How to make your dreams work!

Little_Gothic_Girl_by_krystal_kun

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…

Sound familiar?

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.

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We all have wings…

Awesome!

DAY 15

Wednesday 15th January 2014

I love my manager. I know. Weird right?

But I do.

She is smart and inspirational and fascinating.

She doesn’t think she is any of these things. Once I told her she was stunning and she said no so quickly that I almost missed it. Not, “no” you can’t say that. It was “no I am definitely not stunning.”

I’m the kind of girl who says it how it is most of the time. I really like to tell people about the awesomeness I see before me. So if you have a beautiful heart – I will tell you that I can see it. If you look gorgeous today in that outfit – then I am the girl who will tell you how hot you look. If you are smart, I will thank the universe that somehow I get to play in the same sand pit! And if you are sexy as all get up…well honey I will definitely let you know.

My joy seriously comes from women though. Maybe its because they don’t get told enough about how cool they are, or they work so hard to get a few seconds of recognition. Maybe it’s because they never really seem to have the kind of outstanding confidence that guys have.

Now, let me pull you up right there if you think I am having a go at guys. Love guys. LOVE them. I gave birth to four gorgeous boys that I am seriously addicted to, and I grew them up (yes I am going to put it that way) into four absurdly confident young men who are very busy conquering the world right now. Sometimes I wonder if their amazingness was just in their male genes. Hmmm…but then I think that perhaps some of the inspirational stuff must have come from the belief invested in them by us.

Any hoo…the point is that it always amazes me how guys will be confident about what ever they have to offer, while women and girls minimise their uniqueness and their awesome sauce contribution.

My manager is a great example of this. She is one of the hardest working women I know. I am pretty sure that she works about 10 times as hard as her male counterparts and probably gets a tenth of the recognition. She is my go to person when I need support and when I feel like the world is about to implode, she has this uncanny way of sorting it all out and making me feel like I was the one who made that happen.

She acknowledges me ALL of the time and THANKS me for my contribution to whatever project we are working on without fail. Really, she is one of the reasons that I get out of bed in the morning and feel great about coming to work. She is one of my eagles.

I’m sure that you have all heard the saying that if you want to soar like an eagle you need to walk away from the turkeys…or is it chickens? The analogy of course is that you need to be around people that fully expect you to fly. They will the ones that make you accountable ,but when you do fly, they are the ones that throw a massive party for you. Chickens will only say something like ” What? Dude! You can fly? So you think you’re better than us? What’s wrong with hanging out on the ground? You’ve changed man.” (Okay, maybe they won’t quite say it like that…but you get the picture!)

So here’s the thing. Where are your eagles? Who are they and how do you acknowledge what they bring to your life? Because you may think that your eagle gets told how brilliant they are all the time, but I’m betting they don’t. Make the time to tell them about the impact they make on your life. How they make you feel, how they are game changers. I will guarantee they have no idea, and that they will be grateful that you took the time to let them know.

And if you have one eagle in your life, make it your mission to have five.

(and get rid of the chickens…just saying…)

Kill me now

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DAY FOUR

4th January, 2014

Today is Saturday. I’m not sure if Saturday is world wide cleaning day, but in my corner of the neighbourhood you are either cleaning or gardening, or if you want to punish yourself, you do the supermarket shopping. So today I cleaned. YAY! (no, not really) How do you show kindness and compassion when you are cleaning floors and hanging out washing? Don’t I need to interact with people to show them I care? How can I smile at people and do the whole, “I’m present for you” thing if I’m stuck in my house changing sheets, or wiping down the stove. Disaster. Did Mister Og foresee this? What to do. What to do?

At some point in the day I ended up on the couch in the foetal position. I’m sure I was having a little melt down. Day four and my adventure was over. Kill me now.

Then my mobile rang, and I had a light bulb moment. Maybe it wasn’t over after all.

I may not be able to see people or interact with them, but dammit, this girl can text!

So for the next hour I went through my phone contacts and sent text messages to people I thought could do with a positive message. I told some people I loved them, others how much of a friend they are to me, and others how they make the world a much better place by just being in it. I know, a little ‘days of our lives’ dramatic, but I got quite a lot of beautiful text messages back – most saying that they really appreciated the text and that they really needed to hear the message I sent.

It made me think how something so small, and so simple really, can make such a significant difference to each of us. Just being acknowledged, and thought of kindly, has a major impact on our sense of belonging and significance. It also helps us to feel connected to the world and each other, and loved, which is what we all strive for.

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
― Paulo CoelhoAlchemist

A Recipe for Disaster

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Day One

Wednesday 1st January, 2014

It occurred to me last night, as I was watching the fire works over the Melbourne skyline and sipping on my glass of champagne, that there should be some rules and boundaries to this adventure I am embarking on. I’m not just saying this because I am a ‘list girl’. Or a control freak. Honest.

I just think that it may get messy if all I focus on all day for the next year is everyone dying before midnight. You can see that this could be a recipe for disaster. A rather large disaster for me I think. The thing is, I am not the sort of girl who does things half heartedly. If I am committed then I’m there for the entire ride. My husband says it’s something to do with me being a scorpio, but I think it has a little to do with determination and mindset.

Last month in our office, our entire team agreed to take on a planking challenge. The idea was that we would build up the time we planked from zero up to 5 minutes, over 31 days. We put in place a few supports, including a star chart (we’ll talk about this later), a team member who took on the main coaching role, and lots of crazy mini challenges to keep us focussed. On day one we had all eleven of us on the floor of our main office planking for 20 seconds to the wild cheers and encouragement of our resident coach Daniela. Twenty seconds done, we all headed back to our desks feeling like we had made a start. Yep, we were on our way. In a month we would be planking for 5 minutes like champions! Well that was the dream. Did I really think I was going to be planking for 5 minutes. Not really. I was hoping for one minute. I was also hoping that I would plank for longer than most of the guys in the team.

Four days later I planked for a whole minute, and two of the guys dropped out. Then I made it to two minutes. Within two and a half weeks I was planking for three and a half minutes, then four. There were just a few of us girls left hanging out on the floor during our lunch break.

In the end I planked for five minutes, and have planked for five minutes quite a few times since. I’m telling you this not to brag about my planking achievements, but more to illustrate how something clicks in my head, and I become determined to go all out. If I say I am going to do something, then I’m damned well going to do it. I just like to be really clear about what exactly I am going to do. And I really don’t want my life to “never be the same again” because I have passed out from emotional exhaustion.

So I have come up with the following parameters to avoid a recipe for disaster.

1.  Clear goals

Treating everyone I meet as if they are going to be dead by midnight, and treating them with all the care, kindness and understanding I can muster may seem fairly straight forward, but I foresee some disasters ahead if I’m not specific and clear about what I’m trying to achieve. I still need to hod down a job, and I have  family to care for and some very dear friends that I would like to keep!

Most of you would already be familiar with goal setting, (SMART GOALS) and would know that it’s important to start with a clear idea of what you want to achieve. In my case, the real goal is to change who I am and how I live in the world.

The next step is to break it down to short term, medium and long term goals.

So, I’m going to keep this simple at first. My first short term goal will be to treat at least one person, every day, as if they will be dead before midnight – and I will extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding that I can muster.

The other short term goal will be to undertake this challenge for the next 30 days. I’ll talk further about changing behaviours or habits in 30 days in another post, but for now, it’s my first milestone.

2.  Champions and Support

We all need champions who support us no matter what. They’re the people who stand in the pouring rain cheering us on, on the sporting field, or drive us to endless dance lessons, or art classes. Often they are our parents or an awesome uncle of grandmother. When we get older though, we sometimes need to find new supporters, or champions who will support us around specific tasks or achievements.

Whenever I take on a new challenge, I’ve learnt that I seem to be much more successful if I have someone on my side. For the planking challenge we had a coach, who kept us on track. Daniela reminded daily of our commitment, held us accountable and celebrated our successes. Quite possibly she was our biggest and proudest fan!

What I also noticed was that I need someone who I am prepared to pledge my intention to. This is a way of making a commitment. Apparently if you say out loud what your intention or commitment or goal is and you tell just one other person of significance, then you are much more likely to see the task through.  For me, it was important to live up to my commitment to Daniela and the rest of the team.

I also need someone who is just as determined as I am that I will achieve my goal. Not just someone who tells me that’s a great idea, but someone who is along for the ride and is prepared to kick me up the bum if I get slack. Lets face it, we all need a kick up the bum sometimes.

In this case, it’s my husband, Cristian for the blog, and my friend Diana for the task at hand.

Both are two of my biggest supporters and also won’t let me drop the ball. Cristian is also blogging expert, ( you can check out his blog here ) and Diana is a fellow scorpio. No further explanation necessary.

Incentives

I know, you are all thinking, “Wait! Og Mandino said to undertake this challenge without thought of reward!”and I promise you intend to uphold this. However I think incentives are a little different. They are the things you put in place to keep you focussed and committed to the challenge. The thing or things that remind you why you took up the challenge or goal in the first place and keeps you connected to that bubble of inspiration that made you take the leap of the cliff into the fathomless waters below.

Reaching for stars

When my team at work were doing the planking challenge our coach set up a star chart, tracking every time each of us planked and how long we held the plank for. It wasn’t the gold stars, as much as knowing that I didn’t have any gaps on the chart. The stars represented an effort, and documented my journey. Okay, I like gold stars too. But I am sure elephant stamps would work just as well.

The point is that the chart kept me focussed  and on track, and ultimately led to me realising that I absolutely could plank for five minutes if I was determined and believed I could…and didn’t want any blank spots on my star chart.

So my initial incentives will be:

  • a star chart to track each day
  • this blog

and I will add more incentive to this over the coming months.

There is every possibility that i will collapse from exhaustion, or get sick, or feel overwhelmed, but I think I will have to just realise that sometimes you can’t control absolutely everything. An adventure is, by nature, about heading into the unknown being as prepared as you can be but knowing that you will meet the unexpected.

So, here we go…time to jump off the cliff into those waters below…