Focus on the Dream to Make it a Reality

Sitting in a cafe, looking over a charming square in Lisbon, Portugal with the ruins of a cathedral in the distance, I am on the cusp of my birthday month. In classic Leo fashion, I celebrate all July long. Why have one day when you can have a month?

This morning I treated myself to a hearty brunch and a long journaling session where I went over my vision for my 31st rotation around the sun. I spent too much of my twenties following a ‘five-year plan’ that didn’t actually account for what I wanted to do. Just what I thought was the smart steady thing…

My teenage self was reading Kerouac and Fitzgerald, dreaming of a life outside my small town where I could mingle with creatives and explore cities like Lisbon that I had only read about. The adult me thought that it was an impossible dream. I had to be sensible. Hence the five-year plan.

Spoiler: it didn’t lead to anything beyond student debt, career dissatisfaction, and general ennui. Typical millennial issues. I was following all the rules but I didn’t realize that the game had changed! I wised up for my graduate degree which I have no debt for, but I still thought that I couldn’t have the career of my dreams- working online, traveling the world, and having enough time to pursue my love of writing.

I didn’t wake up yesterday and wake up in Lisbon. I have been roaming Europe and South America with my laptop since 2017.

The common response that I get from people who find out about my life is how lucky I am. Fortunate. Or ‘what a luxury, your parents must have money.’

That makes me laugh since I am the second youngest of six with a mom who works as a nursing home aide. Dad is a university accountant. The only money in the family are the coins that fall in the couch cushions.

Beyond the inherent skin and passport privilege, I don’t come from a background where people go abroad. People don’t really leave my hometown unless they join the military. They either work in a copper mine or in a nursing home.

It took me years of freelancing to build up the skills and then a year of journaling, visualizing, and getting my metaphorical shit together to make it work. While the skills I learned have come in handy, I truly believe that the year of personal development in 2016 was what gave me the edge to jump off the edge into my dream. I am not saying that I pulled a Tony Robbins to awaken my inner giant in some weekend seminar. No, I did daily work in my journal to clarify what I wanted, deprogram my inner critics, and utilized cognitive behavior therapy techniques to let myself embrace my ‘crazy vision.’

I don’t know your situation, I benefited by not having kids or pets to care for. I just have to keep myself alive. However, I have seen families and even single moms shoot for the stars and success. If you want reasons and examples for why you will fail then you will find them. Look for reasons and examples for why you can succeed!

Never forget that you are capable of more than you think!

How can you hone into your vision so you can design a strategy to achieve it?

1. JOURNALING: It doesn’t matter if you muse on random guided journaling prompts or follow a specific regime like the morning papers outlined in the Artist’s Way. Analyzing your brain is how you master it. 15 minutes a day can flush out the crud so you can focus in on what you want instead of the mental debris of dramas, anxieties, and confusion. Journaling helped me figure out what, why, and how I wanted to achieve my digital nomad dreams.

If you want some prompts to journal too, you can get my short ebook called ‘Career Clarity Now’ here:

2. FIND YOUR PEEPS: Go out and find the people who are passionate about what you are passionate about. You need to find likeminds to bounce ideas off of and more importantly, understand why this dream is important!

When I was burnt out from working at a nonprofit as a career specialist and hustling hard on my business, a mentor of mine told me that I needed to mentally focus on my dream like it was the reality and focus on it whenever I could. This was easier when I joined networking groups and met people who made it happen.

3. TAKE ACTION: If you are confused about what you want to do, try out the field a bit. If you want to be a web developer then take a short affordable coding course to see if you like the work. If you want to change careers to UX design for example then take a UX designer out for coffee and learn more about their work day. Freelance, volunteer, free/low-cost courses are all ways to dip your toes in the water.

I won’t be a cliche and tell you that if I can do it, you can do it or even assume that you want to roam with a laptop, but I bet you have a dream that you have been putting off. Maybe it is a career move or a lifestyle goal. It doesn’t matter because the techniques are the same. You have to understand your vision, find your squad, and take aligned action.

You are writing the book of your life… so what is going on the next page?

What is the Worst that Could Happen?

There is a technique in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where you realistically analyze what could be the worst outcome of a decision or situation. You simply ask yourself what is the worst that could happen. This is a key tactic to practice because so often as humans we can catastrophize a situation/decision/result.

I am not even just talking about life and death quandaries like Churchill smoking a cigar agonizing over WW2 strategies.

This can happen with the most mundane of events such as not hearing back from a date (OMG she hates me!) to starting a business (OMG it’s going to fail and I’ll have to live in a van by the river!)

This can happen to the best and brightest of us.

We catastrophize as if we are in Pompeii watching the ash fall even the reality is that we just need to harden up and negotiate a raise with our boss.

I see so many people who spend their lives catastrophizing and end up stuck in situations that are worse than if they just took action.

If you are miserable in your job, it’s not the end of the world to start to look for another.

If you no longer want to be in your field, it’s not the end of the world to change careers.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, it’s not the end of the world to tell your spouse.

Sit and think about what actually (and realistically) is the worst that would happen. Confront the primal part of your brain still on the lookout for saber tooth tigers. Just because you feel fear, that doesn’t mean that it is real. Be logical and understand that most of our fears swirl around the idea of failure.

Failure isn’t your foe. Failure is a byproduct of actually living your life. If you never fail then that is a sign that you never tried. Failure isn’t the end. Most of my readers are educated people in the Western world with a lot going for them so I can safely assume that you can pick yourself up.

When I decided that I wanted to go into business for myself, I made a list of what would happen if I failed:

I would have to give up my own place and live with a relative like my sister.

I could have a business debt.

I’d feel humiliated since I made a big deal about being self-employed.

I would have to go back to working for someone else.

The list went on and even had some unrealistic scenarios, but I created a second list for each fear that centered around how bad each one really was and if there was a silver lining.

For example: If I did go broke and had to live with my sister then I would have lots of time with my nieces and nephew. My sister was cool with it because then she would have a live-in babysitter.

Note: I realize that its a blessing to have such a close family. I earnestly do enjoy those freaks [ 😉 ] so being able to live with them isn’t as much of a hardship as it might be for someone who doesn’t have such a cool family.

Then after I did my rebuttals/notes on each catastrophe, I wrote a few bullet points on how I could prevent that eventuality. I decided to not take out a loan for my business and do as much bootstrapping as I could.

A few of my worries were just my pride talking. It’s not a humiliation to go for your dreams. Its a sign of courage and a way to stave off regrets. And being self-employed has been a way for me to learn so many amazing skills around marketing, management, technology, etc. I can definitely find a new job with these new skills without a problem.

The worst that could happen for you might be something that you can’t tolerate. That is how I felt about a business loan so I did some adjustments in my plans to avoid it.

Then I made my peace with the fact that I could fail. If you move boldly, you’re bound to stumble.

Not every issue can be avoided, the world is chaotic, shit happens, society is unequal, life isn’t fair, etc. I can’t tell you that your experience will be like mine.

If you have kids or other responsibilities or limitations like societal marginalizations then you will have to be creative with finding your path to your dreams.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t live your life to its fullest potential. Once you face your fear and name it, you can build a strategy to overcome it or go around it. Just because life throws us barriers to our dreams that doesn’t mean that we need to become one ourselves.

Whenever you feel paralyzed by fear even as your heart and spirit are yearning to achieve a dream, greet that fear, thank it for protecting you, and use logic to defuse it.

What is the worst that could happen if you dug deep into your career/business/lifestyle/creative dreams and tried to achieve them?

You’ll probably find that the worst isn’t as bad as the regret you’ll feel for not giving your dream a go.