You’ve Decided to Pursue Your Big Dream. Now What?

Dreams are the things we know we want long-term but have put aside for dozens of reasons. They’re also the things we worry that we’ll regret down the road if we don’t at least try. Your big dream may be to quit your job, start a business, write a book, go back to school, forge a lasting partnership, and so on.

Deciding to commit to achieving your big dream can float a raft of emotions–excitement about achieving it, anxiety about “how,” worry about what we might be leaving behind, fear about our abilities and commitment, and calm determination in finally getting started.

Achieving your big dream is absolutely possible. And it will require you to stretch and grow in ways you can’t even imagine at the start. And deep down, you know that achieving it will be amazing and bring feelings of pride and accomplishment–but that the true satisfaction will come through in the journey.

So, congratulations on deciding to go for it. Only you know how challenging it was for you to get to the starting line.

1. Get to know your dream.

First, get to know your dream. Really KNOW it. Write down your dream without discounting or scaling back. As a coach, when I hear people say, “I don’t know what I want,” I hear “I know exactly what I want but I don’t think I can have it. I don’t think I’m good enough to do it now… or maybe ever.” Suspend your disbelief and assume it works out perfectly. What is it? Get as specific as you possibly can with what, and ideally, by when. Don’t worry about how. We’ll figure that out later.

2. Reflect on what achievement means to you.

Next, zoom out for a moment and reflect on what achievement (in general) means to you, and why any goal is worth pursuing. Take a moment to remind yourself that you’re perfect “as is,” and that no accomplishment is going to make you more worthy. Instead, the pursuit of your goals helps you lead a more fulfilling, interesting life. Also, remind yourself that your dream is YOUR dream. No explanation or justification is needed.

3. Define who you will have to be to achieve it.

Now, get specific again. What thoughts are you having about pursuing your dream? Has it been on the back burner for a while? What will you have to believe about it to commit and take action? Why is it important to you? Who will you BE when you achieve it? Understanding and honoring your “why”, your purpose in pursuing it, will be incredibly important later when you hit roadblocks.

4. Develop your action plan.

Last, develop your action plan. As you start, understand the difference between information gathering and taking tangible steps forward. Of course, you’ll need information, new skills, and resources along the way–but don’t get stuck here. Spend at least as much time “doing” as you do researching. Don’t let “I don’t know how” get in your way. Pretend you do know–then what? Get comfortable with figuring out the first step and have confidence that you’ll figure out the next one next.

5. Commit to your very next step

Decide on your immediate next step and do it. Put yourself on the hook by telling a friend, buying a URL, submitting a bid, etc. Determine how much time you’ll devote to the pursuit of this dream each week and schedule it. Then, plan out the next week or so and make time for planning part of your routine. Know that you’ll rarely “feel” like doing the work when the time comes. Do it anyway. This is important, and you owe yourself committed action.

Taking steps forward to achieve your dream will be the most satisfying effort of your life. These are the things you’ll reflect on what pride and amazement when you’re able to say, “Wow. I really did that.” Clarity about what you want, knowing why, and having a plan are the three keys to ultimately achieving your dream.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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