Graduates are often filled with dreams. But at any age, we might wish to embark on a new career path, move to a new community, return to school in mid-life, or become politically active. A piece by a Washington Post journalist, writing in the commencement issue of The Harvard Crimson, May 25, 2017, resonated with me. Stephen W. Stromberg, class of '05 wrote,Two Weird Tips to Get Your Oddly Specific Job. This reminded me of the importance of following one's dream.
In the opening Stromberg did address what is on many people's minds today -- the political climate. Then before moving on to say, "Happy Commencement," he pointed to a quote from The African Queen. "The Trump presidency is proving the wisdom of Charlie Allnut's timeless line, 'Things are never so bad they can't be made worse.'" (Allnut was played by Humphrey Bogart.)
Instead of leaving us in the doldrums, he changed to a more positive tone and specifically explained how he went to work for the Washington Post. It was a dream job that he pursued even though it meant hanging around a newspaper that could not offer him a permanent job. He stayed there, nonetheless, lived in a basement apartment, did odd jobs, and ignored the advice of his "professional partner," which was "Go to law school."
He knew what he wanted and he took a direct route to achieve his goal. Researches Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan explain the self-determination theory and value of goal-setting in "The 'What' and 'Why' of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior."
While I have often written about the decision to dream, including goal-setting Stromberg reminded me of the value of determination. So many women and students have said to me, "I want something more. Where do I begin?" I suggest: Listening to your heart and visualizing. Pursuing specific project goals. And avoiding procrastination.
Here are eight steps to making a dream come true.
1. Dream your dreams and make a note of all of the times you say, “I really wish.” Focus on the one wish that keeps emerging and seems most meaningful to you.
2. Visualize yourself inside the dream setting until you can actually see yourself in this new place, whether it is a home, job, or relationship.
3. Introduce one person into your dream and "talk" with that person or yourself regarding the pros and cons of your wish. But until you are convinced, carefully guard your dream and avoid sharing with others too soon. You want to protect yourself from those who will say, "You want to do what? You must be kidding. It's impossible."
4. Step out of your dream and take positive action. Do something. If you are thinking about moving to a new community, learn all about it first. If you are planning to return to school, investigate programs. If you are looking for love, find where it is best to meet someone new.
5. Forgo procrastination. Make a list of what you will need to do in order to get started. Do you need to go back to school? Hire babysitters? Buy a new wardrobe? Find a realtor? Apply for college or graduate programs? What is the first step?
6. Create an action plan. Make a logical step-by-step list as you commit to your dream. Write a full scenario of exactly what you need to do to succeed.
7. After you have thought through each aspect, share the dream and your action plan for success with a spouse, partner, or friend who will be a cheerleader for you.
8. And then follow-through. Some experts say there are three keys to success: Follow through. Follow through. Follow through. Stromberg's story is convincing.
Wishing for political involvement?
When you make this decision to dream, there is no short cut. Consider what it takes to create a garden. Your dream is like a garden that will need to be tended and cared for, and nurtured.
The "I wish" that I hear most often today is getting into politics. Many women fret about the proposed cuts from the national budget for women's health, children's health insurance, and minority and elderly care. We do not have the luxury of time to be depressed. There is work to be done. Young people are helping organize through a group called "Indivisible" https://www.indivisibleguide.com/.
And recently a group of psychiatrists met at Yale to discuss “The Duty to Warn.” Shrinks Define the Dangers of A Trump Presidency.
If your dream is to vote legislators out of office, start now. If your dream is personal, start now. If your dream is something so big that you are afraid to even say it aloud, shout it from the rooftops and own it. This may sound contrary to quiet visualization. However, once you visualize and plan enough to commit to your dream, the naysayers will not move you from your path.
Adapted from A Serenity Journal, 52 Weeks of Prayer and Gratitude, by Rita Esposito Watson, Paulist Press 2000.
Copyright 2017 Rita Watson
Dewitte, S., and Schouwenburg, H., "Procrastination, temptations, and incentives: the struggle between the present and the future in procrastinators and the punctual," The European Journal of Personality, 2002.
Eckert, M., et al. "Overcome procrastination: Enhancing emotion regulation skills reduce procrastination," Learning and Individual Differences, Volume 52, December 2016.
Deci, E., and Ryan, R., "The 'What' and 'Why' of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior," Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 11, No. 4, 227–268, 2009..