By Carol Cassara – Contributor & Midlife Wrangler
Since we’re living healthier and longer, we Boomers are finding time to do the things we once dreamed of doing. I’m sharing my own path to making a dream come true with you, and hope that you’ll come along on my journey and make your own become reality, too.
Articulating my dream was my first step and I hope it was yours, too. My dream is to give workshops on writing and creativity. I noticed that once I articulated my dream, said it out loud, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If you’ve done the same, chances are that you, like me, quickly encountered a cloud of doubt.
I come from a family that focused more on all the reasons NOT to do something than the reasons TO do something. I’ve had to work hard all my life to keep negative thoughts at bay. That dark side my mind spins out on the “It’s too hard” and “I can’t really do it” has killed many of my dreams before they even got started.
My negative thoughts about my workshops began almost immediately: It’s too much work. What if no one is interested? It’ll cost more than I can make. And on and on. Dream-killing negativity. If I didn’t stop that kind of thinking I’d talk myself out of making my workshop dream come true.
First, I tried to put doubt out of my mind. But ignoring it didn’t work—it popped right up again, like a jack-in-the-box with a life of its own. No, it seemed like the only way to keep negativity from becoming a permanent roadblock would be to stare it down.
So, I made a list of my negative thoughts. I examined each one closely. They were all based on fear of failure. If that’s your fear, too, deconstruct it down to its very roots.
My initial negative thoughts were that I wouldn’t have enough students. Maybe people weren’t really interested enough to pay money for workshops. Were they? Well, why don’t I ask them?
Using the simple, free site, Survey Monkey, I came up with a little survey and sent it out to my neighborhood e-list, saying that I wanted to assess interest for a new series of workshops. I also posted it on Craigslist and asked for respondents. I queried interest level, topics, pricing and even asked what days and times worked best. I received fewer than a dozen responses, not enough to be really generalizable, but enough to propel me to the next step: figuring out how to fill the workshop without spending money on advertising.
Publicity. I knew how, since I’d had a very long career as a publicist. Also, social media. Networking. Email blasts to friends and neighbors. I listed all the ways I could market my workshop without spending a dime. It was not a short list.
Still, negative thoughts persisted: what if people couldn’t afford it? The perception among survey respondents was that my pricing was high. I’d envisioned an eight-week workshop. The work of preparing for and holding eight two- or three-hour workshops required a higher price.
But, I wondered, what if I started out with a single, half-day workshop with a much lower fee? That might be a lower-risk way to test my approach and community interest. I could bring in at least a little revenue while testing my idea.
Another negative thought pushed its way in. What if I still only had a few students?
A handful of students would still give me a chance to try my idea out, and I could always ask a few friends to round out the class at no charge. It would be a pilot test. I’d be gathering important data and only risking half a day and preparation time.
When I finished analyzing my fears and how to handle them, I came up with this:
I could give a half-day workshop to test my business concept, publicizing it widely and asking friends to fill any gaps. This would be a low-risk trial run, allowing me to learn if my dream was achievable –or even practical. I wasn’t committing to anything permanent, just a test run.
I’d turned my negative ideas into a practical way to keep my dream alive, at least long enough to test it out. My inspiration was the Van Gogh quote about pushing past fears –which, bottom line means: JUST DO IT.
Did my doubts disappear? No. I’m still worried that no one will be interested. But in the past, I’d stop right there. Now? I’m pushing past my fears and giving it a try. Maybe it won’t work.
Then again, maybe it will. I won’t know unless I JUST DO IT.
Sometimes, fears are simply realistic thinking. Sometimes, it’s not reasonable to achieve a dream as we originally envisioned it. We might have to modify it or even let it go.
But unless we reality-check and test our dreams, we’ll never know what might have been.
Fears don’t have to be roadblocks. They can be yellow caution lights, indicating it’s time to slow down and look closely at what surrounds them. In that way, fears can actually serve us, propelling us toward making our dreams come true.