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It's Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Activating

It's Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Activating

So many of us have waited for the perfect job description to magically appear and make all of our career dreams come true. Or, a perfectly balanced life with less stress, more time to exercise, well-behaved kids and the ideal life partner. What are you waiting for? It’s time to stop wishing for great things to happen and take action. 

Change the World by Changing Yourself First

Martha Hoover, former sex crimes prosecutor turned award winning restaurateur, shared her journey of putting dreams into action at a retreat I co-facilitated recently where she was a guest speaker. Full of grit, tenacity, and shameless self-confidence, Hoover spoke candidly about how she needed to change in order to be seen and heard in the world as a rookie in the food industry in 1989 when she opened her first Café Patachou. By change, she didn’t mean becoming someone else but rather owning her strengths and authenticity and projecting that into the world, so people knew she was serious about making a difference in the restaurant world even when she was a novice.

Micro-Ambition

While Martha Hoover knows the power of dreams, she also knows that many people get stuck in the vision and never take action towards making it a reality. She offers the wisdom of the micro-ambition. Small, attainable actions that lead to the larger and more comprehensive end goal.

By tackling the monumental goal incrementally, you will accomplish smaller wins and gain self-confidence as well as credibility with your stakeholders.

Don’t Keep Your Ambitions a Well-Kept Secret

Many people dream in the safety of their own heads and never let their vision see the light of day. The brain science tells us that dreams and goals are more likely to be realized if you share them out loud within your community and write them down.

By practicing radical collaboration, you will benefit from the insight and ideas of others you seek out as stakeholders.

Here are some initial action steps to ignite radical collaboration:

  • Produce a coherent vision of your problem and solution
  • Inspire others to fuel ideation
  • Consider how others can be involved and get buy-in
  • Bring together innovators with diverse viewpoints and enable breakthrough solutions

Be Radically Different Than the Status Quo

In a world where disruptive innovation is becoming mainstream, consider how your goal or plan can be unique. If you are designing a new career opportunity, consider how you can solve a problem within the organization differently. What makes you stand-out from the crowd and how can you avoid doing what everybody else is already doing that plays to your strengths?

Being radically different also requires the courage to fail forward with confidence. Failing should not be a stigma but an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and develop resilience and the ability to recover that you can wear as a badge of honor.

Human-Centered Design

Following the principles of design thinking, start by considering what you need or want in life and career. Gain feedback from others and begin with empathy to determine what matters most.

Take the time and effort to experiment and prototype to validate your idea and innovate the process. Focus on showing, not telling and prototype and test your ideas to see what really works for you.

Dreamers often get stuck in the perfection paradox, waiting until they are 100% ready for the job posting they believe they need to be 100% qualified to pursue. Honor the practice of Good Enough to Go and know that your potential is enough to give you momentum to take action.

If You Can’t Find It, Design It!

You need not wait for the ideal job description or the perfect work/life balance scenario to fall out of the sky. Be proactive and approach your employer with a proposal that showcases your ROI and solves a need within the organization.

Most organizations that have been around for more than a decade operate with antiquated job descriptions and archaic Human Resources practices. Don’t blame the HR team – design your ideal scenario and pitch it to your boss. You need not be a business owner to act entrepreneurially.

Mosaic Life and Career

Our lives and careers are intricate puzzles, much like a mosaic with small pieces fitting together to reveal a beautiful design with no two exactly alike. Don’t relinquish your ability to design your unique mosaic life and career.

Start with micro-ambitions and incremental steps that will lead to bigger goals. Take the time to zoom in and out, taking the situation apart and reassembling it to reflect the life you want to live.

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Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life- on iTunes and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.


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