January 31st, 2011

How to Jump Into Your Dream

“If there is any difference between you and me, it may simply be that I get up every day and have the chance to do with I love to do, every day. If you want to learn anything from me, this is the best advice I can give you.” —Warren Buffet

What if you were doing what you were truly passionate about every day?

Understanding our talents is the key to making that happen. A talent is that thing you do simply because you love doing it. Passion, desire, devotion and excitement live in our talents. These are the things we’re inclined to do.

We often hear talent defined as the creative endeavors in which we are naturally gifted. And sometimes that’s the way a talent appears. But mostly we practice a “talent” because we adore doing that more than anything else. A natural ease playing an instrument may have inflamed an inclination – we all want to be good at what we attempt. It’s practice and a love of playing that builds the talent and talent (the inclination) that makes us love to practice. Logical minds may have a talent for math or law. Those who see rich spacial relationships may be visual artists. Those who are detailed and methodical may have a talent for accounting. Our talents are the things we love to do – whether we were paid to do them or not.

Do what you love. Know your own bone. Gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” —Henry David Thoreau

So how do we turn our talents into our greatest strengths? How do we get to our goal?

1) Define it

We’re much more likely to move in the direction of our desire if we know what we want.

I started my career thinking it’d be just dreamy to work in advertising. I watched programs like Thirty Something and thought brainstorming about a creative execution that miraculously solved a client’s business problem while shooting basketballs through an indoor hoop was the way I’d like to spend my days. My talents and inclinations dictated that I’d be developing the visual ideas with a writing partner filling in the copy ideas. It was a movie/TV cliché, but it created a general direction. From there, it was unlikely I was going to end up in a deathly quiet office with putty-colored cubicles doing accounting. It also wasn’t likely to end with me up to my knees in dirt digging ditches. Of course either of those might have been places where I started, but I wasn’t likely to end there once I saw where I wanted to go.

Without much directed effort I got to my goal. Simply knowing which direction to point the rudder will move you in the direction of your dream.

As it turns out, my brain tends to function in both right and left hemispheres taking turns about equally. This is my sweet spot. The business and creative sides of advertising let me play back and forth. And I have a love for interactive communications – that means my technical brain gets to play with my creative brain. And that is right where I ended up in my career.

Defining our desired outcome can be as simple as knowing a single word, like a road sign. Or it can be a detailed list, broken down by milestones and tasks that take us there. Write down your dream – right now – in as much detail as you can see this moment.

2) Believe it

Believing our goal is possible is the first step toward making it probable.

The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.” —Frank Lloyd Wright

Very few people set out to do what is literally impossible. Our vision may be hard or have a lot of moving parts. It may have elements that are (right now) beyond our capabilities. But it’s possible.

How many times has passion gripped you and you sat on it – unsure of whether or not you can bring the idea to fruition – only to find that someone else decided to believe it was possible and made it so.

Don’t discourage yourself before you even try. I’ve been stifling my own dreams for years simply because I was afraid that if I tried and failed, I’d lose knowing that dream was still out there. But we know how prolific dreams can be. If a dream were actually impossible, a new dream would step forward to take its place.

So dream and believe.

Picture yourself living your dream. What does it feel like? What physically surrounds you as your dream is fulfilled? Where do you live? What are your relationships like? How about your financial security? What’s in your daily routine? What are the intangible parts of life – happiness, fulfillment, growth – that encompass your dream?

Dig through photo archives to find as many visual representations of what your dream feels like and keep them within your frame of vision whenever you’re doing something to work toward your goal. Remind yourself what’s ahead is real because your day-to-day reality right now may be very different from where you’re going. Keep your eyes focused on the goal.

3) Approach it

Now it’s time to take steps – small and large – toward your dream. The smaller your defined steps are, the more likely you are to put one foot in front of the other. For instance, it’s easier to check off “sign up for PhotoShop class” than it is to complete “get a college degree in design.” Allow yourself to see progress by defining the smallest increments you can.

And if you’re just plain intimidated by large chunks of work, give yourself a smaller assignment. Writing a book can happen one paragraph, or even one sentence at a time. It’s likely once you get rolling with a daily sentence, you’ll finish several pages each day – but setting “pages” as your goal can be daunting. Anyone can write a sentence every day. Grease your wheels with incremental goals.

If your goal is to turn a room full of clutter into a studio, think about what it will feel like to be working in your studio. Move toward the positive, future goal rather than away from the negative clutter it is now. We’re not inspired by fearing or disliking the negative – we’re inspired by moving toward the dream.

4) Ask yourself three questions

Keep these questions at the top of your mind:

Focus: Is this activity moving me toward my goal?

My brother gave me some great advice recently that he fostered during the days he was getting his degree in architecture. When you’re about to watch TV for an hour, ask yourself “Does this move me closer to my goal?” When you are letting housework (of all things!) distract you, ask “Does this move me closer to my goal?” When you let friends and the activities they’re planning distract you, ask yourself “Does this move me closer to my goal?” Checking email? Ask the question. Playing a game? Ask the question.

Put notes up on the TV, the refrigerator, the dashboard of your car, the computer screen (especially!) and keep reminding yourself that you have a goal in mind and anything that doesn’t move you toward it is keeping you away from it. Make those decisions wisely. Go out with your friends, but know every time you steer in the direction of leisure or distraction it takes you away from reaching your goal sooner. Do it consciously and sparingly.

Morning: What am I going to do today to move toward my goal?

Remind yourself every morning what direction you’re moving and reset your sights on your roadmap.

Evening: What did I do today to move toward my goal?

Check your progress each evening. This creates accountability and will help spur you into (more) action tomorrow.

Tracking tools

If checking boxes gives you a sense of movement and direction, here’s a list of tools for tracking your list of tasks or milestones that take you closer to your goal.

Tadalist.com – Simple to-do list allows you to define and check off tasks

Todoist.com – To-do list with calendaring option

The Big Picture – To-do drag and drop with calendar and collaboration

Base Camp – Project Management to create schedules, assign tasks, communicate with others

Daytum – Public accountability by publishing your progress

Photo Credit

Do . Feature . Persevere . Work