So many people look at their great big dreams with confusion and dismay. They feel like they’re impossible. They think they have to reinvent the wheel. But the point is that the way really is already paved for you. If you want to do something, I can guarantee you someone has probably already done something like it before. Your work is simply to identify that person, ask them how they did it, and follow their advice.
Of course, you may have to tweak the steps to tailor them to your situation, but I can promise you that you and your dream are not so unique that you can’t benefit from having a mentor. Of course, no one can predict for you how long it will take: this process is all about the how. No one—and no process—can promise you the when.
Now, my great big dream had actually never been done by anyone—the project I wanted didn’t even exist. But I knew who had done something similar and that was enough to get me going, and it turns out that’s really all I’ve ever needed. And I suspect that’s really all anyone ever needs.
When I started working as a midwife over 12 years ago I joined a wonderful private practice. I worked in a clinic 5 days a week and was on call for births 7-8 days of the month. I’ve always loved helping women achieve the birth of their dreams.
After almost 4 years at this practice, however, I found myself wanting more. In particular I found that I most enjoyed interacting with the few Latina women who came to a public health clinic I staffed one morning a week.
I realized that I wanted to be fluent in Spanish to better serve Latina women. I also wanted part-time work that would give me the opportunity to do what I loved and fulfill my dream of becoming a mother.
I didn’t know if there was a job that would fulfill my desires, but I felt compelled to begin to lay the groundwork for finding it, inspired in part by this quote from Scottish mountaineer WH Murray: The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision.
And sure enough, as I took my first step, providence moved. Thinking that I needed to improve my Spanish and better understand Latino culture, I applied to Doctors Without Borders and within a month was offered an interview in their New York office. As it happened, I was going to be in New York anyway to run in the NYC Marathon, and I could easily set up a time to talk with the director of the organization.
During my interview, however, I learned they had no positions for midwives in Latin America. I explained I wasn’t interested in any other placement. So the director said she would keep my application, but that she didn’t think there would ever be a desirable position for me.
I continued to think of other ways I could meet my goals and trusted something would come to me. Less than two months later the phone rang, and it was Doctors Without Borders telling me that they were starting a new maternal health project in Mexico—and that the director of the project wanted me to join the medical team!
People thought I was crazy to leave my life in the States for a volunteer position in a remote Mexican village. But I knew, like Murray, that I had created this opportunity by committing to my dream, and I was not going to be dissuaded. In June of 2002 I quit my job to work for 6 months in southwest Mexico!
Fulfilling any dream really starts with the questions: What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What do you want to have? And what do you want to give?
Once you answer those questions, there are only four simple steps you need to take:
1. Identify a person who is doing what you want to do, went where you want to go, has what you want, or gives the way you want to give.
2. Make a short, specific request of said person. “I’d love to get your perspective. Just to have the opportunity to hear what you think of my strategy would be a great value. A half-hour of your time over coffee or in your office – you name it and I’ll be there.
3. Act on their advice. Yup, You do have to do something
4. Get to the “feeling place” of it already happening. Whether you use a Vision Board or fill a notebook with “Won’t it be nice when…” statements where you put yourself in your future dreamscape, the point is to feel truly positive and expansive about your experience—an experience that really and truly starts now with your anticipation of how it will feel when you finally stand there, in the place that you created.
What’s your great big dream and how are you going to apply this process to achieving it?
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