Pie in the sky? Maybe, maybe not.

How to pursue your dreams

My novel The Remainders will be published by Black Rose Writing on September 2, 2021. You can read other posts in The Remainders category on my website. Also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to learn more about the book.

Someone recently asked me, “How do I pursue my dreams?” They thought because I made several of my dreams come true, I should know something. But I drifted into the typical impulse when someone talks about their dreams, and that is to dump all over them. “Be realistic. Only a few people ever achieve any success in that field. Find a way to support yourself. Prepare yourself for rejection and failure.” All of that may be true, but none of it is useful.

Not all dreams are as grand as writing a best-selling novel or winning an Olympic gold medal. Some have the dream of starting a new career. Or planning for retirement. Some dreams are matters of life and death, like getting rid of excess weight or getting sober. Whether your dream is big or small, ambitious or simple, the basic steps are the same.

Step 1. Why do you want to pursue that dream?

Perhaps you want to do more to provide for your family. Or escape from a bad situation. Or feel good about yourself. Whatever it is, understanding the purpose of your dream will motivate you in pursuing it.

It also helps you decide if a dream is worth pursuing. Be careful if you’re trying to fulfill your parents’ dreams for you, or if you hope achieving a goal will get someone else’s approval. You will wind up living a life that is not your own. Anything you achieve for someone else will never satisfy them, and they will push you beyond your limits to give them more. Eventually, you will run out of motivation to do something you’ve grown to hate. If you can’t quit, you will sabotage yourself to escape.

Make sure it is your dream you’re pursuing. By identifying the reason, you will know for sure.

Step 2. What are you willing to give up?

Everything has a cost. If you want to get rid of excess weight, it means you won’t be able to indulge freely in foods you enjoy. If you want to write a novel, it means giving up evenings to write. If you want to move to a house, it means adjusting to a new neighborhood and dealing with the expenses and work that goes with home ownership. If you want to get sober, it means leaving behind your drinking buddies and possibly ending relationships with loved ones who enabled that behavior.

Whatever you choose to pursue, be prepared to let go of whatever you need to reach that dream. If you can’t, you’re not ready to pursue it.

Step 3. What do you have? What do you need?

Do an inventory of what skills and tools you have to pursue your goals. What do you already have? This can be talent, education, past experience, and financial resources. What do you need? Do you need to do more research into your dream to see what it entails? What education do you need for this field? What equipment do you need?

At this point, you’re shaping your dream into something actionable: Goals.

Step 4. What are your goals? And the steps for your goals?

When you’re venturing into something big, it requires multiple goals. Let’s say you’re starting a business. One goal might be to take business management classes. Another can be to look into type of business you want to pursue. You might get a job for a related company to learn more about the work involved. To make a dream real, you need to break it down into actionable goals, and then break down each goal into the steps to reach it. When you have a list of small, specific things you can do, the work doesn’t seem overwhelming. And as you check off completed items, the progress will motivate you.

Step 5. What is your Plan B?

Not all dreams come true. An injury can derail an athletic career. An economic downturn can wipe out the plans for your business. Someone can outbid you on that dream house. It always helps to have a Plan B that enables you to benefit from pursuing your dream, even if you don’t fully achieve it.

Maybe you can’t get an agent to look at your screenplays, but you can change them into novels and find a publisher for them. Or apply your skills in a career like advertising or instructional design. A Plan B isn’t an admission of defeat. It enables you to reap the benefits of your efforts, even if you don’t reach your ideal.

Dreams can come true, but not exactly in the way you expect.

Dreams aren’t all-or-nothing affairs. They can come true in different forms. I didn’t become the next Kurt Vonnegut, but I’ve built a wonderful technical writing career that gives me time to write novels.

The key is to be clear about your dreams. Why do you want to pursue them, and are those reasons truly your own? What are you willing to sacrifice to work towards your goals? Take an inventory of your skills and tools and determine what you need to move forward. Break your dream into goals and break those down into actionable steps. Finally, be flexible about the outcome. Just taking the steps towards your dreams will open opportunities and take you to a much better place than where you started. You may find your “dream come true” is better than what you initially imagined.

Finally, resist the temptation to dump on someone else’s dreams. When pursued the right way, dreaming can be the most practical thing to do.