My teenage daughter had a dream last night. Nothing unusual about that, and generally not worthy of a blog article, however it did offer a teachable moment.
We have a 10 - 15 minute car journey to school every morning, and we optimise this time by counting the ways in which we will each Bring The Greatness to our school and work day. We set our intentions out loud, to help us focus on what it is we want, or need, to achieve during these precious waking hours. The simple principle is this: When we know what we want, or where we're going, we have a clear idea of what we have to do to achieve the goal. This makes all subsequent decisions so much easier to make.
In the dream, my daughter was undertaking a routine monthly English assessment, probably because she has recently completed a routine English assessment in reality. In the dream, my daughter enjoyed completing the assessment (as per her reality), and achieved a higher-than-expected grade (hopefully, as per her reality!). The dream inspired, energised and motivated my daughter, giving her an even greater positive mental attitude than usual going into school. I'm surprised she didn't kick some doors in on her way to class, so enthusiastic was she.
My poor kids are nothing less than a captive audience in a moving car, as I've described previously (Mentor-Mum = Fuzzy End Of The Lollipop For My Kids?). I believe the power of words, combined with strong communication skills, are of paramount importance, so I encourage discussion and debate as often as possible. How else are children to expand their vocabulary, and ability to articulate effectively, unless they practice? My daughter's dream offered me a perfect opportunity to reiterate a valuable lesson, we would all do well to remember: Define >> Decide >> Dedicate. Here is this morning's 30mph school run teachable moment...
In the pursuit of success - any success - you must first define what success means to you. What would success look like and feel like for you? This is your starting point, because if you cannot envisage, or clearly define, what it is you're working towards, how will you know what roads to take, or decisions to make, to get there?
"If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable" - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
If you're i.e.: sitting in your car at the port of Dover and want to drive to Inverness, you have already clearly defined your objective, so then you'd plan a route, right? You'd decide whether you wanted to use the motorways to arrive sooner (in theory), or take the scenic route and enjoy the sights. Whichever option you select is a personal preference, but you had a plan to get from where you are now, to your clearly defined destination. If you didn't plan which roads to take, the chances of you getting lost, delayed, or making unforced errors, are far greater.
By defining your goal, all subsequent decisions are easier. Sitting in Dover you know, at the very least, that all the roads you take from here must head north. When you are presented with subsequent options, and are free to go in whichever direction you wish, you must choose the northerly direction, because that's where Inverness is. This is where you want to go.
What success means for you, may not constitute a success for me, and vice versa. No one can really define success for you, for exactly this reason, so you must define it for yourself. For my daughter, success includes A* exam results, an Oxford/Cambridge University degree [£-gulp!] and a teaching BEd [*researches crowdfunding options*]. So discussing her dream was quite simple, as she has clearly defined her goals. Now her decisions are easier to make; work hard, do your best, bring the greatness and achieve...or not. My daughter can choose to listen to the teachers, complete her work to a high standard, submit all homework on time every time...or not. Only one of those two options will move her closer in the direction of her dreams, and it isn't the or not option.
Returning to you sitting in Dover, having clearly defined your goal of driving to Inverness, now you must decide to accept the challenges and responsibilities for actually getting there. We can all dream. We can all wish for things to be different. You could wish to already be in Inverness, without having to expend the time, energy and money of driving those 630 miles, but unless you do, you will forever remain in Dover. Simply wishing for things materialises nothing. The distance between your dreams and reality (between wanting to go to Inverness and being in Inverness) is action.
You also need to decide that nothing will prevent you from achieving your goal. Sit still in your quiet solitude, before you embark upon your Huge Big Thing, because proper preparation prevents a poor performance. Decide to press on through all of the inevitable trials, tribulations and challenges that will present themselves. There is no room for pity parties, or "poor me" control dramas when you're attempting something huge. Hope for the best, plan for the worst and be ready for anything.
Your positive mental attitude, your ability to see all problems as learning opportunities (for which there is a solution for everything), will light your way and help you power through. Your strength of will, resilience and stamina will be tested along the way - count on it, but see this positively as a training opportunity...something good, something that's offering you personal growth. We all know the initial pain and strain of a thousand bicep curls results in bigger, stronger biceps. Well, the process you go through now will create a new, bigger, better, stronger, faster version of yourself, if you persevere.
This enhanced version of you will be ready and capable of achieving the new challenges waiting for you, on the other side of your initial goal. You update your apps and operating systems, so why not yourself? You update yourself, simply by rewriting outdated thinking, and rethinking old behaviour choices. If you do what you have always done, you will always get what you've always gotten. If you have done it this way for 5 years and it has gotten you nowhere, why would you relinquish another 5 years, of your finite life, settling for the same poor results? When the horse is dead, it's time to get off!
Likewise my daughter. Yes, there is a clearly defined goal, but every day she must reconfirm her intention of becoming a teacher by working hard, doing her best and bringing the greatness. However challenging her daily tasks may be, she has to press on. Similarly, my eight year-old son idolises Usain Bolt, and has decided he wants to be an Olympic sprinter. This is music to my ears because now he is focused on his physical fitness (as opposed to i.e.: computer games), his PB's during training sessions, and his dietary intake (i.e.: lots of protein, carbs and fresh fruit and veg)...woo hoo! Both of my kids understand that where their attention goes, energy flows, and if it all goes according to my son's plan, I'll be the proud and sobbing mess, trackside at the 2028 Olympics. Bring tissues!
So Number One child wants to be a teacher and Number Two child wants to be an Olympic sprinter. Neither one will achieve either of these goals by only wishing for them. They have to implement the Define >> Decide >> Dedicate principles if they are going to make anything happen, and thankfully they are doing just that. For what it's worth, I'm implementing my own Define >> Decide >> Dedicate action plan to pay for it all!
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to met Ben Hunt-Davis, who is a British winner of a gold medal for rowing at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and author of Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? In the book - which I highly recommend by the way - Ben describes the dedication he implemented to achieve his clearly defined goal of winning an Olympic gold medal. For four years leading up to the Sydney games, every decision Ben made was positioned against this question: Will it make the boat go faster? When i.e.: asked out by his mates for a pint on his birthday: Will it make the boat go faster? Well, errr no, because alcohol and a late night is counter-productive to the goal of winning gold medals. It's the same for you when driving to Inverness, all roads must lead north or you simply won't get there.
Once you decide nothing will stop you achieving your Huge Big Thing, dedication will keep you going when the hours are long, the debts are high and you've still a long way to go. Press on though. Focus on how far you've come by keeping a journal, or a record, of feat of courage, triumph and growth you've collected so far, however small. Don't ever forget what you have already achieved, and everything these experiences have gifted you for your continuing journey forwards. Progress is a process, not an event.
Accomplishing a Huge Big Thing - whatever it is, whatever you have defined it to be - is hard work. Simply wishing for things materialises nothing, which is why many people seek the help and support of either a