How to make your dreams come true

Have you, like half the world’s female population, let go of your dreams altogether? Are your dreams slipping away as you focus on being successful at what’s in front of you?

The first ever Global Dreams Index Survey, conducted by SK-II, took place in 2016. It strongly correlated dissatisfaction with life and the failure to pursue one’s dreams.

My dreams began to be left behind when, as I grew up and set my own targets, my world began to be filled with comparisons, judgments and shoulds. “My social media should be this way if I’m to be successful”, “If I behave more like so-and-so I’m more likely to get promoted”, “What will they think of me if I share these opinions?”. Sound familiar?

When I was at school, one of my dreams for a time was to become an orchestra conductor. I am fairly gifted in the music department, and working towards GCSE music didn’t feel like a chore.

My grown up goal was to set up my own business, which I have done and now I get to dream as big as I like about where I take that business, and how it works me in the life I want to have. There are a lot of freedoms to being answerable only to yourself. But success only comes from putting yourself out there every day. Here’s the three biggest barriers I have come across so far and the most effective ways I have found to knock them down.

1. Judgement

A fear of being negatively judged leads us to edit or filter who we are. We begin to try to present the bits of ourselves to all those people we deal with every day, according to what we think might win their approval. This is exhausting.

One of the GCSE course requirements was that I compose a piece of music. So, aged 16, I went ahead and wrote a piece of piano music in the style of Mozart. To write music is to seriously put yourself out there, but back then, it didn’t occur to me to worry about being judged. I was quietly confident in my abilities – there was no question of whether or not I could. I was asked to, so I did.

Fast forward 30 plus years with 25 years’ experience of written business communications, and here I am sat at my computer balking slightly at the prospect of writing a LinkedIn article.

A fear of being negatively judged leads us to edit or filter who we are. We begin to try to present the bits of ourselves to all those people we deal with every day, according to what we think might win their approval. This is exhausting. It’s also more than a full time job and the results are a lottery. The only certainty is this path leads to us being half the person we are, which is a hopeless outcome for anyone trying to develop their impact in the workplace, or their leadership capability.

The fix? I found people that I respected, and admired that weren’t part of my established inner circle and began to seek feedback. How did I do that? I began to put myself out there in tiny slices. I asked questions, and asked for help on small, seemingly more inconsequential matters and built up new relationships with people who I knew could support me. Gradually I built up a new picture of how people who aren’t really close to me see me, and this helped me to see new possibilities and explore new ideas about who I am, what I stand for, and what my true purpose might be.

2. Comparisons

Heard the phrase “Take care of yourself and the rest will take care of itself.”? This turns out to be true.

It’s okay to recognise others’ strengths and think about how you could adapt your own style to incorporate some new qualities or attributes that will help you be better at what you do. But it’s not okay to co-opt bits of other people’s qualities because you feel who you are is not enough and you should somehow be different or better.

This can be very hard to resist in some situations. If you are brand new in a role or organisation and feel out of your depth, momentarily lost, or disorientated it’s tempting to do what it takes to fit in. Likewise if you’ve been somewhere a while but don’t feel your worth is being recognised, supported or rewarded. You’re also vulnerable to this if you find yourself in a workplace culture that isn’t welcoming and you’re short of colleagues you can trust, confide in and share with.

I can hold my hands up to all three at different times in my career.

The fix? Comparing yourself unfavourably to other people is synonymous with a lack of self-sufficiency. It’s a pretty impossible task to lead yourself to your dreams, or others to theirs from this place. Do something to put yourself in charge of your destiny each day. For me, this is morning routine.

I’m not advocating the much-discussed Mark Wahlberg approach here. But I did find that as soon as found a way to make my day about more than just the work I began to have way more capacity and confidence to do many things I thought were out of my reach. This is because I had created the space for calm and ease in my life. Heard the phrase “Take care of yourself and the rest will take care of itself.”? This turns out to be true.

3. Shoulds

Binary thinking blocks our access to courage, purpose, self-belief and momentum.

Need I say more?

Shoulds come from a binary world of right and wrong. I don’t think Shoulds have a place in the lexicon of achievement. Black and white, all or nothing, perfectionist thinking stops us from doing anything at all. It’s also what’s behind judgment and comparison.

Binary thinking blocks our access to courage, purpose, self-belief and momentum.

The fix? If developing a healthier relationship with judgement and comparison have been slow burns, in terms of achieving goals and dreams this one has packed the biggest punch.

I got quite serious about noticing binary thought patterns and where they led. There was always a should at the end, and it was never a happy place. I made it a practice to find a third way. Instead of should which leads to this or that thinking, I focus on a could. Today, when writing this article, I focused on could.

It’s unlikely I will write the perfect article so if I’d stayed focused on that you wouldn’t be reading this. But I knew I could for certain write for 25 minutes at a time until I’d finished and then edit what I’d written and then publish it.

Your life dreams represent who you are. If you’re working to find your leadership identity, spiralling back to those dreams and remembering yourself is a great place to start. An inauthentic leader is no leader at all. See what you can do to lead yourself towards your goals.