The 6 Stages of Success When You Dream Big

Banksy in Boston: F̶O̶L̶L̶O̶W̶ ̶Y̶O̶U̶R̶ ̶D̶R̶E̶A̶M̶S̶ CANCELLED, Essex St, Chinatown, BostonCreative Commons License Photo Credit: Chris Devers via Compfight

If you had a dipstick that you could poke down into my what makes me crazy tank, when you pulled it up you’d find it dripping in the word “instant dream success.”

I should clarify that crazy into meaning “people who believe that what they want to happen should happen as soon as they have the idea” kind of instant dream success.

My special crazy comes when I am helping people with their dreams, such as people who have just launched their website, blog, product, or next great thing and they immediately look at their watch to mark the time when their million dollar check should be flying through the front door and slap them upside the face.

Hey, they launched, right?

Isn’t that all it takes?

It’s as if they think the execution, or the starting of their dream (website, blog, product, book, weight loss program, etc.) is enough, and now everyone can all go home because success is about to come raining down on them like a hailstorm on Montana in May. Let’s just dust off our hands, call it a day and go home to celebrate.

Right here is where you hear the sound of screeching breaks, or me screaming.

Success simply doesn’t happen this way. As much as any of us would like to be an overnight success — literally in 12 hours — the hard truth is that dreaming doesn’t work that way.

Dream success takes years. Isn’t 8 Women Dream proof of this fact? (can I hear an, “Amen” dream-sisters?)

Dream success follows more along the path of the 5 Stages of Change, which is why it is difficult to compare one person’s success to another and determine how long it will take to succeed. There are at least 6 stages to dream success that I can think of, and there’s probably more. But let me attempt to show you the long and winding road of dreaming.

The 6 Stages of Dream Success —

1. Contemplation

Dreaming starts with the contemplation of the idea. You could have had the idea that you were going to be a New York Times best-selling author when you were 8-years-old, while someone else could have decided this same dream when they were age 21 in college thanks to a great English professor.

How would you compare these dreamers? Who do you think will be first to achieve their dream?  Both arrived at their dream idea at completely different stages in their lives and one of them has been at it a lot longer than the other.

Time-frame for this stage: 4 to 60 years.

2. Information

The dreamer decides to collect more information either by buying books, going back to school, attending seminars, getting training, and probably searching the Internet (Ha!). This is when the dreamer begins to measure what it is going to take to succeed.

If the dreamer embarked on their dream at an early age (like learning to play the piano at age 8) then this stage may be more about the level of commitment and where to get the best training. If you are 40-years-old when you hit this point, then what you may need to learn will be very different from someone who is 18 and has been pursuing their dream since age 8.

Time-frame for this stage: 4 to 60 years.

3. Launch

The dreamer decides to take the first big step towards their dream, whether it is to take a class, buy the website, attend a trade show, email someone for help, sketch dream products, join Weight Watchers — whatever it is that launches you forward into working on your dream.

This is when fear usually rears it’s ugly head and you start thinking that either you can’t do it, or you should be successful at it already. This part is exciting and fun and the world is full of possibilities. This is the moment a lot of dreamers think they should be done with their dream. Many quit within the first year of their launch.  The average time-frame for people who launch a blog then quit blogging is 3 months.

Time-frame for this stage: 4 to 60 years.

4. The Dip

This is from Seth Godin and it describes the long slog between launch and success. The dream gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point-really hard, and not much fun at all (thanks Seth). And then you find yourself asking if the dream is even worth the hassle.

You are stuck. This is year three of college, or the middle of your medical residency, or half-way through your first book, or the point at which you launch your first book and realize that you alone now have to do all the marketing.

Time-frame for this stage: 4 to 60 years.

5. Adjusting

This is where you tweak your dream. This is the point at which you are editing your finished manuscript; trying to sell the 500 copies of your first book stored in your garage; taking a higher level photography course because a great photographer told you that your lighting needs improvement; accepting or burning rejections from your submissions, and revising your dream plan.

This could be the point that you redesign your website, change your blog to make it more professional, launch a second round of products with more customer feedback, or join a different pier group. This is when you are accepting feedback and refining your dream.

Please take note that there will be feedback, there should be feedback and you should listen to feedback — or you will be forever stuck at stage 2.

Time-frame for this stage: 4 to 60 years.

6. Success

This is the point where it feels like you are achieving your dream. There’s more work than you ever imagined and you are trying not to panic. Maybe you’ve booked your first concert, published your book and are getting press, found your blog in the top 10,000 of top blog lists, made the New York Times best-seller list — whatever it is that represents success to you.

This is the point when things go wild.  You are ready to ride the wave and not shoot yourself in the foot by blowing off your commitments. Even at the stage where you find your dream success, (depending on your self-image) you can still kill your dream right as it is coming true by not feeling you deserve it.

Time-frame for this stage: 4 to 60 years.

You will note that I put the time-frame for each stage at 4 to 60 years. This is because we are all inherently human with individual circumstances and completely different needs. Some dreamers stall dreaming to raise families, others wait until they are married and have the safety of a second income, and yet others wait until they retire.

You might be one of those dreamers who is only able to work on your dream a few hours a night so it takes you 20 years to get to the point where you can even think about launching.

Top bloggers used to tell me that it would take me three years of blogging every day to see their kind of success. Lately I’ve been seeing some new success by bloggers who have been blogging for 9 years.

It kind of makes you question that 3 year blog success rule.  There are many factors involved in having a top blog and how quickly you can grow your blog (1,000 pages or more) that determine if your blog will ever be considered for entry in the top blog circle.

The same could be said for all dreams.

“Instead of thinking about where you are, think about where you want to be. It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success.” Diana Rankin.

Could you stay with your dream even if it takes 20 years to achieve success?


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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.
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