We all have aspirations in life, things we dream of doing, or being. They can be small purposes, or they can be ideals that require years of work. Following your dreams may not be easy, but it’s worth starting because this journey provides meaning to your life.
The truth is that you will never achieve a long-term goal just by dreaming and sitting on the sofa. You need planning, motivation, and self-discipline to make it.
The following six steps will help you commit to working on your vision, plan carefully, and stay focused for months, years, or even decades until you achieve success and make your dreams come true.
Success can mean something different to each person. If you have an ambition, a dream, or a purpose that you want to achieve, you need to adopt the right mindset and define solid goals. Also, it is essential that you stay focused and motivated throughout the process.
When you encounter failure, you will need to find the strength to get up and move on. With time and effort, you will discover that it is possible to reach your own definition of success.
Keep in mind that there is no secret formula or a perfect combination of ingredients that can guarantee success. What has worked for others will not necessarily work for you. But there are some basic steps you can take to improve your chances of success in life, in your personal relationships, at work, in your business or in any aspiration that is relevant to you.
1. Define a purpose that will lead you to success.
How can you know if you are on the right track if you don’t have a clear destination?
For each person, being successful represents something different. You need to have a clear definition of what success means in your particular case. In general, real success comes from achieving goals that are meaningful to you, and that helps you be fulfilled and happy.
Try to write down your own definition of success, whether it’s getting a job related to a particular activity that you enjoy, living in your favorite area of your city, travel, or having a happy family, among many other alternatives.
Ask yourself: What makes you happiest in life? Do you want to spend time with your family, travel, play sports, practice a hobby? What would you do if money were not a concern? Then consider what the next step is that you need to take to get a little closer to that goal.
Maybe you want to be a writer because you imagine yourself traveling around the world to promote your book, doing talks, and receiving lots of money in royalties. But this idealistic notion has little to do with the reality of writing a book, since it’s hard work that involves many hours of writing, editing and negotiating with a publisher, and then constantly promoting your book using your own money. The idea is not to discourage you, but to make it clear that you need to be motivated by more than ideals. You need to be passionate about your dream, passionate enough to get through the tough times, and strive to keep going even when the harsh reality hits you.
Identifying the activities that you like to do and that give you satisfaction can help you find the life purpose that will lead you to success. Because when you perform tasks that you enjoy, that you find meaningful, or when you are pleased to admire the positive results of your work, then you are allowing yourself to be driven by intrinsic motivation. And this is very good. Several studies have shown that intrinsic motivation tends to be a better predictor of the quality of people’s performance than when they only work for money or external rewards.
It is much easier to persist in a long-term goal that is related to something you like to do since each action itself will provide you with the motivation you need along the way.
2. Create a long-term vision.
Having a long-term vision can help you refine your purpose further. Where do you want to be in 5, 10, and 20 years from now? What can you do today to begin the journey that will bring you closer to that dream?
Imagine your ideal life. Close your eyes, visualize yourself, and put your future on paper. Try asking yourself questions like:
You can even try to write down your ideal day, from beginning to end, starting with the time you wake up and describing every task you do.
A long-term goal may seem impossible to achieve, especially if it requires years of work. Many people give up simply because it would take too long to achieve their goal. But if you break a big dream down into several stages and more manageable goals, you can focus on each one more easily.
One key idea that can help you is to express a general dream, like “I want to teach languages” into a more specific, measurable goal with a deadline. An example of a realistic goal might be: “In 5 years, I want to be an English teacher at a foreign language institute.”
Think about the skills you will need to achieve this goal. If you are afraid of public speaking, you will have to work on feeling comfortable speaking in front of students, as it is part of the process of achieving your dream.
To become a teacher, you will need to study, practice, and complete a course for teachers, as well as approve some international exams to become certified as an English teacher. Then you will have to look for teaching opportunities. What other stages will there be? How long will the whole process take? It’s up to you to find out.
Also, you will need a plan for each stage of your long-term goal. Don’t worry about having to formulate these plans now, all at once. Some will come later. The important thing is that you are organized, that you know what you need to do, and that you see how your daily or weekly tasks fit into the big picture.
3. Stay focused, and develop your skills.
Research by psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that there are two primary mindsets that influence how people view themselves and their abilities: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
People with fixed mindsets believe that their intelligence and talents are static and immovable. They believe that success is not the result of hard work, but merely a consequence of good luck. Thinking that they lack the innate ability needed to excel, they tend to give up on challenges more quickly.
On the other hand, those with a growth mentality feel they can change and learn if they try hard enough. By believing that they can grow, they are more likely to succeed and are continually looking for ways to improve their skills and keep working, even when things get complicated.
The truth is that for you to be able to make your dreams come true, you will have to stay focused on your goals for as long as it takes. Focus can be smooth when it comes to short-term goals, which have a quick payoff. However, for long-term goals, it can be more challenging to stay motivated.
That’s why one of the critical traits of successful people is that they can stay focused on their goals. This requires self-discipline, which means continuing to work toward your goal even if you don’t always feel like working. It means taking a book and starting to read when you’d rather sit on the couch and watch TV.
Developing good habits can help you move forward every day, no matter the circumstances or your mood. Wake up earlier to read or write every morning at the same time. Set a time to perform twenty minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week. If you are constantly distracted by the Internet, turn off your wi-fi when you need to study or work. If the urgent everyday tasks prevent you from sticking to your plan, use your free time or weekends to persist.
Set up a quiet place to work where you are free from distractions. Ask your family and friends not to bother you while you work, and focus on one task at a time. If exhaustion gets you down, you can take 5-minute breaks for each hour of work to drink water, stretch, focus, and move forward on that exciting project that will lead to great results.
4. Learn from failure and obstacles.
You will likely encounter some obstacles or failures in the process of achieving your dreams. But you don’t have to let any setbacks derail your plans. You just have to learn to see failures as life lessons and deal with them constructively.
One failure doesn’t close all doors; some will remain open. Maybe your plan to become an opera singer failed, but that doesn’t mean a career in music is out of the question. Perhaps you have the training needed to sing in a choir, or maybe you can use your musical skills to become a singing teacher or a voice coach.
Sometimes it is necessary to make adjustments and be flexible. Imagine a person who has not been admitted to medical school for several years. Maybe instead of trying to go the same route over and over without success, he should try some alternative path, like entering nursing school.
Sometimes failure is an excellent opportunity to grow and improve. Instead of being depressed by a setback, it is best to do an analysis of what happened, determine the main factors of failure, and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.
Have you noticed that successful people are constant learners? They read, analyze, and find new and more efficient ways of doing things. They know that growth as a person is linked to learning; whenever they encounter a problem, they investigate the best solution available and carry it out.
Practicing good work habits, reviewing your goals, and celebrating your progress can help you stay focused. When you have moments of doubt, think about why you were motivated to pursue your goal in the first place, and don’t lose sight of your long-term vision.
Surround yourself with trusted friends, family, co-workers, and colleagues who bring out the best in you. They can be an invaluable support network for your growth.
When necessary, ask for advice from people you trust, listen to them, and try to be humble enough to acknowledge your mistakes.
5. Review your goals and celebrate your progress.
On the road to achieving your long-term dreams, you need to review your current situation periodically. Sometimes we find out that our desires change over time. Perhaps you started on the path to becoming an opera singer, but after a while, you discovered that you simply don’t like it as much as you believed. Maybe it’s time to rethink your goal.
Go back to your long-term vision and ask yourself if anything has changed. Sometimes goals need a complete reboot, and it may be necessary to re-evaluate what you want in life. Some other times, our goals may need only minor adjustments. Maybe your overall goal is still pretty much the same, but you want to make a small change in focus.
Either way, you need to continually check that you are on the right track and recognize your progress. Part of the joy of achieving your dream is in the process. Enjoy it. Be sure to celebrate every time you get a little closer to your long-term goal. Recognizing progress helps keep us motivated, especially when the long-term goal involves years or decades of work.
When you review your progress, pay attention to what you’ve learned and how much you’ve grown, rather than just focusing on the results you have achieved. Some studies show that we get more motivation if we look at each achievement as lessons learned that lead us to be more prepared for what is to come.
6. Develop self-discipline.
In a study that lasted several decades, psychologists observed and collected data from a group of children who were recognized by their teachers as highly intelligent. Comparing how these individuals fared throughout childhood and into adulthood, the researchers found that the ones who were the most successful in life shared some crucial characteristics that less successful individuals didn’t have, including perseverance and willpower.
These characteristics tend to be part of a person’s overall personality, but they are also skills that can be improved. Having the patience to delay gratification, learning to persist in the face of challenges, and waiting for the rewards of hard work are some of the most critical determinants of success in life.
Mental toughness is the stamina that some people have to keep going and keep trying even when they face obstacles. People who have this strength see challenges as opportunities. They also feel that they have control over their own destiny, are confident in their abilities to succeed, and are committed to finishing what they start.
Keep trying even when you encounter many setbacks, or the path seems impossible. Focus on the options available to you to develop your skills and move forward.
As you take action on the different projects that will lead you to your dreams, make sure you always know what to do next. Not being sure of the next step is a common cause of many people getting stuck in their progress toward a goal. So each week, check your project lists to see what tasks are coming up and make sure you’re ready for each one.
Keep in mind that willpower is a skill that can be built, but it requires time and effort. Start by achieving small goals that require willpower, such as resisting sugary snacks or soda. As you develop your ability to use your willpower to accomplish these small goals, you may find that your willpower becomes stronger and stronger as you work on bigger goals.
Share with us any significant accomplishments that have brought you a little closer to your dreams. What other keys to success have worked for you?
One additional tip that I would like to share with you is that you can learn about the process that people who have achieved their dreams have followed and be inspired by their stories. Find out what lessons they have learned on their journey and what experiences you can model to achieve your dreams. You can learn about other successful dreamers by reading their biographies, watching documentaries, or reading about authentic leaders and outstanding people on the Internet.
Making your dream come true is possible. Start by reflecting and defining your vision by brainstorming your goals, analyzing your past successes and failures, and finding out what makes you happy. Then move on to committing to your goal by taking action. Break down your dream into practical tasks that will help you get started immediately and keep moving forward.
And if you’ve only managed to spend 15 minutes on your dream last week, that’s good. Remember that the most important thing is not how fast you go, but that you keep moving forward without stopping. Moving forward is one of the best ways to stay motivated.
Start taking action on every little step that will get you closer to your goal and stay on track no matter how long it takes to get there.
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