When I was in grade five I decided that I wanted a job. I was about ten years old and definitely way under the legal age to work. Although, on my side was the fact that it was the 1970’s and there were plenty of kids working in their family business. So I was pretty confident I could get a job if I tried really hard.
One day, after school, I noticed that one of the kids from school was working behind the counter in the local milk bar. This was very good news indeed, because this kid was not Greek, and the family that owned the milk bar was. They were hiring Australians! I was super excited, and after buying a massive bag of mixed lollies (about 10 cents worth) I dragged my little sister home to plan and plot. I was going to get a job in the milk bar as well.
The next morning I got up exceptionally early. I dressed up in my best party clothes and told my parents that I had to get to school early. I’m not sure if they wondered what I was dressed up for, but they did let me leave the house at 7.30 in the morning. I headed for the milk bar which sat opposite the main gate of the local state primary school. On the way I practiced what I would say: “Excuse me mister, can I please work for you?” I thought that sounded pretty convincing and so I quickly moved onto imagining getting the job, serving my friends after school, and the best part, getting free lollies of course!
When I got to the shop I walked in full of confidence and then the owner of the shop, a large Greek man, with black eyes and bushy dark eyebrows, came out into the shop and stood behind the counter smiling down at me. If he was shocked to see a little girl in his shop at 7.45am, dressed up in her finest, he didn’t let on.
“What can I get you sveetheart?”
I’m not sure what happened, but I froze. I opened my mouth to ask my well rehearsed question but it wouldn’t come out. I looked down at my patent leather shoes and frilly white socks and then looked up at the rows of lollies staring back at me through the glass cabinet.
“Um…just looking…” I looked intently at the jelly babies and gobstoppers, then moved down the glass case to stare at the chocolate covered cobbers.
After a few minutes the big friendly man shook his head and went out to the back of the shop. Over the next half an hour he came out to check on me. Was I alright? Did I need help to choose? How much money did I have? (I think that was more about being sure that I wasn’t planning a ten year old heist!) Every now and then his wife would come out to smile at me as well, nodding as if to encourage me to buy something or say something. But the longer I was there, the more I struggled to speak, and the more I struggled, the more I gave myself a hard time. Why did I ever think I could do this? Why would they want to give me a job anyway, I couldn’t speak with them, how was I going to speak to their customers?
Before long everything about myself was wrong in my head and I was giving myself excuses about why this would never work. I was too busy at school anyway. I had to look after my little sister after school. I had red hair and freckles – I was too ugly to get a job. When a group of school kids bounded into the shop just before the school bell rang, I literally ran out the door. I was bitterly disappointed in myself and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong.
Years later of course, I can see clearly what happened.
I had a dream, an excellent goal. I had the opportunity and I was a fairly mature little girl, and pretty smart. But I was also quite shy and afraid to ask for help. I thought that I had to be able to do everything. I didn’t realise that it was ok to get support from other people. That you don’t need to do everything. I also didn’t break it down. I went from a vision of having a job one afternoon to thinking I could get that job the very next day. A bit like thinking you are going to put on hiking boots and climb Mount Everest without ever having done mountaineering before.
Now I’m not insane. I was just a little girl, and couldn’t have possibly known what I was doing to myself. I did my best. But I do see adults repeating this mistake over and over today.
We set a goal that we are extremely passionate about. We write it down and we put it up on our bedroom mirror and think positive thoughts…and nothing happens. Before long we get despondent. This will never happen. Why do I even think I deserve for this to happen. It’s too hard. I can’t, won’t, shouldn’t. I’m tired. I have other things to do that are way more important. I’ll do it tomorrow…next month…next year…
So let’s take a step back.
Definitely write down your living goal. And definitely put it somewhere you will look at it every day. Twice a day if you can. Or better yet, put it somewhere, where you can see it all of the time. If you can surround it with photos or pictures of your dream. Thinking of travelling to Europe? Then surround your goal with pictures of London, Tuscany and the Greek Islands!
Now you are going to do three things:
1. Find two people who will support you. Tell them what your living goal is and ask them to help you. Also ask them to keep you accountable. Give them permission to ask you questions and not to let you get lazy or put your dream off until next year!
2. Develop an action plan! Write down all of the steps you need to take and the tasks you need to accomplish to reach your goal. So for example, if you are going to Europe you will need to save money for the airline ticket, accommodation, day trips and spending money. Work out exactly how much you need and divide it up between now and the date you want to leave. Is this realistic? You may need to tweak your plans. Perhaps you can adjust your dates? Or change where you stay? Do this with all of your steps and tasks so you are really clear about what you need to accomplish to reach you goal. Put your Action Plan up next to your living goal, so you can see it every day as well.
3. For the next 30 days do one thing on your Action Plan. After 30 days you will have made some great progress and you will be able to see your dream becoming a reality. Make sure you give yourself incentives every time you complete a task. Make a star chart on your monthly calendar, or every seven days do something small but special with your two support people. For example you could take a drive to the international airport and have a coffee while watching the planes take off, or you could go to a book shop and look at all of the travel books with your friends. Do something that is part of the theme of your goal, and will continue to inspire you to work hard towards achieving your dream.
And when 30 days is up, start another 30 days! Before you realise it you will be ticking off the last task or step on your Action Plan!
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face….You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
Post script: When I was fourteen and nine months old I did eventually get my first job in a local Coles store. I was still a bit shy, so I got a bit of help from my father and my best friend. I worked there for just over a year, and like many of us I learnt so much, and gained a lot of skills and confidence in myself and never looked back.