When you think about the future, what are your biggest dreams?
Every great success story you’ve ever heard, seen or read about began with a dream. And it’s worth paying attention to your dreams, because they can be a powerful starting point for future accomplishments.
You’ve got to have some passion to accomplish great things in life. As I travel the country speaking with young people, one of the things I enjoy most is hearing them talk about their dreams. Whether it’s a desire to go to college, enter a certain career field, or get married, I love hearing from young people who are thinking about their future.
Dreams Aren’t Enough
We all have dreams, and I love talking about them.
But you know what I love even more? Hearing about the steps young people are taking to make their dreams come true! Seriously! Dreams are great, but they don’t just become reality through wishful thinking. You have to put skin and bones on your dreams to bring them to life!
And how do you do that? Every successful person who has accomplished a dream created a plan that included specific types of goals to make their dream a reality. Then they focused on the steps —usually for a long period of time—that they needed to take to hit those goals.
Let’s walk through six steps to take your dream from I wish it to I did it!
Step 1: Identify Your Heroes and Why You Admire Them
Start by thinking of people you want to be like. They could be people you know personally or those you only know from having read or heard about them. For me the list includes my father, pastors who trained me in my faith, and several colleagues and mentors who have taught me a lot about business and financial success.
Now go open a Word document or a blank journal page. Write down the names of your own heroes. With each name on your list, ask yourself, “Why do I look up to him? What is it about her that I appreciate? Why would I want to be like them someday?” Be sure to record your thoughts beside each person’s name.
Step 2: Describe What Kind of Person You Would Like to Become
Now that you have that list of heroes and a sense of why you look up to them, let’s talk about who you want to become. You’re going to make a second list of what I like to call your core values, qualities that define what you’re all about. Here are just a few of the qualities that matter most to me:
- Serving others
At the top of the next page, write “Someday I would like to be . . .” This is where you take all of the qualities you identified in your heroes and turn them into positive goal statements for your own life. For example, if you said you admire someone because she’s helped a lot of people, a goal statement might look like this: “Someday I want to be able to give money to people who are in trouble without having to worry about how I’m going to pay for it.”
Of course, that is a huge goal! But sometimes that’s what happens when you try to translate a dream into a specific goal—they can get pretty big pretty fast. To get a better handle on each goal, you might want to tie them down to something specific. For example, change the above goal to say, “I want to be a millionaire by the time I’m 40.”
Keep going with each heroic trait and make yourself a whole list of life goals to become more like your heroes.
Step 3: Consider What Kind of Legacy You Want to Leave Behind
Okay, let’s pause a minute. I know you might be thinking, “Anthony, hang on. I’m only 15 years old. What’s with all the legacy talk?”
I hear you. It can seem a little premature to think about how you’ll be remembered someday when there’s still so much life ahead of you. But here’s what I know: Whatever you’re pursuing today—whether in your school, church or relationships—adds up to what will one day be your legacy.
This concept of your personal legacy is related to the previous step: what kind of person you want to become. Who you are directly results in your personal legacy. And the kind of legacy you will leave is linked to the areas of life you want to make a mark in, like your career or friendships. Some areas your legacy will affect include:
Here are a couple of questions you might ask yourself to make your legacy list: What do I want my spouse to remember most about me when I’m gone? (even though you might not be married yet), and How do I want to impact the young people in my life by the end of my career? (even if you haven’t begun your career yet!).
Step 4: Identify Your God-Given Purpose
This one will take you somewhere pretty deep, and it will probably require a lot of thought and prayer. But believe me, it’s well worth it! If you’ve never thought much about what your spiritual gifts are or what you’re supposed to achieve in life, don’t worry. One great way to start this journey is to go the people you are closest to—like your parents, pastors, or teachers—and ask, “What gifts do you see in me? What am I best at? Where do I make the most impact in the lives of others?”
Pay attention to the answers people give you. It’s pretty likely they have all noticed some of the same qualities within you. Seek a career that will leverage those gifts and allow you to have maximum impact on other people.
Step 5: Think About the Skills and Talents You Possess
I’m hoping this step is a little easier for you than the one about finding your overall life purpose. The two steps are related, but now I’m simply asking you to make a list of the things you already see in yourself that you do well. Stuff like working, playing music or excelling academically. This list of life skills will also probably include things you enjoy doing, like sports or video games. Right at the top of my own list is something I love to do every day: talking! Hey, what can I say? I’m passionate about speaking my mind as well as listening to others!
This list of things you enjoy and are naturally good at are so important in creating a winning plan for your life. They will influence what you decide to do for a living and could also affect where you live or the relationships you develop.
Step 6: Keep Going
You now have several lists: your heroes, core values, life goals, spiritual gifts, and life skills. Next, let’s turn them into practical action steps.
Keep all of your lists in one place, and get in the habit of reading them and adjusting them over time. Ask yourself how you’re doing in each area with each goal. Sometimes you’ll realize a goal no longer fits your dream—or that your dream has changed completely. That’s fine! Just erase it. And be ready to add more dreams and goals as you grow.
Why should you change the lists? The truth is they are going to change as your life changes. Dreams often develop and grow into new dreams as life goes on. But that doesn’t mean you should stop pushing forward to make them come true!
Keep updating the lists and recording how you’re progressing toward your goals. Share how you’re doing with a close friend or family member. They can help you celebrate the victories and cheer you on along the way!
About Anthony ONeal
Since 2003, Anthony has helped hundreds of thousands of students make smart decisions with their money, relationships and education. He’s a national bestselling author and travels the country spreading his encouraging message to help teens and young adults start their lives off right. His latest book, Debt-Free Degree, helps parents get their kids through college without student loans. Connect with Anthony on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.