The Top 8 Ways to Start Living Your Dream

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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I’ve been bored with my life more times than I’d like to admit.

It’s a life-hangover resulting from looking for stimulus outside myself in boyfriends, husbands, parties, partying friends and the ever-alluring search for the new — rather than focusing on where I wanted my life to go.

Instead of steering my life in a challenging direction, I let the prevailing winds take me to far away islands of exciting men, expensive wine and false friends. I allowed myself to be overly-influenced by work to make my mother proud, work to save me from a failing marriage (and relationships), and work to pay me lots of money.

Somewhere along the way to the cubicle life I stopped thinking big.

For too many years I searched for fun instead of substance — don’t get me wrong, fun can be, well fun, but if you don’t look for the right kind of fun — like the fun that comes after the rewards of working towards an amazing, soul-stretching life, then you might wake up like I did at age 45, wondering what the hell happened.

I do remember the moment when it all began.

I was humbly standing over my father’s dead body. He was 49. I was just 18 and I thought, “What’s the point? He worked so hard and now he wasn’t even going to see me go to college. What kind of God takes a man from his family just as they are taking off? Life sucks. Why is it necessary to worry about a future where you die before you have the chance to see how it all turns out?”

Why not just have fun?

A better question might have been, why not save your money and go travel?

But I was too afraid to take big risks; too afraid to leave my mother’s side; too afraid to be without a boyfriend. I made all manner of decisions based on some lame attempt to diminish my fear of death. And before I knew it I was married, pregnant and the more responsible parent to a wonderful, baby boy.

As my son grew into a toddler I reveled at the fearless way he ran at life like some herculean pole vaulter into his next adventure coliseum. I set the “good parenting” example by working jobs that paid me the most money so we could go explore expensive coliseums together. But every two years some massive corporate merger would come along, kill the company and catapult me into the unemployment line.

I have been layed off 10 times from 10 companies that don’t exist anymore. My resume reads like the business failure section of the Wall Street Journal. I was beginning to guess that something wasn’t quite right.

Then I blinked and I was 45.

I was entangled in another company going belly-up in the middle of an entire industry going belly-up. I was tired. I was done. The life I’d built around instant gratification, avoiding big risks — while ignoring the idea of doing something I might actually love was swan diving me into thyroid problems, financial ruin and deep sadness.

I had to change. I had to start over.

I needed to find out what was wrong and build a new life. This quest lead me to start 8 Women Dream to study the habits of people who successfully dream big dreams. In the past three years I have discovered that I am tenacious, resilient, determined, brave, smart and tough.

Dreaming a big dream hasn’t been easy — nor always fun. But I wouldn’t change a thing. This is what I have found out about dreaming bigger dreams . . .

The Top 8 Ways to Start Living Your Dream

1. Give yourself permission to work on your dream.
We have many excuses for why we don’t want to work on our dream. Sometimes it’s wrapped up in guilt and obligation. We think we don’t have the right to do “such a crazy thing.” Give yourself permission to take a class, read a book, start a travel fund, create a dream corner in your bedroom, or join a group who shares your same dream. You deserve it. Really, you do. Don’t let your family or friends tell you differently – trust your instincts.

2. Define what working on your dream means to you.
Some dreams take years to see the light of fruition, others can be completed in months. Don’t compare your dream progress to others. Follow your heart and set reasonable goals that you will be willing to complete in a structured period of time. Challenge yourself.

3. Don’t let other people ruin your dream.
Sometimes the people closest to you become unnerved as you start to change. They try to tell you it can’t be done or discourage you from chasing such a “crazy dream”. Think about what their motivations might be. They may feel angry that you no longer put them or their needs before your dream. Your change in direction could be making them feel uncomfortable about where they are in their life. Remember their reactions are not about you.

5. Stop chicken-boning your dream.
Quick picking your dream to the bone with negative self-talk like, “This is a stupid idea!” or “I’ll never be able to do this, what was I thinking?” These thoughts are often old voices from teachers, coaches, parents, siblings or adults who made you feel inadequate at an age when you were defenseless against standing up for yourself. Create an affirmation to say to yourself every time negative thoughts appear. Anthony Robbins uses,

“God’s wealth is circulating in my life. Wealth flows to me in avalanches of abundance. All my hopes, dreams and desires come true instantaneously with infinite abundance, for I am one with God and God is everything.”

4. Surround yourself with people who support your dream.
Join a group. Attend classes. Go to lectures where you will find people who can encourage you. If you can’t find a group, consider creating a meetup group of your own. But you must find people who understand your passion for your dream and can support you when you are feeling down or stuck.

6. Be willing to take small risks to move forward.
You have to actually work on your dream in order for it to come true. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start small. Send an email. Make a phone call. Look into the costs of going back to school. Maybe a first step is just setting up a special savings account where you add $10.00 a month. But it’s important that you take small steps in the beginning and as you gain strength challenge yourself to take bigger steps towards your dream.

7. Stop thinking about tomorrow.
Quit worrying about how your dream is going to come true, or how you are going to make it happen. Just start with today. Right here. Right now. Right where you are. Quit worrying that you are too old, too broke, too young, too whatever. Just focus on this moment and what you can do today to bring more of your dream into your life.

8. Be willing to accept feedback that can move you forward.
There will be the right kind of people who will come along with constructive feedback on your dream quest. These are not the ones who tell you that your dream can’t be done. These are the people who will tell you the problem with your dream in it’s current form and the steps you should take to correct your course so that your dream can come true. Be willing to listen to this kind of feedback from people who understand where you are trying to end up. Remember that you must grow to become the person in your dream and you won’t have all the answers. Accept help and allow feedback.

If you are lucky, you will find that life on the dreamers path takes you places you never imagined. It’s never too late to pick up the pieces of your fractured life and start anew. Allow me to be your shining example of the possibilities of a second life, along with Laura Ingalls Wilder, who didn’t publish her first novel until she was 65 years old, or Winston Churchill who became the Prime Minister at age 62, or Harland Sanders who founded KFC when he was 62 years old.

Well? What are you waiting for? We’re not getting any younger. Start living your dream today.


Catherine HughesCatherine’s dream is to be a motivator and published writer. She is testing her theories on motivation with this blog and the seven other women who have volunteered to be a part of her dream project. Catherine also writes about her life as a mom at the blog A Week In The Life Of A Redhead. She would also like to be invited to speak at TED as the next Erma Bombeck. Catherine posts on Monday mornings and fills in when needed.

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  • Lisa

    I KNOW you were meant to do this Cath… Look at the impact it is having on so many lives… of us “dreamers” here and so many others… Somehow the path all makes sense in the end, it’s just wild how we arrive here, right????

    Here’s to you liviing your soul-stretching dreams and us supporting you in doing that – applauding your courage and your heart, fearless dream leader :)

    Love you so!

  • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

    Great post! as always! you know how I feel about this – your mentorship and support mean the world to me. I’m knee deep in #6 so I’ll let ya know how it goes.

    xox Rem

  • Absolutely adore this. Thank you for sharing!

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  • Mariska

    I can relate. I’ve been lost in my life and I think it’s okay to be lost, especially when you know you are. It’s important to use it as a opportunity to reevaluate your life, and to find something that provides you with some direction. Focusing on a big dream is a good start. For me I go back to school and study something I think I can’t do. Just having school focus on, that fills the emptiness with homework and worry, makes me feel in control of something. Having something in my life that I can control the progress saves me from depression and feeling lost in my life. Ten corporate jobs lost is too much for anyone to handle. No wonder it made you look for a different path. Maybe it was all just stepping stones to creating this blog, which is what you were meant to do. -M

    • Catherine Hughes, Editor & Chief

      Maybe I was meant to do this.

      Yeas, there is nothing that makes your life feel more out of control than being laid off from companies that close down. There was a time that I thought that I couldn’t bear to see one more person carry their box of things to the car from being laid off. I don’t take personal items to work anymore. No personal photos – nothing I’d have to pack up. I think going to school could be considered working on a dream, and you are right that when we have something else to focus on that changes us, life is better. Thanks for your comment.