I have been writing about my trip to Australia as if it is a sure thing. I have been telling everyone I am going in March to speak at conference in Tasmania – I am even listed as a speaker on the conference website! I talk a good talk. Especially since I accepted the invitation knowing I didn’t have the $6000 this trip for two will cost, and didn’t know who would accompany me to serve as my personal assistant for two weeks on the other side of the world.
Am I crazy? This time I really bit off more than I could chew. How on earth would I be able to make it to Australia without it being a huge financial burden? The responsible grown up who has worked diligently for years to reduce her debt under a social service system which does not permit true financial savings was at odds with the “just say yes” dreamer who knew this opportunity was once in a lifetime.
Because this opportunity was too big to ignore, and I don’t know how to fail, I began to work systematically and methodically towards my goal. I swallowed my pride and asked for help. I made to-do lists and tackled the items one by one. Along the way I was reminded of lessons I may have always known but tend to forget. Since we are in a new calendar year, a time when many make goals or resolutions, I am sharing my insights as they may help you fulfill goals of your own. If you are feeling unsure about your next steps, try these.
1. Declare your dream.
Before you can take action, you must know what it is you hope to achieve. Having a clear objective makes it easier to act with intention. Action without intention just keeps you busy, and doesn’t necessarily move you towards your desired outcome. Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free, said it more poetically. “Intent without dedicated action is simply not enough. Action without a clear intent is a waste. It is when these two powerful forces are aligned that the energy of the universe conspires in your favor.” I got lucky because my dream was offered to me. You may have to devote some time and work to determining your goal or objective. For the sake of this post, I am going to assume you have figured it out.
2. Chunk it out.
You may have to accomplish several things before your goal is achieved. If you outline all the steps you have to reach on your way towards completion, you will be able to track progress as you go. For me, it is helpful to break larger tasks into smaller ones so I feel a sense of satisfaction. The trip to Australia was too much for me to tackle without a plan. But once I had an outline of each component, I was able to prioritize and work strategically. I created lists for each segment of the trip (fundraising, air travel, ground transportation, etc.). This organized my energies and has kept my focus clear. It also prevented me from worrying about step 25 (finding an accessible hotel in Sydney) when it was really time to attend to step 1 (finding a travel companion to serve as my personal assistant for two weeks).
3. Share your dream.
Once you have identified your goal and outlined the path you need to take to reach it, tell others about it. Blog about it, email friends, tell your co-workers over lunch, call your family, share it on social media. Do whatever you need to do to let your support network and social connections know you are embarking on something important. Why? Because others can’t help if they don’t know! People like to help those they care about, but they can’t if you never share your need. I have not traveled internationally using a power wheelchair, but when I used Facebook to ask my friends who have international travel experience for advice, several reached out to help me. They recommended airlines, ground transportation options and offered assistance researching flights. I created a crowdfunding website to ask for financial assistance and shared it using social media and email. Every time I posted an update, I received a donation from at least two people. Some of these gifts came from complete strangers! None of this would have happened if I had not told everyone, “Hey, guess what? I have the chance to return to Australia!” I’m not joking when I say I have told EVERYONE about this opportunity. You never know who might be in a position to help you, or who knows someone who may be able to help, so go ahead and assume everyone can be an ally.
4. Celebrate your milestones.
If you break your large task into smaller jobs, you not only have a way to monitor progress but you provide yourself with reasons to pat yourself on the back. And let’s be honest – don’t we all respond with renewed energy to a little “good on ya!” from time to time? My big goal, the actual trip to Australia, won’t happen for another 65 days. When I first started planning, it was ten months away. However, each time I crossed another task off my list or found myself closer to my fundraising goal I celebrated. I shared my good news with those who were supporting me and cheering me on. They got excited and happy for me, which in turn made me feel even more excitement. It also resulted in more donations. People like to help a ‘winner.’ I hear this all the time at development and fundraising trainings and it really is true. This wave of positive energy helps if you need encouragement. Celebrating small accomplishments along the way reinforced my confidence.
5. Make your everyday actions reflect your intentions.
As soon as I received the invitation to speak at the conference, I began to act as if this trip would happen. To help me stay positive and focused, I always referred to the trip as a definite. Instead of saying “if I go to Australia,” I said, “when I go to Australia.” My passwords all became phrases to reinforce the message: Australia2015! and TasmaniaYes15! Every day when I logged on at work, I was reminded of my objective. It felt similar to the feeling I had when I finally decided to declare myself a writer and start my daily writing habit. Actions need to match the words.
I followed these 5 steps and had success, even though I was not consciously aware of the process as I moved through it. However, inside there was occasionally this tiny, quiet voice of doubt. “But Denise – what if you don’t get the money?” It would sneak up on me at odd times, and cause me moments of panic. I don’t have access to $6000. If the fundraising didn’t work, what could I do to gain the funds? I was committed to the trip – remember, I’m on the conference website!
You know what I realized? I am stronger than the tiny voice of doubt. I have faith in my ability to make this trip a reality. Maybe I did have to “fake it to make it” for a few months, but the results are in. Thanks to help from wonderfully generous friends, family and strangers I am buying airline tickets this weekend. In 65 days, my cousin Kelly and I are getting on a plane to Australia.
My dream is coming true. Yours can too, and I hope you will share your plans so I can encourage you along the way!