Whether it’s becoming a world-famous athlete or well-known author, owning your own business, or even getting the office job that’s going to take care of you financially, each one of us has something inside that drives us. And, even if you aren’t currently pursuing it, you probably want to. But with a lifetime of self-doubt, roadblocks, and hesitation, how do you finally make that leap to pursue following your dreams? If you’re feeling stuck in your job, or unsure if you made the right choice for your major, where do you find the courage to make a change?
I don’t have all the answers, but I spoke with several people who do (or who at least found the courage to try – even without all the answers). Here’s how they suggest you get up, get moving, and make those dreams your actual reality.
1. Figure Out What Your Dream Is
I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to chasing a dream, I don’t have a clue as to what I’m running after. I’m currently working a retail job that I do really enjoy, but it’s certainly not what I pictured when I was asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” after I graduated high school.
Every day, I’m inspired by those around me who are able to pinpoint what their dreams are and go after them. But how do these people know what their dream is? Where does it even come from? I’ve always loved music, writing, and art, but how do I narrow that down to a dream I can follow?
Alyssa Kuchta, founder and CEO of f.y.b jewelry, knew exactly what her dream was when she realized her psychology degree wasn’t enough for her. “Growing up, I always had a love for jewelry,” she tells Her Campus. “While both my parents worked full-time, my Nana would watch after me and our playtime would be sitting on her bed and going through her jewelry box together. I’d choose to play with her baubles over playing with dolls.”
Kuchta says that when trying to figure out your dream, you need to start within yourself and ask the really introspective questions. “Journal out who you are on paper, from the things you enjoy, brands you admire, style icons, and causes you care about, to what a dream day-in-the-life looks like,” she suggests.
If you’re like me (read: incredibly indecisive and anxious about making a decision that leaves you unhappy for the rest of your life), you still may not be able to narrow it down. I recommend going back to the very beginning, just as Kuchta did: What made your heart happy when you were a kid?
2. Make A Plan To Reach Your Dream
The unfortunate reality is that your dream isn’t just going to happen; you’re going to have to work for it. Now, that’s going to look different for each person. Maybe you need to take a class. Maybe you need to save a lot of money and stick with your current job for a while. Or, maybe, you have to do a ton of research about starting your own business. Whatever the case may be, you have to be an active participant.
For some people, going after their dream means making a huge change to their life. This could be dropping everything and moving across the country, or quitting their day job without any planning at all. If that sounds scary, that’s because it is. Just because that’s the move that worked for one person doesn’t mean it’ll work for you.
“Sometimes, the ‘big bold move’ type risk is not something that happens in one fell swoop, but can actually be the result of tiny, consistent action steps that are repeated or made over time,” Mandie Brice, a self-titled Creative Entrepreneur who does everything from hosting a podcast titled ‘Bold Moves’ to being a makeup artist, tells Her Campus. “It doesn’t have to be drastic to get you outside of your comfort zone and closer to your dream life.”
Taking baby steps to reach your goals is just as effective as making big changes — it just may take a little longer.
“Writing has always been what I wanted to do,” Rachel Laurie, a Queens University of Charlotte graduate and current Social Media Coordinator at The Liberty Company Insurance Brokers, tells Her Campus. “After introspection, especially during the pandemic, I realized that at the end of the day all I want to do is write novels. After [I realized that], I began taking steps to write, find opportunities, and focus on my goal.”
One of the steps Rachel is taking to reach her goals is taking classes on fiction writing and stand-up comedy. She is also in the process of leaving her job with The Liberty Company to dedicate more time to pursuing her goals; she’s taking the risk of going back into the service industry in order to be able to pay her bills while having the flexibility to write her novel.
Meaghan Thomas, Co-Owner and President of PinchSpiceMarket.com, tells Her Campus that she had a 16-month plan to exit her career. “I saved to have padding in my bank account so [my husband and I] could pay bills for up to two and a half years, assuming we wouldn’t be able to pay ourselves for a while as we invested the revenue we made back into the business,” she says.
Thomas adds that you shouldn’t do it alone. Be ready to ask for help and soak up all the information you can.
3. Understand Your Dream Is Worth It, Even With The Roadblocks
As with everything in life, going after your dreams isn’t always easy. In fact, I would argue it’s rarely easy. There’s a reason it’s a dream life, after all.
“I think it’s important people understand just how challenging pursuing your dream can be,” Thomas says. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. It just means you have to sacrifice and plan a lot before you jump all in.”
For Alyssa Pacheco, Director of Middle School Ministries of Covenant Presbyterian Church, her busy schedule is making it difficult to follow her dream of writing a novel. She says that she’s “getting busier every day” and that it’s hard to find the energy and time to write. “Sometimes, when I don’t want to do anything except sleep or play on my phone, I force myself to get up and either read or write until I find the urge again,” Alyssa tells Her Campus.
If you find yourself feeling drained or out of energy to dedicate to your dream, you need to do two things. The first thing you should do is listen to your body and your mind. Take time to rest, recharge, and get yourself into the right mental state to keep going. You don’t have to force yourself to do anything you aren’t ready for. Once you’ve done that, the second thing you should do is find your motivation. That exhaustion and mental block is one setback of many. Take the time you need to prepare to battle it, then go do the thing.
One of the biggest setbacks that you may encounter when trying to pursue your dreams is financial. There’s no denying that those with access to money have a bigger opportunity for success than those that don’t. However, that doesn’t mean your dream isn’t possible.
“In terms of financial roadblocks, I actually think the fact that I had to rely on only myself for finances gave me the drive to make it work,” says Britt Berlin, a Food Blogger at The Banana Diaries. “If we know we have a cushion to fall back on, we might miss out on that drive to actually make this work.”
That’s not to say that you only have to rely on yourself. If you’re able and lucky enough to have a support system around you, you should use that. Ask for help if you need it and listen to the advice of those around you — especially if they have a different experience from you; you never know what you’ll learn from your peers.
Marianna Adegemian, an Associate Media Relations Manager at Dentsu International, was born in Brazil and first went to school in Argentina. As an immigrant woman in the U.S., she faces similar challenges to her peers, but she also faces challenges related to the culture difference. “Despite all these years, sometimes I still have a hard time comparing certain things here with how it’s actually done in my country,” Adegemian says. “But I always remind myself that I need to be adaptable and flexible in order to succeed and conquer my dreams.” She adds that she has to be open-minded to make that happen.
Another challenge that Adegemian faces is that of prejudice. “I realized that I will never be able to change other people’s opinions about me,” she says. “All I can do is learn how to block the noise and never stop believing in myself, no matter what others think.”
No matter who you are, and whether or not you experience the same kind of prejudice that Adegemian does, it’s important that you learn to live the life you want to live. Go for that job, that relationship, that dream and don’t worry about what the people next to you are saying.
4. Realize That Your Dream Isn’t Always Going To Look Like You Pictured
When we picture our dream day-to-day life and what work looks like, we sometimes fail to account for the bumps in the road or even the good things that cause it to look a little different.
“Everyone’s journey is so different … there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to following dreams, you have to do what works best for you,” Brice says. “It could take three years of side hustling before you quit your day job, or maybe you love your day job and your side hustle. There’s so much glamorization of the wild and crazy choice that it can be damaging to someone if it doesn’t work out.”
As much as we try, things won’t always go the way we want or how we planned. We can outline our entire lives on a sheet of paper, but something is going to pop up that alters what we wanted. Maybe you got a different opportunity, a family member had a baby and you have to stay home, or maybe you found your person and had to make some hard decisions. Regardless of the reason, detours do happen. Your life isn’t going to be identical to someone else’s, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still live your dream life.
I constantly have to remind myself that I’m living my life on a timeline meant for me, not for someone else. Try not to get discouraged if people your age are doing things that you’ve been dreaming of for years, but don’t have the resources to do yet. Sit down, make a plan, and know that someday you will get there. Your life will look different than your peers’, but that’s because you’re a completely different person.
No matter what your dream is, you deserve to pursue it. Don’t let your fear of failure, rejection, or disappointment be bigger than your fear of regret. Take that chance on yourself. You deserve to live the life you’ve always dreamed of, even if it takes a little longer to get there than you would’ve liked.
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Marianna Adgemian, Associate Media Relations Manager at Dentsu International
Britt Berlin, Food Blogger at The Banana Diaries
Meaghan Thomas, Co-Owner and President of Pinch Spice Market
Alyssa Kuchta, Founder & CEO of f.y.b Jewelry
Mandie Brice, Creative Entrepreneur and Host of “Bold Moves” Podcast