Schools around the U.S. recently let out for summer, and that means the clichés of graduation speeches were echoing across the land. Variations of “this is only the beginning,” “seize your future,” “be true to yourself,” etc. resonate because they’re all true.
However, every time we start a new journey, whether that’s graduating or starting a new job or project, we’re likely full of dreams based on the potential of that new phase. We imagine how awesome our life might become, now that we’ve taken this next step.
There’s nothing wrong with those dreams, but they are—themselves—just the first step. And that’s where many rah-rah graduation speeches fall short.
Potential Is just the Beginning
A harsh truth is that most people won’t reach their dreams. For an unfortunate few, they’ll fall short through no fault of their own. Life happens, circumstances can be insurmountable, or tragedy can strike too close to home.
But for many others—probably for most others—they won’t reach their dreams because there’s such a gap between wanting something and making it happen. Just because the potential exists doesn’t make it so.
It takes work to make our dreams happen. It often requires us to change, and change is hard.
We might have to take risks, do things we don’t want to do (but that are required for the journey), or get over self-doubt and other fears. Plus, as I mentioned last time, just because we love what we’re doing doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s still work.
Work Toward Our Dreams
Back when I was of the age to be at the receiving end of graduation speeches, I heard the advice to “not rest on your laurels”—and I had absolutely no idea what that phrase meant.
I probably even thought that was a stupid piece of advice. What was the point of working hard if you never got to enjoy it, right? *smile*
But that’s the difference between thinking of life as a destination and as a journey. When we’re young, we might think that we’ll suddenly reach a point where we’re an adult. Where we’re done growing and striving. Where we’ve reached our goal.
We eventually realize that we can be 30, 40, or 50 (or more) and still feel like we’re merely impersonating an adult. *raises hand* At the same time, goals keep us young because to strive is to live.
In fact, if we reach a goal of publishing a book, we might expand that goal to publish five books. There’s no finish line when we can proclaim ourselves done other than death itself.
Time and experience has helped me understand the laurels phrase, but I prefer the Will Rogers version:
We might be in the right place at the right time, but if we’re not grabbing opportunities and taking chances, if we’re not learning and improving, we can still lose.
Working for Our Dreams Will Lead to Failures
Wait…what? Chasing our dreams will lead to failures? Yep.
Pursuing our dreams often means that we need to take risks. Will we spend money to attend that workshop that might help our craft? Will we quit our unfulfilling job to work toward our dream full-time? Will we submit our work to an agent or editor?
Every one of those actions (or any other steps we might need to take) comes with risk. The workshop might be a waste of time or money, we might struggle to pay the bills without a day job, and we might be rejected.
So yes, unless our life goes perfectly 100% of the time (in which case, let me go in on a lottery ticket with you *grin*), some of the risks we take will lead to failures. The point isn’t that we failed, it’s that we tried.
Most mistakes we make won’t be fatal. We can learn from them and improve our chances next time. In other words, even failure leads to growth that avoids the “just sitting there” problem.
Taking action to pursue our dreams is the opposite of just sitting there. If we don’t take any action, we definitely won’t make progress. For as unlikely as it is that our life will go perfectly 100% of the time, it’s even more unlikely that our dreams will be handed to us through no effort on our part.
It could be easy to get discouraged. The world is scary. Taking risks is scary. Things often go wrong, and we can fail horribly.
When we push ourselves, we’ll make mistakes. But if we don’t even try, we will lose.
What Actions Are We Taking to Reach Our Dreams?
So if we don’t want to get run over by just sitting there thinking about our dreams, we have to do something. This is why goals and plans and self-imposed deadlines (with flexibility built in) are so important.
We need a plan for what steps we’ll take to get from our current Point A to the Point B of our dreams. Those steps can be almost anything:
- Make Decisions:
- What genre appeals to us?
- Which agents do we want to query?
- What publishing path will we follow?
- Will we accept a contract offer?
- What cover artist do we want?
- Seek Help:
- Find a mentor and/or supportive friends
- Attend a workshop
- Search for beta readers or critique partners
- Gather feedback
- Build an indie publishing team
- Pursue Self-Improvement:
- Change our attitude
- Identify what skills we’re missing
- Understand our options
- Study what we need to know
- Learn from feedback
Most of those aren’t big steps, and that’s okay. As I talked about last time, the slow and steady can add up over time.
The point isn’t that we’re reaching our goal within a certain time frame or that everything will go smoothly. The point is that we’re making some kind of progress every day we can. And that’s how we can turn our dreams into reality. *smile*
Do you know others who have dreams but never follow through? Have you ever struggled with that issue? What do you find hardest about moving forward or making progress? What advice would you give to someone who seems “stuck” and needs to take action? Do you have suggestions for other ways we can make progress?Pin It