Sometimes achieving your dream turns out to be disappointing…

April 25, 2017

From a recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes today’s thought –

“It hurts to find out that what you wanted doesn’t match what you dreamed it would be.”  (Randy Milholland)

That quote sort of goes along with the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” The origins of that saying are somewhat obscure but may have come from a Spanish proverb.

We often romanticize things in our dreams, seeing only the beauty that we hope is thereman daydreaming and none of the warts that may go along with it. That is often the case when we dream about things, owning things or doing things. Somehow we have this belief that we would be happy, if only we owned that thing that we don’t now have. It could be a car, a house, a boat, whatever; we’re just sure that it and owning it is the key to our happiness. Then we finally get it and guess what; it’s just a thing. Owning it may make us feel happy for a few moments, but then something else out in the distance that we don’t own catches our attention and acquiring that new thing becomes our obsession.

The same issues arise when dreaming about people, or maybe about Mr. or MS. Right. Our fantasies are encouraged and fed by the world of advertising and the entertainment industry, both of which tend to show us only images of beautiful people with apparently perfect lives. Of course the drug store tabloids have headlines that scream out that all is not as it seems in those perfect lives and Hollywood divorces certainly seem to outnumber the success stories of married famous couples. So, it would seem that being married to Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie isn’t all that we might have imagined it would be.

mother with childHow do we avoid the disappointment of reality not matching our dreams? One could just say stop dreaming; but that is not realistic either.  Perhaps rather than stopping dreaming about some ideal person we’d like to or about things that we wish to possess, we could start appreciating what we already have in life and the people that we already know. Maybe the next step it to see a path to achieving our dream that is comprised of small steps in the general direction of that dream, maybe we could buy a newer car, with some of the features that we’ve been dreaming about; rather than buying that ultimate dream car. Maybe going out with Mr. OK is a step in the direction of finding Mr. Wonderful, and at least you have someone real to talk to and not just another lonely night with a dream. Life is full of compromises and you might even find that Mr. or Ms. OK turn out to be better than you had thought. You might even find love. Dr. Seuss even had an interesting observation about that – “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

So, go ahead and dream; but, dream with your eyes open to the reality of life. Making the most of your life by appreciating those people and things that surround you on a daily basis is much better than moping about those things and people in your dreams that you don’t have. If you find that your commitment to achieving your dreams is strong enoughgoal and persistent enough to pursue as a goal in life, then start turning your dreams into plans and start working away at them. Your dream has now turned into your vision of where you want to go in life and what you want to achieve and you are now on a journey to turn those dreams into your reality.  Mark Victor Hansen put it this way – “You control your future, your destiny. What you think about comes about. By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands – your own.”

Let’s hope that you are not disappointed when you get there.


OK, it’s a new year; so, now what?

January 1, 2016

“A good beginning makes a good end” – old English proverb

The New Year’s Eve parties are over and we have launched into 2016 (maybe lurched into it for some who partied a bit too hardy). So; now what? Does the start of each new year really mark a whole new beginning for most people; a chance to start over or to change women dreamingtheir lives through the resolutions that that make? Well, maybe it could provide that new beginning; but only if you really want to change.

Every new day is the first day of the rest of your life; so that hackneyed old saying certainly applies. New Year ’s Day will only be different from any other day to the extent that you commit to make it different. If nothing else, New Year’s Day gives many of us a day off to reflect on where we are and where we’d like to go from here. We can spend the day in a hang-over stupor, watching football games and munching on party leftovers or we could spend some time on a serious self-examination of our current state and our goals in life; and give some thought to what we need to do to reach those goals.

I’ve never espoused beating oneself up or wallowing in despair about the past. It is what it was; but the past does not have to dictate your future. One technique that I’ve written about here before is the one used by many successful people in various walks of life and by athletes in particular – visualization. Spend some time visualizing the future that you want, but don’t dwell on that far-out goal for too long or it turns into just a dream. visualizationInstead, start backtracking from that goal and try to “see” the steps that are necessary to get to that goal. Those steps become your intermediate goals; the little things that when all are completed will result in you achieving your goal in life.

Breaking down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps is another trick of successful people. It allows them to manage their time and efforts in ways that keep them moving towards their goals. Being able to see and then achieve small steps in the lengthy journey to your ultimate goal also allows you stops along the way to celebrate and rejuvenate. There will be no marching bands and parades to celebrate those little victories. Most times a quiet little fist pump by yourself or a smile on your face may be the only indication that you’ve meet an intermediate goal.

Some have found that having someone act as an accountability partner helps. I wrote about that in this blog a few days ago. Many people find that sharing their goals with explainingsomeone, announcing their plans to them and then asking them to hold you accountable for achieving those plans helps keep them on track. One cannot let one’s self off the hook as easily when you have to report back to an accountability partner why you did not do what you said you were going to do. The other benefit is that it gives you someone to celebrate those small victories with once you have completed a step in the process.

Back to the question at hand; what will you do to make the New Year different from last year? IF your goals remain the same as last year what differences in your approach to achieving them can you take? What did you learn in the past year about yourself and about the process necessary to get to your goals? Can you “see” the steps necessary to achieve those goals? Where are you in the process? What are the next steps? What do you need to do tomorrow, next week or next month to make steady progress towards thoseto do list goals? Do you have the needed prerequisites   – education or training/skills or tools – to be able to achieve those goals. If not; should acquiring those prerequisites be an intermediate goal?

Break it all down and then be honest with yourself about where you are today and what the next few steps need to be. Some may find it helpful to actually chart out what they see as the steps needed to achieve their goals. Drawing things out in sequence and on a timeline may help you see the holes in your current plans and perhaps help you set a more realistic timetable for yourself. Using that technique may also help you identify the prerequisites that you need to plan into the process, which will further impact the timeline. If you break it down into small and achievable steps it makes it easier to set short-term goals for yourself and to see the progress that you are making.

reaching goalSo, here we go into 2016. What have you got planned for this week and next that are steps along the way towards your goals? As you achieve those intermediate steps, don’t forget to take time to congratulate yourself on your progress. Also take time every month to review your plan to see, based upon your new experience, if you need to add some things to your drawing. That’s not a setback. That’s experience turning into wisdom and a wiser you is much more likely to achieve those goals.

Have a great journey towards your goals in 2016 and congratulations on taking the first steps today.


Life off the wheel…

March 12, 2015

When I was in college (yes, that was a long time ago) I had a white rat for a while. I’ve long ago forgotten who gave me the rat or even what I called it at the time, hamster wheelbut it did come with a cage. In that cage was what is more often called a hamster wheel – a wheel that the rat could get on and run. And run he did, sometimes for hours and unfortunately usually at night. The wheel squeaked when he ran and sometimes kept me aware at night, which eventually led to me giving him to someone else.

Back in those days, and occasionally even today, I think about the rat and what he was doing on that wheel. Was he running for exercise or did he believe that there was somehow a better life up ahead, if only he could make it to the top of the wheel?  Without giving the rat too much benefit of the doubt about his ability to comprehend his situation and the futility of the wheel, his constant striving does provide an interesting analogy for life. To some extent most of us are running on the big wheel of life and constantly trying to reach the elusive top of the wheel.

man rushingMany of us might be able to easily relate our daily lives to the hamster wheel. We run and run and run and really seem to get nowhere. Yet that next rung on the wheel is just ahead and after it the next and if we run hard enough, maybe we’ll get to the top of the wheel. What do we expect to find there? Most of us probably couldn’t even formulate and answer to that question. Mumbling something like, “a better life” or “happiness,” is essentially a cop-out and a sell-out to all of the commercials that we see and hear each day that exhort us to stay on the wheelwomen looking at watch and keep running. Our entire consumer-based society is built upon the notion that the rats will keep running on those wheels and striving to get to the top. From the earliest days of our lives we are encouraged to never give up; and to keep running, to keep trying to get to the top of our own personal wheels.

Some jump off the wheel at an early age. They are different, weird, they don’t quite fit in. Some end up as what we call bums, some end up as artists and are excused from wheel-duty because of their talents. Some just slow down their factory workerspace, but stay on their wheels, accepting a life of constant toil without much reward. They are often called “the working poor”, by the people who own many of the wheels. A few just jump off and wander out beyond the boundaries of society, living “off the grid”, as well as off the wheel. Interestingly enough, almost everyone ends up off the wheel. These are the people who are now too old to spin their wheel. They may have retired or they may have just gotten too tired to run on the wheel any more.  Some have even discovered that the goals of the wheel were not worth the effort; that reaching the top of the wheel that you were on doesn’t lead to happiness, it usually just leads to yet another wheel.

I’m kind of at that stage in my life. I’ve been running on various wheels for various companies or various goals for many, many years. I got to the top of one wheel a few times, only to have to jump on the next wheel. I’ve also had a few walking manwheels pulled out from under me, when companies that I worked for were bought out or went out of business, so that I had to move to a new cage. A few years ago I got off the corporate wheels and onto one that I could run on at my own pace (real estate sales) and one that I knew had no greater reward at the top, other than more money. Now, like deciding how much time to spend at the gym, I can decide how much time to spend on the real estate wheel, chasing that next listing or buyer. It’s nice to have at least that amount of control or to think that you do. The reality is that anytime that you have to say you work for (any name but your own here) you are running on a wheel and in a cage owned by The Man. Without launching into a huge diatribe about society in general, suffice to say even those who are self-employed must live within the rules and laws of The Man and thus live with only the illusion (some might say the delusion) of being off the wheel or out of the cage.

Can you just get off the wheel?  Can you really do that? Probably not; at least not entirely. After all, you have to live somehow, so you have to work for someone exercise wheeldoing something to earn enough to live on; I get that. But the point is to not let that wheel become your entire life; not to let it define you. It’s just a job. It’s how you earn a living, It’s not who you are. That’s something that you control. It’s not a cage and it doesn’t have a wheel; unless you let it. You may have to don your hamster suit and get on the wheel for a few hours every day; but once the whistle blows at the end of the day, be free, be you, run after meaningful things, not just the next rung on the wheel.

So, what is the answer? How does one get off the wheel and escape the cage? The answer is amazingly simple – just chose not to play the game of the cage and the wheel. Change the rules. Reset your goals and redefine success for yourself. Forget the chase for things and rediscover the joy to be found in relationships. Trade accumulating possessions for meeting people. Trade power and money fordreams love and caring. Trade longer periods of running on the wheel for  periods of meditation or serving others. Stop pursuing perfection and start showing affection. Life is too short to spend all of your awake time on the wheel. Get off, slow down, leave the cage and engage with other people. Give and receive love and learn to savor those moments. You don’t really ever get anywhere on the wheel, but life can be an exciting and interesting journey when you get off the wheel and start really living it with those around you. Yes, there really is life off the wheel and it can be great.


Feel the burn of success…

September 11, 2014

“Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.  Plan more than you can do, then do it.”  (Joe Paterno). From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I was glad to see Jack make this post of a quote by Joe Paterno because too many people have been avoiding anything to do with Joe Paterno since the child abuse scandal broke out about his long-time assistant coach. I don’t want to comment upon that here at all; but I do want to expand on the quote from Joe.

woman catching starThis quote is a nice follow-up to my last post, which was about stretching yourself to go for your dreams (read See it and be it). In most cases that may initially seem like you are biting off more than you can chew. I guess if it didn’t feel that way, it wouldn’t be called a “stretch” would it? And, in order to achieve it, you will need to plan more than it seems that your can do. Then to get there, you will need to do what you have planned. Somehow it all falls into place; doesn’t it?

So, what logically comes next? No, it’s not instant success and reward. There is no magic in the equation for success just lots of hard work. Another great football coach had his to say about that –

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. – Vince Lombardi

Great coaches, whether in sports, business or life in general, tend to boil things down to simple, straightforward little phrases that make a lot of sense and inspire action. These aren’t just the “lunks” in the gym telling you to “feel the at the gymburn”; these are the leaders who help you understand that felling that burn is the only way to get to the next level and beyond; the only way to achieve your goals.

The “burn” that comes from success is not just about exercise and your muscles; it’s about putting in that extra effort, going that extra mile, studying that extra hour; doing what others are not willing to do to achieve the goal that you have set for yourself. The “burn” that you will feel when you’ve done what was necessary to achieve success burns your soul and it is something that only you will be aware of and understand. Once you’ve experienced it; it can become addictive. It’s not just the feeling of success at having reached that new level; it’s the good feeling that you get during the process. It is realizing how alive and in control you feel as you go through what you must to get to that new level.

A well-respected phycologist named Abraham Maslow reflected on this in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Maslow postulated that once you get past all of the things that motivate people out of their need to survive and be loved and accepted they will eventually reach a state of mind that he called self-actualization, in which that are chasing goalfocused upon things which are self-gratifying. That is what the “burn” of reaching for your dream of success can become – a self-gratifying and self-motivating energy that you can feed upon.
So, as you commit yourself to achieving your dream and do what you must do to get there, “feel the burn” that comes with success. Feel good about putting in that extra effort. Feel good about taking that extra class. Feel good about staying to make those extra charts for your presentation. Feel good about being the last one out of the building, because you put in that extra effort. Feel the burn of success. Let it warm you a bit, but then move on to the next thing that you need to do to reach your goal.

Once you reach your goal; once you have climbed the mountain that was before you; you may discover that you look out reaching goalfrom that peak and see another mountain far off in the distance that is even higher and even more challenging.
Congratulations! You’ve just discovered your next goal. Take a moment to savor this victory; then take a deep breath, visualize yourself at the top of that new mountain and start to feel the exhilarating burn from your next challenge. Nothing in life will make you feel more alive than the pain of the next struggle for success.

Feel the burn of success!