Thursday Thirteen – Dream-Chasing

My Thursday Thirteen is a little late going up today, as I spent yesterday evening writing another conference paper.  This is going to be the third paper that I have given this semester, which is a lot by anyone’s standards!   However, I know that all of this hard work is going to pay off eventually when I reach my goal of being employed as a lecturer in a university.  That’s my dream, and I have been steadily working towards it for a number of years now.  I am due to submit my thesis next year, so all things being well, I should be Dr. Amy before I turn 30.  I’ve achieved a lot in my first 30 years on this earth, and I’m often asked how I manage it all.  To be completely honest, I do a lot of it without a great deal of conscious thought, but there are a few things (13 to be exact!) that I can recommend to others who are dream chasing too.

  1. Figure Out What You Want – First things first!   After all, how can you follow your dream if you don’t know what your dream is?  Well, to begin with, you need to sit down with your notebook and pen and just brainstorm.  Make lists of all the things you enjoy doing in life, all the things you used to do but don’t have time for any more, all the things that fill you with equal doses of fear and excitement.  Free yourself from the constraints of reality!  Let your mind go wherever it wishes, and note everything down.  Two other exercises that I’ve tried and come up with really interesting results, is to note down a list of childhood ambitions, and the other is to ask a loved one to list what they perceive as your skills, and what they could see you being good at.  This one was particularly insightful for me (Thanks, Mum!).
  2. Goal Setting – Now that you have all your lists, go down them highlighting the ones that fill you with excitement and possibility.  Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by things like cost, as money should not be an inhibitor to your dreams.  When I started out on my postgraduate degrees, I had no idea how I was going to pay for them.  I filled out the form regardless and got hold of the books for the course, and ultimately the money arrived in time for me to go ahead.  I am in no way suggesting that this will always be the case.  What I am suggesting though, is that if you are determined to achieve something, don’t let money be your inhibitor.  The other thing that I’d like to say about goal setting is keep your eye on the big picture.  I watched The Secret recently, and I was disappointed in it as it was so consumer-focussed.  The dreams people had were for cars and houses with tennis courts.  When I set goals it is not for material possessions, it’s for big picture stuff, it’s about how I want to live my life.  If I end up with a nice home then that’s just a bonus!
  3. Support – Don’t go it alone!  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the support of others.  It is entirely possible to pursue your path ‘lonely as a cloud’, but I can’t recommend it.  When I was studying for my undergraduate degree and I had my two babies aged 4months and 18months, there were many times that I wanted to give it all up.  It was the people around me who had faith in my capabilities, who helped me out with the practicalities of studying with such a young family, and who continually reminded me of my goal, of the bigger picture, that helped me stay the course.  Find yourself a cheering squad, and go for it!
  4. Accountability – Every week I meet up with my mum and we both set goals for the week.  We check up on each other’s progress on goals set the week before, and we discuss what goals need to be set that week to move us closer to our ultimate bigger picture goal (see 5. Mini Goals).  Since beginning these meetings, both my mum and I have achieved so much in such a short period of time.  When I scan down my list of things to do that week, I make sure that I have them done by our next meeting.  It’s not that we berate each other if we failed to do what we set out to do.  After all, life often doesn’t work out the way we expect and things crop up which prevent us from doing all we said we would.  When this happens the goal gets added on to the next week’s list, and, more often than not, it is done by the following week.
  5. Mini Goals – I mentioned in the previous point that you need to set weekly mini goals.  These mini goals are like the stepping stones that will get you to the other side; they take you to your bigger picture goal.  They need to be small and achievable.  If you have a busy week, then don’t set yourself several time-consuming tasks.  Instead choose small things such as an email to someone you think may be able to help you (see 10. Mentors), or fill in a form, make enquiries etc.  After a while, all these mini goals stack up and you will finally achieve that bigger picture goal.
  6. Forgiveness – As I said in 4. Accountability, sometimes things crop up, and you are unable to achieve the goal that you set out to achieve.  The trick is to forgive yourself, and not to get hung up on your perceived failure.  Continue to keep your big goal in mind, and try again.  You need to move forward in a positive frame of mind, and if you start to feel negative about yourself, cut yourself some slack.  Forgive yourself, and move on.
  7. Setbacks – Now these are not necessarily a bad thing.  They can appear pretty catastrophic at the time, but in actual fact they often allow us to learn something new, either about ourselves or about our dream.  There have been so many times that I thought that I was on the right track and everything was moving seamlessly forward, when something has come along and derailed my progress.  Use this time to reassess (see 11. Reassessment) and remember that when you reach your goal and you look back at this moment, you’ll see it as the event which contributed towards your success, rather than the point at which it all went wrong.
  8. Treats – Ah, there’s nothing like an incentive, is there!  I don’t know about you, but I work better when I know that there are going to be treats along the way.  These don’t have to be big treats, and, in fact, I would argue that the smaller treats are often more effective.  Sometimes it can be watching a favourite TV show, or buying a glossy mag.  Sometimes it can be a weekend of leisure time or maybe just a 20 minute walk around your neighbourhood.  Don’t underestimate the motivational power of the treat!
  9. Role Models – By role models I don’t mean Madonna or Stephen Spielberg, although if you wanted to choose them I certainly wouldn’t stop you!  In fact, if you discovered your dream was to become the uber-queen of pop or a successful Hollywood director, then I don’t think you could do better.  I would like to suggest, though, that sometimes a role model that is a little closer to home can be more effective.  Look to those who you perceive as having already achieved that bigger picture goal.  They are the proof that what you are striving for is indeed possible.
  10. Mentors – This is one step on from role models.  Role Models, after all, may not, and indeed, need not, know what they represent to you.  They may not even know you at all!  Mentors, on the other hand, should occupy a space between cheering squad and role model.  The idea behind mentors, is that they are maybe a few or more steps ahead of you and are approachable.  Contacting possible mentors can be a scary business, but in my experience, people like being contacted by those that hold a high opinion of them!  I’ve found that most people want to help others move closer to reaching their goal, and all it took to find this out was for me to make first contact.
  11. Reassessment – Sometimes, particularly after a setback, we find that we need to reassess where we are going and how we are getting there.  Sometimes the setback will be a major one and will require that you take stock of the bigger picture.  Our values change, our lifestyles alter, and our vision of our future does not resemble the one we used to dream of.  Be aware of this possibility, and take the time to figure out if the big picture goal still means as much to you as it previously did.  If it does, then find a way through the current setback using the mini goals.  If it doesn’t, be flexible and work to discover your new dream, before putting in place the steps that will move you forward.
  12. Indefatigability – The OED defines the state of indefatigability as ‘unremitting diligence or perseverance’.  Let me be completely clear: if you want to achieve something then you will have to be completely determined that you will ultimately succeed.  By following the exercise in 1. Figure Out What You Want, you should have discovered a dream that fills you with passion and enthusiasm, as it will be this passion and enthusiasm that takes you through to completion.
  13. Don’t Stop Dreaming! – There is always more to be achieved.  Once you have succeeded in attaining the dream, take care not to stagnate.  Set yourself another goal, and keep moving forward.  For me, I feel our time on earth is so short, that I want to make the most of it by living as fully as I’m capable of.  Just remember that the attainment of the dream is only a part of the fun; the journey is often more important than the destination.

I would love to hear what goals you are all working towards, or, indeed, your success stories.  What worked for you?  Are there any other pieces of advice that you think should be included?

My other TT posts: Origami Wishes and Birthday Nostalgia, Blogging Lessons, What I Found in Madrid, Rules To Live By, My Life in Scent, My Family, New Habits and Memorable Moments


November 22, 2007. Inspiration, meme.


  1. No nonsense girl replied:

    You are very inspiring!!!! Take care and happy thanksgiving!!!

  2. Deanna Dahlsad replied:

    A very good list — well, more than a list really 🙂 Number one is always the most difficult… esp in terms of a concrete goal.

    Nice to meet you & happy TT!

  3. Autumn Song replied:

    Wow, Amy, such good advice! I think 1 and 12 are particularly important, although 11 should always be an option. There’s no point sticking at something that you no longer want / won’t work out for you, but you should never give up too soon.

    I like the idea of a weekly support meeting to set up / reassess your goals. I’m not sure how I would go about doing that (do I have goals for the week?), but it would be a little bit more motivation to get things done. Maybe if I thought in a more structured way about what I do, I would be able to do this, and then I wouldn’t get lost in despair and despondence of the mountains it feels like I have to climb sometimes! Once again, I’m in awe and admiration of how organised and collected you are.

  4. Robin replied:

    I needed this right now. I’m working towards a goal, but I’d lost the plot a bit. Time to get sorted again. Thank you.

  5. Susan Helene Gottfried replied:

    Fantastic advice, Amy!! You are so right about a lot of this. I’m hung up on that point where you’re dependent on others to take things are far as you want them to go… *sigh*

    I’ll figure it out. Somehow.

    Happy TT and have a great Thanksgiving!

  6. Julia replied:

    What a great list and so true!
    Thanks for the inspiration and happy Thanksgiving 🙂

    Greets Julia

  7. ldicken replied:

    Wow! Those are wonderful. To me, numbers 12 and 13 are so important. I’m both living and still reaching for my dream of being a published author and it’s really all about not giving up and continuing to dream. Good luck with YOUR dreams!

  8. The Gal Herself replied:

    #4 and #5 were my favorites. They make even an “impossible dream” seem achievable! Thanks for visiting my TT.

  9. morgan replied:

    🙂 wonderful list! 🙂 happy TT and Thanksgiving.

  10. Harlekwin replied:

    I’ve heard it said time and time again that when the student is ready, the teacher will come. I guess I was ready. Thank you so much for writing this wonderful post today. I have been dipping my toe in, but have been afraid to take the plunge. You’ve given me the ability to realize I won’t sink.

    I’ll be not only bookmarking this page, but printing it so I can refer to it often.

    Thank you for visiting my site today and for your comment, they lead me here. What you saw posted for my thirteen today was a big piece of my dream.

  11. amypalko replied:

    No Nonsense Girl, I am so happy to have inspired you!!

    Yes, Deanna, number 1 probably is the hardest, but I find it is also the most fun. I love nothing better than sitting down with a pen and paper and giving myself free license to dream my wildest dreams. Why don’t you give it a try?

    It’s so easy to get lost in those mountains, isn’t it, Autumn Song! The idea behind the weekly meetings is to divide up the big picture goal into easy bite-sized pieces. So, yes, you do set weekly goals. So, for example, my own weekly goals include designing and ordering new business cards and completing my paper and presentation for the upcoming symposium. These small goals which I set myself earlier this week, will ultimately move me forward to where I want to be, i.e. an employed academic. But any goal can be rendered achievable in this way.

    I’m so glad it arrived at the right time for you, Robin. I’m sure you’ll find the plot again. Maybe you need to reassess where you’re headed, and then try the mini goals to get going again. Good luck!

    That sounds frustrating, Susan! Is there anyway you could galvanise them through the weekly meetings I mention in the point about Accountability? I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you 🙂

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, Julia!

    You are clearly still enthused and passionate about your dream, ldicken, which in many ways is half the battle. Thank you so much for your best wishes for my own dream-chasing. I hope you continue to live yours and that you keep dreaming new ones!

    Number 4 and 5 are great tools for dream-chasing. I hope you enjoy using them and that they help you to make your ‘impossible dream’ come true, The Gal Herself.

    Thank you, Morgan!

    Wow, Harlekwin, I’m so pleased that my post has proved so helpful to you! I half considered not posting today, as I was so late getting my TT up. However, you have made my efforts feel worth while. Thank you, and best of luck with your dream. Those photos were really special!!

  12. Christine replied:

    Fantastic advice Amy – Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Thanks for stopping by!

    I just picked up: Lisa Haneberg’s – Two Weeks to a Breakthrough, How to Zoom towards your goal in 14 days or Less – and it carries much the same thoughts as your TT. Great minds and all that!

  13. nicholas replied:

    I have saved that, because it contains such good advice. Especially number thirteen. We cynical, hard boiled, superannuated wannabees need reminding of that one quite a lot!

  14. Matthew James Didier replied:

    A goodly list for myself! …and some steps that sadly, I should re-look at in my own quest as I “skipped” ’em!

  15. tanabata replied:

    What fantastic advice! I’ve been stagnating for a while without any real goal to work towards. I need to ‘figure out what I want’. Thanks for the incentive.

  16. pussreboots replied:

    I’m going to go back and reread your TT when I’m more awake. It looks very useful and informative. Happy TT.

  17. Linda R. Moore replied:

    Oh, I am really going to enjoy your blog. 🙂

    Awesome advice. I am just now starting to realize my dreams as a professional writer and traveller, and I love Scotland in all its weather forms (I live in California, but my family is on the Black Isle.)

  18. amypalko replied:

    I’ve not heard of that book, Christine, but it sounds just my kind of thing! Thanks for letting me know about it.

    Oh, I’m glad you liked it enough to save, Nicholas! Number 13 is arguably the most important out of all of them. I hope you do continue to dream.

    I don’t think the steps should be considered hard and fast rules, Matthew, more like recommendations really 😉 Wishing you the very best of luck in your quest!

    The figuring out what you want part is often the most fun, Tanabata. I hope you enjoy dreaming up new and exciting projects!

    Yes, it’s maybe not one you want to read, half-asleep, Pussreboots! It’ll still be here when you choose to come back 😉

    I hope you do enjoy Lives Less Ordinary, Linda! I’m glad you found me. Those sound like some great dreams you’re in the process of achieving 🙂

  19. Cool posts 24 November 2007 replied:

    […] Thirteens, and came up with some lovely surprises. This one in particular by Scottish blogger “Lives Less Ordinary” caught my eye. Amy lists thirteen steps towards making your dreams come true, and I agree with them […]

  20. neomyth replied:

    what a great post. I am just starting to work out what my dreams are now (after years of being told my ideas were stupid or wouldn’t make money – shhft. who cares about money?) and this is pretty much the same model I’m working towards them with, but I hadn’t thought of getting a mentor. Now I’m going to email a uni prof. that I really admire, who works in my field (sociology and anthropology) but at a different uni, who I was always too shy to talk to when I saw her. Because really – what do I have to lose?

  21. amypalko replied:

    I can’t say how pleased I am that this post has inspired you to get a mentor. They can really turn things around for you and alert you to potential pitfalls. I really feel that by having a mentor, you increase the chances of achieving your goals tenfold. Best of luck with yours, Neomyth! Let me know how you get on with them.

  22. Thursday Thirteen - Ideas For The New Year « Lives Less Ordinary replied:

    […] Chase your dreams […]

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