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Do Not Follow Your Dream

by Lisa Ricard Claro

Follow your dream. Chase your dream. Go in the direction of your dream. Notice the trend? The juxtaposition of words?

These trite phrases all have something in common, and it isn't limited to their nebulous optimism. It is the separation and distance between you and that thing for which you yearn, as if your dream is an elusive butterfly you must run after with the hope of capturing it, assuming you don't first collapse from exhaustion.

If you're going in the direction of, following, or chasing something, then that thing, whatever it is, is somewhere out in front of you, always separate from where you are.

So I'm offering different advice than you have probably ever heard before, certainly not from someone whose sole goal is to motivate you. But here it is: Do not follow your dream. Do not chase your dream. Do not go in the direction of your dream.

Rather, you should grab that sucker with both hands and secure it in your heart where it will burn with a righteous fire and fuel you to all the success of which you know you are capable.

For years I followed, chased, and went in the direction of my dream to be a published author. This method of pursuit wasn't all bad. I cut some grown-up teeth along the way and learned that my dream required aggressive fine tuning.

But once I narrowed the scope and brought my dream into focus - not only to be published, but to be a novelist - it was time to stop chasing the dream, time to stop following it. It was time to control it.

Control your dream.

With perseverance and time, dedication and sacrifice, it can be done. It takes goal-setting, the understanding that setbacks are learning tools that will help you in the long run, and the acknowledgment that every victory, no matter how small, deserves to be celebrated.

There's nothing wrong with rewarding ourselves when we do something right. (Sweet red wine and dark chocolate are my personal favorites for those atta-girl moments.)

Goal-setting is imperative if you intend to keep your dream nestled in your heart and not wandering far afield.

Writing down your goals and reviewing them will help you remember why you're doing what you're doing and make it easier to keep at it even on those days when you have a better offer.

For me, that means staying in my office with the door shut even when the downstairs television blasts up the laughter and shenanigans associated with MythBusters when the guys blow something up, or when my hubby invites me to join him on a trip to Starbucks. The goals I've set are what keep my ass in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

If you don't have goals, you're probably still following, chasing, and going in the direction of your dream. Stop it. Grab your dream and hold it tight. Set goals to make it happen.

On his popular website (, goal-setting guru Michael Hyatt, author of the New York Times best-seller "Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World," recommends the following five parameters for successful goal-setting, and I've offered an explanation for each:

  1. Keep your goals few in number.
    We women are especially guilty of saying, "I'm a great multi-tasker." The reality is that no one is a great multi-tasker because our brains are not equipped to do a hundred things at once. Our divided attention means diluted focus. Limit your goals to sharp targets you can remember with ease, and the likelihood that you will accomplish them will improve.
  2. Make your goals SMART. Mr. Hyatt's acronym means Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.
  • Your goals should be laser specific, i.e. "Earn my master's degree in microbiology," as opposed to "Go to school."
  • Goals should be measurable, as in "Complete three 90,000 word novels this year," instead of "Write stories."
  • Make your goals actionable, that is, literally use action verbs, such as "Read four books every month," rather than "Be better about reading."
  • Keep your goals realistic. Your dream may involve a promotion at work that will land you in the corner office, but unless your résumé matches the requirements for that position, beefing up your education is more realistic in the short term. Hold that dream of the corner office burning in your heart and set the goals that will lead you there, but tailor them with common sense.
  • Last, your goals should be time-bound, i.e. "Promotion to the corner office by December 2020," not "Earn the promotion to the corner office." Expressing a target date will keep you honest and help you stay on course as you dovetail your goal-setting to your dream.
  1. Put your goals in writing.

Writing your goals and seeing them in ink is a mental exercise that makes achievement more viable. You are stating your commitment, on paper, to see that goal to its successful end. It's written in ink now, not floating in the ether. Believe it or not, that matters.

  1. Review your goals daily, weekly or monthly.

Mr. Hyatt reviews his goals weekly. I review mine daily (I'm an angsty writer and need the constant reinforcement). Choose what works best for you to strengthen your efforts and remain focused. Again, there is nothing wrong with making modifications along the way.

Life happens, and the important thing is to be flexible when that occurs so we can stay on track. Remember the scene in the animated movie A Bug's Life when the trail of worker ants encounters a stick and mass panic ensues? The advice from their ant foreman was, "Go around the stick." Same goes. Go around the stick and get back on track.

Life may slow you down - in fact, you can count on it - but frequent reassessment of your goals, alongside your dream afire inside you, will keep you on course.

  1. Be selective with whom you share your dreams and goals.

The world is filled with naysayers, people who think you're crazy for holding onto your dream and who will not understand the goals you've set to achieve it. These people do not need more fodder for their negativity.

Share your dream and your goals with those who will support and encourage you. Dream-building and goal-setting is a challenge enough without opening the doors for someone who wants to shoot you down.

Achieving one's dream is possible. It is! People do it every day. I did, and so can you. The only impossible dream is the one you chase with a butterfly net.

Why leave your precious dream flitting about somewhere in front of you? Leave those butterflies to the open field and let someone else chase them. Your dream is made of sterner stuff. Grab it, hold it tight, and commit to the goals that will make it happen.

Secure that dream deep in your heart and let it burn, baby. Let it burn.

Lisa Ricard Claro is an award-winning short story author with articles and stories spanning multiple media. She resides in Georgia with her husband, two dogs and three cats, and dreams of one day living at the beach.

Lisa's novel, Love Built to Last, is the first book in the "Fireflies" trilogy and is scheduled for publication in 2015 with Black Opal Books.

Contact Lisa at and visit her website at where she posts her weekly blog, Writing in the Buff!, delivering the Naked Truth about life, love, and the pursuit of publication.