The boring, unglamorous steps help bring the dream to life!

In case you missed it last week, I wrote a book! And now I’m sharing a few of the lessons I learned through that process. You can see Lesson 1 here. 

Lesson 2 – The vision never included these steps, but they’re integral to the process.

Our biggest dreams are often very detailed. We dream with our 5 senses, experiencing the achievement long before it ever comes to fruition. When someone imagines themselves holding the academy award and giving their acceptance speech, they can hear the applause and cheers. They can feel the joy in that moment! 

No one imagines filming 50 takes in the pouring rain after putting on makeup for 6 hours, just to get the exact right emotion into the exact right sentence only to have it cut out of the film in final editing. But the 50 takes and the award go together; you need both.

Here’s a huge discovery I made that I’ll share in case there are any aspiring writers out there. The best way to write a book? It’s to actually start writing a book! Can you believe it? But for 20 years, I’d imagined seeing the book on a shelf (or in later years in an online bookstore). I didn’t necessarily dream about writing every day. And yet, that’s a key step in the process. 

Unfortunately, the process is often not glamorous or even fun. There are days when you don’t have time or you don’t feel like doing it or you have nothing to say or there’s no inspiration to be found anywhere. But without putting in the work, the dream doesn’t happen.

There are lots of people that have a dream job that is different than their current role. They can see the awesome job, company, and co-workers as part of it. They can feel the joy. But guess what’s needed to get there? Lots of unglamorous steps in the process. Updating their resume, gaining new skills, applying to jobs, and facing the rejection that applying to jobs inevitably brings. 

So what should we do? First, we need to recognize that the path to where we want to go is filled with distractions and unglamorous, though necessary steps. 

Then, we need to commit to making progress in the face of that knowledge. For me, it was committing to write regularly. In the case of the dream job, it’s committing to do the steps to take you there. Like any interesting journey, it’s not always fun, but it’s definitely worth it!

#PositiveAction What do you need to commit to doing to allow you to achieve a goal or dream? Take one small step today!

 

Image by fvoellmer from Pixabay

 

I’ve been sharing my becoming-a-published-author journey over the past few months and today it’s officially official! Change Authentically: A guide to transform your job and life through positive action is published! And confetti rains down Super Bowl style!! 

At least, it did in my head! And if you know me, you know I’d hate to have to sweep and vacuum up all that confetti, so it’s probably better it was imaginary. Let’s keep the celebration clean and orderly, shall we?

I’ve had a little time to reflect on the process of writing and self-publishing. It was a surprising, exciting, sometimes terrifying journey, a lot like anything new. There are things I would do differently next time (yes, there WILL be a next time!) now that I’ve been through the process. And there are some interesting lessons I wanted to share, since they apply to work.

Lesson 1 – A bunch of details that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things stand between you and the ONE THING that does matter

I’ve wanted to write a book for at least 20 years (you can read an excerpt here). There are lots of reasons and excuses as to why I didn’t up to this point. But I knew someday, I eventually would do it. The writing part was fun for me – it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed. The many details of the self-publishing process on the other hand, were not.

Did you know that you can pick between three different paper colors for your printed book? AND that each paper choice is a slightly different thickness? AND that slightly different thickness when stacked on top of each other in book format changes the width of the spine of the book? And by the way, the width of the spine then has implications for a whole bunch of other choices to be made!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when faced with so many interconnected decisions. But the funny thing is, as much as they all impact the final product, they don’t really matter all that much. I’ve never chosen to read or not read a book based on the spine size. Or the color of paper. Or a whole bunch of other inconsequential details.

All those choices can become distractions if we let them. It’s easy to spend hours on the internet reading about which paper is the absolute best paper for a specific usage. To endlessly debate and agonize over each decision to be made. And it also could prevent me from moving toward the end goal of publishing a book, which was my big aspiration all along.

I needed to instead focus my attention on the minimums. Fill out the required fields and move on. Trust me, even this approach took WAY longer than I expected, and was not without its fair share of debating before deciding!

I sure wish life came with a required fields indicator! It’s easy to get caught up in the details of the everyday, the things that seem so important in the moment. It’s much harder to sift through those things objectively to figure out what matters. Sometimes it’s only through the benefit of hindsight that we can see more clearly what did and didn’t help us in the process. 

Whether we figure it out in the moment or through the benefit of time, hopefully we’re taking those lessons forward with us so that the next time we’re faced with an endless sea of distractions, we can more easily move forward toward that one thing that matters most.

#PositiveAction What tiny distractions are keeping you from making real progress on your big goal? Set a deadline to figure them out and then commit to moving forward!

Book cover image by Erin Zastrow

Aspiration is another word for dream (official definition: a hope or ambition to achieve something… sure sounds like a dream to me!) and we’ve talked before about dreaming. Actually, several times, like here, here, and here because I believe it’s one of life’s greatest joys to have a dream you’re working on bringing to life. Of course, a dream doesn’t get you where you want to go without positive action!

I have a chair (shown above) that is my dreaming chair. It’s a 15-year-old recliner that my two cats absolutely adore. It’s the place I go when I want to guarantee some snuggle time with them. It’s also the place I go to slow down and let my mind wander.

As humans, we need both time and space to dream. Creating the physical blocks of time in your daily schedule (yes, daily!) is critical. So is the white space that is created when you have no other distractions, obligations, or activities during that moment of time. In our over-scheduled, always-on world, one of the most productive things you can do is nothing, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Use this post as the permission you’ve been waiting for to kick back and let your mind wander for a few minutes!!

My creativity has been significantly higher this year, partly because I’ve deliberately given myself the time and space for dreaming. Sometimes I hop in my dreaming chair and nothing much happens, other than sitting there. Sometimes I get an idea to solve a problem whether for my business, a client, or my family. Sometimes, I get the inspiration for my next big project! I never know what the outcome is going to be and I don’t have any expectation for it. What I can say with certainty is that I feel renewed and ready to tackle the next task on my list after I’m finished.

You might be wondering how to do this in your daily life. It’s 3 simple steps.

  1. Schedule the time, whether 5 minutes or a whole day off from work, it’s up to you. 
  2. Actually use the time you scheduled. Jerry Seinfeld said it best, “See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.” So make sure you hold the time you scheduled!
  3. Turn off electronic devices and distractions. I promise, all the work and demands and notifications of the world will manage to wait for a few minutes while you do this. Be careful, you might find you actually enjoy uninterrupted time!

When you follow these steps, you’ll start to dream more. You’ll come up with amazing aspirations! Sometimes, it’ll be change-the-world aspirations, like impacting a million or more people in a specific way. Sometimes, it’ll be a simple, change-the-moment thing, like eating healthy food for the rest of the day. The dreams can be all shapes and sizes. The only rule to the dream is that it HAS to be authentically yours. 

In the context of positive action, your actions should be focused on leading you toward your aspirations. Keep asking yourself, what’s one small step I can take today toward my aspiration? You may feel like you have almost no time to devote to it, but there’s still something small you can do each day. If you do that consistently for a month, you’ll be surprised to see how those 30 actions got you further than you imagined possible!

#PositiveAction Spend 5 minutes doing nothing and see where your mind wanders. What aspiration is waiting for your action to bring it to life? 

Aspiration is the first element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. If you’re new here, welcome! You may want to start at the very beginning with positive action

Photo by me, with cuteness added by my two fuzzy buddies!

If only our dreams introduced themselves to us so neatly!

For a long time, I had a dream to “help the environment someday”. A very nebulous, though perhaps noble, goal. Unfortunately, there were always things that seemed to get in the way. I recognize them now as mostly excuses and fears, but at the time, they seemed like legitimate concerns.

I’m too busy. It’s very inconvenient. My kids are small and need all my attention right now. The list goes on (and on and on!). 

So I did what most of us do when confronted with all the reasons not to pursue my dream. I waited. I waited for the perfect timing (it never came!). I waited to be less busy (I never was!). I waited for the right conditions (you guessed it, never happened!). I waited for a sign (still waiting!). And a decade went by. 

You might be wondering to yourself how a person like me, known to many as a great accountability partner, could let this happen. Where was the accountability on my own dream? So glad you asked!

The first obstacle for me was that I didn’t acknowledge the fact that this was a dream. I had been treating it as a nice-to-have-someday sort of wish, rather than a dream I wanted to work to fulfill. We’ve talked before about the importance of dreaming big. I had failed to do that in this regard.

Another way I let myself off the hook was through inaction. I was paralyzed by trying to decide the best way to help the environment someday. Every time I would think about it, I’d feel stuck or overwhelmed, so I’d stop. I’ve shared before that hope isn’t a plan and sometimes the best plan is to stop planning and start taking action!

Interestingly, we all end up in this scenario at some point over the course of our careers. Sometimes, it’s the role we’re afraid to say out loud that we’d really love to have. It can be the new technology you’d like to take a class to learn more about, but are afraid of being the oldest (or youngest!) person there. Maybe you’d like to do a full career pivot, but don’t have the slightest idea what you’d pivot to. 

The writer Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us, “It’s never too late to reclaim your individual gifts, resuscitate a dream, create an authentic life.” That’s some great encouragement! Especially for those of us with dreams that have been on the backburner for a decade or more!!

Where to start? How about with the same two principles that helped me finally move forward. Acknowledge your dream and put some clarity around it. Then, try doing one small thing to get some momentum. 

For me, it started with reading a few books and watching some documentaries. Then I decided to apply for a leadership training. After the panic wore off from getting accepted to the training, I found ways to make the training as meaningful as possible, including building connections with people. That led to forming a group in the Milwaukee area to support each other and continue to take action. 

I couldn’t plan out all these steps in advance because I didn’t know where each action would lead me. That’s the interesting thing about action. It often will surprise you with where you end up because you’re learning and adjusting as you go.

#PositiveAction Do you have something that you’ve been putting off for someday? It’s time to acknowledge that dream and turn it into action, one small step at a time!

 

Image from Pixabay

Many a high school and college graduation speech is spent telling young people to dream big. Shoot for the moon. Anything is possible! 

I’m not arguing with that advice at all. I think dreaming big is great! I also think it becomes harder to do the older we get. When was the last time you went to a retirement party where the advice everyone gives the retiree is to dream big about their next phase in life? Yeah. Me either.

Somewhere between our wide-eyed youth and our cynical old age, the act of dreaming starts to seem frivolous. Childish. Unnecessary. We go from thinking, “Anything is possible!” to “How can I survive this month? (Or sometimes day or even meeting)”. I want to point out that merely muddling through is a very low bar to set. There’s no fun or joy in that. 

What if I told you that you could thrive? Would you believe me? Shrug it off? Say you don’t have time for that?

Thriving looks and feels very different from surviving (aka muddling through) and that’s because it has a dreaming component.

Many of us may be out of practice at dreaming, so let’s define it first. A dream is a cherished aspiration, ambition, or idea. I know what you’re thinking: “That sounds great! How do I get one?” The answer starts with questions. 

When we’re young, we have questions about everything. As we get older, we start to think we have answers and stop asking questions. A great way to dream is to ask yourself questions. What would I do if money were no longer an issue? What drives me crazy that I wish I could change? What legacy am I leaving for my family? How do I want to be remembered? Am I having the kind of impact I want? What do I care most deeply about?

The list of questions is endless – I’m sure you thought of more just while reading that. More importantly, are you ready for your authentic answers? It’s time each of us had a cherished aspiration, ambition, or idea we were working toward! When you do, you have energy, interest and excitement around bringing that dream to life.

I think the artist (and dreamer!) Jason Kotecki said it best, “The only dreams that have no chance of coming true are the ones never dreamed in the first place.”

Regardless of your age, you need to dream big. 

What areas of your life do you need to start reimagining? Can you dream bigger? 

#PositiveAction: Spend 5 minutes thinking about and writing the answer to one of the questions above (or one that you made up) and see if it helps to bring a dream into focus for you.

Image by tookapic from Pixabay