Most of us have dreams – big or small – whether they are to
own our own businesses or to be happier. Why, then, do we
tend to spend more time planning our grocery lists than
we do our future?
Why is it good to have dreams?
"Dreams give us purpose in life. They don't necessarily mean that we're discontent, but they pull us forward. Often
we are so entrenched in our fears that they keep us stuck
in our patterns. We don't know how to get out of them,
and doubt ourselves. We also tend to be impatient, wanting
to reach the goalpost without taking those little steps in-
between," says Kate Emmerson, a life coach who is based in
Following your dreams means making changes. Because we are creatures of habit, anything outside of the norm tends to make us uncomfortable.
"Change represents a time of uncertainty, which we'll normally resist as it frightens us," says Kate. "Sometimes, the changes we have to make in order to reach our dreams can
be so overwhelming that it makes us hesitant to take the
leap. We then cling to what we know.
"Changes do not just affect us, but also those who are closest to us.
"Often those around you fear that you'll reach your dreams. For them it means having to deal with the 'new you'. This can cause discomfort and may affect your relationships."
For example, if you've always depended on your partner to
take you everywhere and your goal was to get your driver's
licence, realising this goal will mean that you'll become
"How you deal with the changes will greatly depend on your
Taking the plunge
"It's important to realise that realising your dreams takes
commitment and that it's not a smooth ride. Life is a journey of continuous learning. There'll be bumps in the road and how we react to that will depend on how strongly we want to reach our goals," says Retha Alberts, a Cape Town career coach. "We need to be comfortable with our mistakes."
How do we distinguish between a real and important goal, and just something that would be "nice to have"?
According to Retha, a real goal is one that speaks to your heart and has more than material value.
Kate agrees: "You have to ask yourself whether the dreams are really yours or someone else's. Often we buy into other people's agendas.
Ask yourself: 'Who am I trying to please?'" With this is mind, how do you start the ball rolling?
1 Analyse your values
Make a list of what's really important to you. Is it your family, your religion, or do you value your leisure time?
Set your goals to include your values.
"It's important that our goals are in line with our values
and that we are comfortable with them," says Retha.
2 Write it down
Make a contract with yourself. Not only does seeing your goal in writing help to make it real; it also helps
you to visualise it better. Be specific and note completion
dates for reaching the goal.
Remember to state your goals in the positive, for example, "I will lose five kilograms by the end of December". To help you to stay committed to your goal, read it every day.
3 Be realistic
It's no use setting goals that cannot be achieved. "We have to be realistic. Be brutally honest and make sure you have the resources to achieve it," says Retha.
For example, if reaching your goal means that you have to gain new skills, then attain what you need to instead of setting yourself up for failure. Be willing to study and work hard to reach your goals and ask yourself whether you are able to do what is necessary.
4 Enlist the help of others
To help you to reach your goals it's often a good idea to find appropriate support. "Often we look for support in the wrong places. For example, we tend to turn to our family for guidance.
"This is frequently not a good idea as our family is usually comfortable with us being the way we are. To get help that is unbiased, rather ask a trusted friend, a mentor, or a person who is in line with who you are and where you want to go," says Kate.
5 Visualise it
To help you to visualise your goal, try cutting out pictures of the things you want out of old magazines, newspapers, or brochures. Then make a collage and put it up
against a wall, where you'll see it all the time.
6 List the obstacles
Think of all the things that might stand in your way and decide on a plan of action.
7 Know the benefits
Knowing what you'll achieve from reaching your goals is a strong motivator. For example, walking a kilometre a day will help you to become fit.
8 Reward yourself
Reward yourself for each goal that you've achieved. If your goal is to stop smoking, for example, celebrate your first cigarette-free week by having a fun date with yourself.
"Try treating yourself to a manicure, watching an uplifting
movie or spending quality time on your own," says Kate.
Retha recommends not making your goals a chore. Enjoy the journey and maintain the balance.
What do you do if you've followed all the right steps to
achieve your goals and success still eludes you? "Re-assess your goals to determine if they are what you really desire," says Kate.
"Are you too busy focusing on the future and, perhaps, forgetting to enjoy the present? Are you chasing the wrong thing? Remember that success is in every moment. It's about finding the balance and not about how much money you have
in the bank," she says.
Perhaps you are your own worst enemy, says Retha. For example, do you talk negatively to yourself by, perhaps, saying things such as: "I really must stop eating
"What your brain is hearing is 'eat' and 'unhealthy foods', which is counterproductive. Turn it into the positive and rather say 'I eat healthy foods'".
Not yet convinced?
Nine years ago Retha dreamt of owning her dream home. She had a clear vision in mind – it had to have an architectural design of her choice, be built in a specific
area, and overlook a magnificent view.
"Every Sunday my husband and I would drive around the
area, searching for a plot where our dream house could be built. One day we stopped at an empty plot and we just knew it was the place for us. It was as if the area was speaking to us."
However, at that stage it was financially impossible. Then the bank gave them a bond, but it was just short of what they needed to realise their dream.
"Because it was financially out of our reach, we made other sacrifices. We dined out less and stopped buying clothes and unnecessary items." It took them seven months to
accumulate the additional funds that they needed and, today, Retha and her husband live in their dream home.
What did she do to stay motivated? "We used to visit the plot often and each time was special. I would visualise
myself decorating the house, hanging the curtains and putting up pictures on the walls when there was just a foundation.
"I had a clear vision of what our house would look like and would 'visualise' us entertaining our friends. For us, it's not just a house of material means; it's our miracle home.
The thirty-minute drill
If you spend about 30 minutes a day doing something
towards visualising your dream you will spend about three-
and-a-half-hours a week on trying to reach your goal.
If your goal is to go on an overseas holiday, take the time to read up about the country you want to visit. This will keep the dream alive in your mind and will help to
motivate you as you will constantly keep your goal in sight.
Says Kate: "Perhaps the most important thing to do is to ask yourself each day, 'What is the one single thing I can definitely do that will take me just one step closer to my dream?' Remember to keep it simple."