Dreams and goals are forces that propel people, and society, toward progress. Through them, new ways of thinking and great ideas are developed. Medical breakthroughs, the ability to fly aircrafts around the world and astronauts walking on the moon are a few examples of people accomplishing their dreams.
"Dreams are what fuel us to get to a really fulfilling sort of life. Dreams give us our energy. Dreams are what power us. Dreams are what make us happy," says Michele Caron, life coach and founder of mylifecoach.com. Despite dreams being so essential for reaching one's full potential and happiness, many are not working towards their ambitions because of perceived obstacles.
Are barriers stopping you from making your dreams come true? Caron identifies five common stumbling blocks, and advises how to overcome them.
1. What is possible and impossible
Personal beliefs can get in the way of your dreams if unfounded. "Unfortunately many beliefs may have come from others without us testing them out for ourselves," says Caron. Some examples include: "you have to have money to make money," "life isn't supposed to be fun" and "it isn't practical." While there may be truth in these limiting statements for some, that does not make them true for all people. "Your own beliefs about yourself and your capabilities would also fall under this category," says Caron. For example, "'I am too lazy,' 'I am not good at exams,' 'I would never be able to do it' and 'I am not smart enough.'"
Inhibiting effects: Inappropriate beliefs can result in people limiting themselves unnecessarily. Our first beliefs come from our parents, and then we are inundated with opinions from our peers and the media. Caron suggests some beliefs are helpful for a time but can outlive their usefulness: for instance, a parent telling their young child it is dangerous to go near the road. While we can learn from the experiences of others, it is important for self-fulfillment to reach a point at which you realize you are the best judge of what your limits should be.
How to know if you are stuck: "You dismiss your dream as impossible, improbable or impractical before you even start," says Caron, "or you keep taking actions toward your dream, but things never seem to work out."
Overcome the obstacle: Here are Caron's tips for forming and examining your personal beliefs:
• Write down your dream or goal, and then write out all of your beliefs and opinions that relate to it. Then ask yourself the following questions: Are you sure that they are true? Have you tested them yourself? Is each belief helping you be your best, or does it limit you in some way?
• Discard or change beliefs that are not empowering or do not support your dream.
• Spend time with people who are pursuing a similar dream, or even better, who have already reached it. They have the right kinds of beliefs.
Page 1 of 5 – Learn how to deal when you have a lack of energy on page 2.
2. A lack of reserves
Reserves are surpluses of resources and energy sources, as well as the preparations people make in order to keep their lives running smoothly. Some examples of reserves are financial (savings for life's unexpected expenses), physical health (exercise to prevent heart disease), emotional health (taking time out for yourself), spiritual health (sense of connectedness, of purpose), living environment (organized and functional), or friends (support system).
"The average person may be spending most of their time working the nine to five, running errands, dealing with a car that keeps breaking down, arguing with their partner...and just don't have the resources to make an effective run at their dream," Caron says. Reserves are important because they are what allow people to pursue their dreams. They provide the needed energy, creativity, stability and time that dreams require.
Inhibiting effects: "We often don't give reserves a high enough priority, not realizing what a difference they can make in our level of happiness and ability to achieve things in our lives," Caron says.
Many people do not invest in their reserves because they feel guilty or selfish focusing on themselves. Parents can often fall into this trap. To counter these ways of thinking, follow Caron's advice: "The best way to think about it is, in the long run you are doing the best thing for your kids if you are your best-developed person, and you have the most reserves and energy to give to them." She adds, "If you are a fulfilled person, then you are modelling what you want for your children, which is for them to be happy."
How to know if you are stuck: "You have no extra time, money or energy to focus on your dream," Caron says. "You feel tired, frazzled, uninspired, stressed or hopeless."
Overcome the obstacle: Here are Caron's simple tips to help you stock up your reserves:
• Get your home and office organized.
• Treat yourself to the tools you need to perform at your best.
• Take care of yourself.
• Don't spend time with people who drain you.
• Concentrate on activities that build your reserves.
• Don't overextend yourself. Stop saying "yes" to every request.
• Raise your standards and develop strong boundaries for your time and with people.
Page 2 of 5 – Need some inspiration to make positive changes in your life? Find feel-good advice on page 3.
3. Lack of inspiration
Be specific about the details of your dreams. "The more inspiring your dreams are, the more they will pull you forward, giving you added energy to overcome obstacles. A lacklustre or partial dream may not have enough power in it," says Caron. For example, she continues, "'I need some time off' may not be very inspiring, but 'I would like to take two months to explore Europe' may be much more powerful!"
Make sure the dream you are pursuing is your own, and not one that your parents or your friends have impressed on you. "A dream fully aligned with your core interests and values is much more powerful," Caron says.
Inhibiting effects: "Unfortunately, we are often taught to disregard our dreams," says Caron. "We then lose touch with the dream-generating part of ourselves." If a person is not inspired about or connected to his/her dream, it can be easy to disregard it and to stagnate.
How to know if you are stuck: "You are ho-hum about pursuing your dream. Pursuing your dream is not fun. Nothing seems to go your way, and you are running into a lot of roadblocks. There is no energy or inspiration behind your dream," says Caron. You may also find yourself caught up in some unfulfilling aspects of life.
Overcome the obstacle: Here are some activities Caron recommends for sustaining a passion for your dream:
• Invest in your reserves.
• Use your imagination with thought experiments such as, "if money were no object, I would..." or "if I had all the time in the world, I would..." or "when I was a child, I always dreamed..."
• Know yourself, your own talents, your own interests, and what is important to you. Make sure your dream aligns with the type of person you are and/or want to become.
Page 3 of 5 – Move forward without fears – Learn how on page 4.
4. Paralyzed by fear
There are a variety of fears that can bring the pursuit of a dream to a halt. Caron sites the following as common setbacks:
• fear of failure (and, on the flip side, of success)
• fear of change
• fear of the unknown
• fear of rejection
• fear of revealing true feelings and dreams to the world
• fear of judgment
Inhibiting effects: According to Caron, we allow fear to paralyse us because "we don't want to feel emotional pain such as disappointment, anxiety, hopelessness or loneliness." This is a block because when people are idle, so are their dreams. Fear can also slow momentum and force people to second-guess themselves when they shouldn't.
How to know if you are stuck: "Thinking of your dream gives you anxiety, and you just don't want to take action or even think about it," Caron says. "You give yourself a lot of reasons 'why not.'" Other symptoms may include procrastinating and making excuses for your inaction.
Overcome the obstacle: Caron's tips for defeating your fears are:
• Do as the title of Susan Jefferies' book says, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."
• Consider options for reducing risk.
• Make a list of what would be the worst and best that could happen.
• Write down your fears and then separate irrational fears from rational ones.
Page 4 of 5 – Find out how persistence pays off when meeting your life goals on page 5.
5. Lack of persistence
Often dreams do not come true on the first try. History has shown this to be true. A perfect example of this is Thomas Edison. He tried more than 10,000 experiments before he finally converted electricity into light, but he refused to ever admit defeat, saying: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
"Failure" is not a good excuse for giving up.
Inhibiting effects: A lack of persistence blocks people from their dreams because it causes them to give up too easily. They are discouraged at the first sign of difficulty and abandon their dreams, choosing instead to take an easier path. Caron says this happens when "you aren't accountable to anyone but yourself, and you don't value yourself enough to keep following through."
How to know if you are stuck: "You tried and gave up much too soon; part of you is still dreaming your dream, however," Caron says. A lack of persistence often results when you are struggling with any of the previously mentioned obstacles.
Overcome the obstacle: Caron offers advice for boosting persistence:
• Make a commitment to yourself, as well as publicly to your friends, family and peers.
• Realize that there is an opportunity for learning in every "failure," and that every "failure" gets you closer to realizing your dream.
• Keep fuelling your dream with your imagination.
• Make sure you aren't running into problems with any of the first four obstacles.
Taking the first step towards your dream
Feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start? Caron suggests, "Chunk things down in manageable steps." She continues, "For instance, if you want to become an interior designer, you don't have to quit your day job and go off to university. Maybe the first thing you need to do is start collecting some magazines and meet another designer."
If you're unsure what your dreams are, you may need to start by simply taking some time for yourself to get back in touch with your true feelings. If you struggle with this, a life coach can be a great resource to give you the support and encouragement you need to feel confident in choosing your dream.
While following your dreams may not be the easiest path to choose, it can be the most rewarding.
Michele Caron has been a life coach for the past two years. She trained with the Thomas Leonard CoachVille School of Coaching. Michele is also the creator of www.MyLifeCoach.com, Google's number one life-coaching site. She has also been featured on www.EmpoweringMessages.com.
Page 5 of 5 – Are your life goals possible or impossible? Find out how to tell on page 1.