Connecting with your dream

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all have dreams. Whether you are looking forward to graduation from high school or college, starting your first job or transitioning to a new career, you have dreams of what the future holds for you.

Our education and our work tend to have a significant impact on our personal identity, both in how we view ourselves and in how others perceive us. Income, status and social recognition might impact your choice of career, yet staying true to your dreams can be the key to finding work that brings you greater joy and personal fulfillment and the opportunity to have deeper, more meaningful relationships.

Discover your dream

Do you remember what you wanted to be as you were growing up? Throughout my childhood I wanted to be a teacher, a nurse, a psychologist or a photographer.

During the years, though, what I dreamed of being was tainted by advice from others (often unsolicited), fear of whether I could be successful and discouragement about whether I would earn enough income. I changed majors at least five times in my first few years of college, finally graduating with a physical therapy degree in 1996.

Even since then, my career path has taken a lot of turns over the course of the past 36 years. It has truly just been within the past seven years that I have been able to connect with what I believe to be my God-given dream, and I now enjoy a career I never knew existed.

I say this to encourage you and give you hope. It takes time to listen to that still, small voice and hear what it’s telling you. Be true to who you are, what you believe in and your core values as you explore and experiment with what your dream might be. Your journey might take many turns just as mine has, and in hindsight I can see that even those many turns all still fit into the mosaic of how I got to be where I am today.

Pursue your dream

Once you’ve discovered your dream, now it’s time to take action. Even if your dream is something that has never been done, accept that it is your dream alone and only you have the power to make your dream come true.

If the dream seems too overwhelming, start small. Think about one small step you can take that will begin to build momentum for you toward your dream. Sharing your dream with someone who will support and encourage you can make a big difference in overcoming your fear of taking that first step.

Overcome the obstacles and celebrate the wins

There will always, always be obstacles — real or perceived.

You might fear what your family and friends will think of you. Others might tell you it can’t be done. There might be financial barriers. Or you might need additional training or support you don’t yet have.

Once you’re moving forward, don’t necessarily expect smooth sailing. Setbacks or failures will happen. When you stumble or fail, learn from it and recommit to your dream. Also take time along the way to recognize your progress — even the smallest of victories — as these are the things that will help keep your dream alive.

Never stop dreaming

As C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

I don’t believe God is finished with me yet, as my dream continues to grow and evolve. I no longer allow what others think or my fears or insecurities to distract me from following my dream. At 51, my life is not half over — each day I wake up with passion and excitement for what the day will hold.

It took courage to follow my dream and it hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely been worth it. I pray you will have the courage to follow your own dream.