If you are not at the place where you want to be in life, think about one thing you could change that would make your life much better. Is it a dream or a goal? Do you “wish” it would happen or do you think about ways to make it happen? Do you “hope” for a lucky break or create a step-by-step plan to reach your goal? Do you give up when “life happens” or do you keep going until you get what you want, no matter if it takes weeks or months or years?
If you want your dream to become reality, make it a goal today. Write it down. Come up with a plan for achieving it. Write that down. Then break each step down into tiny tasks that you can do, one each day, until you get there. Write those down, and cross of each one as you do it. And when you run into the inevitable obstacles and naysayers, keep going — because I know you can get there. I got there, and so can you!