Last week, reader Shelli sent me the following email:
This email represents the sentiment I get from most people who are interested in drastically changing their lives like we did. They feel stuck in their current situation, convinced it would be nearly impossible to accomplish their goals.
I get it. I’ve been there. But I’m here to tell you it is possible! I am living proof that a person can totally transform their future. I’m am just an average mom. No exceptional training, no perfect upbringing, no large inheritance. We are middle income average Joes, so trust me when I say if we can rewrite our life story, anyone can.
Inspired by this letter, I decided to put together a list of 10 things you need to do if you are serious about breaking the chains of ordinary, and pursuing an extraordinary future.
1) Go Big Or Go Home
In my 40+ years on earth, the goals I have failed at have always been those I haven’t invested my whole heart, soul and guts into. You can’t dip your toe in the water of your dreams and expect things to happen. You have to dive in, head first with everything you’ve got. It’s all or nothing, folks.
Case in point. When I went to nursing school several years ago, I was told by the administration that I would never be able to get all the way through clinical classes, because of my situation. I had four small children at home, and I needed to work second shifts at the hospital so I could be home with them during the day. Second shift was first-come-first-serve, and sometimes not even available for some classes. So I had a choice. I could throw up my hands and quit, because of some potential future road block, or I could go for it. I decided this dream was so important, that I would take it semester by semester, resolving not to quit until the day I had to.
And do you know what happened? I became the first student in the history of the college to graduate on only 2nd shift clinicals!
What I learned from this experience, is that big goals require big risks. I had to want it so much, that I was willing to risk wasting my time, and looking like a fool (with half a degree!) in order to get through. It was either that, or accept defeat right out of the gate. I believe there is a force of nature that goes along with you when you have strong determination and resolve. When you invest your whole self into something, and it is really something worth having, doors often opened that weren’t supposed to be opened.
2) Be Hardcore
Steven Covey once said, “The main thing, is to keep the main thing the main thing”.
When folks share their big dream with me, most of the time it is something out of the ordinary. Like building a tiny home, living off-the-grid, being debt free, or traveling full-time. The thing that makes it “big” is that it is drastically different from conventional life in modern-day society.
When you are embarking on a path that is not well traveled, you must be prepared for all sorts of challenges. People are gonna thing you’re crazy. They will disagree, disapprove and disrespect you. But you have to love your dream more than you love your money, your pride, or the approval of random strangers. You have to keep the main thing the main thing.
3) Know Why You Want It
Every now and then, I meet a person who is traveling full-time with their families like we are, only they are miserable. As I speak to them, they seem to all share a common mindset. They decided to hit to road so they would have an interesting story to tell, and an impressive scrapbook to share with others. In a nutshell, the trip was more about social status and recognition.
On the other hand, the families who are genuinely happy, seem to have chosen this path so they could unchain themselves from that competitive mindset, in order to slow down and focus on what really matters. Both sets of people are walking the same path, but with totally different motives. And the motive is what seems to determine the level of their happiness.
When your goals are in line with what matters most in life, you can’t help but be happy. So be sure they are!
4) Stop Doubting
I am a person who battles fear and self-doubt every day. In the past, it has controlled me to the point of almost stopping me from living a full and happy life. But today, I realize that the more I give in to doubt, the more often it comes for a visit. So I refuse to give it audience.
When you have goals that will improve your future and bring peace to your present, you can feel more confident when fear comes calling. It cannot budge you from your dreams, because you know even if you fail, you will fail in pursuit of something worthwhile. In that case, the biggest thing to fear, is giving up!
5) Everything Must Be Measurable
Another roadblock that stopped me from accomplishing my goals for years was that they were not clearly defined. I had a foggy vision for what I wanted, but no clear road map for how to get there. It was only when I committed myself to writing down gradual, measurable goals that I saw results! Put your dreams on paper, and give them a deadline. Then break them up into smaller pieces so you can conquer this mountain one step at a time!
6) Everything Must Be Flexible
I have a big list of things I wanted to see during my first year of travel. In fact, my initial goal was to see 49 states in 52 weeks! Ha!
Turns out after 12 months have come and gone, I have visited a total of eight states. Do I see this as a failure? Heck no! I see this as a modification to my original dream that turned out to be more enjoyable and realistic!
Even though it is important to write down specific and measurable goals, it is equally important to accept the fact that your dream will be fluid, and ever-changing. The deeper you dig into it, the more you will learn and grow. And the more you learn, the more your wisdom will change your original game plan.
Just remember to write in pencil, carry a big eraser and NEVER give up!
7) You Will Be Tested
You might remember the story I told last year of our first road trip. We were exactly four hours from our hometown when our truck broke down! I had my entire family in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, with no wheels and no way to drag my house to a campground. Talk about a test!
In the end, everything turned out fine, and the experience actually strengthened my resolve. I realized that even if the worst case scenario happened, we would all be okay. When you have a plan that factors in time and money for the unexpected, you will be more prepared than the average person. It is much easier to stay the course in the face of adversity when you are expecting it, and prepared for it.
8) Be Prepared For Criticism
This story is from one of my favorite Instagram accounts. Two people and a dog, live a full-time traveling life in a VW bus, and share their adventures. Their blog is called Where’s My Office Now:
When you live in a van (especially a loaded vintage VW), there’s always someone staring at you. Many approach us, usually out of curiosity, and when we tell them the three of us have lived in it for so long, disbelief washes over them. I feel their reaction, and a wave of confusion and perhaps doubt floods my inner space. How has it been so long? How did we get here? Are we insane? And then I remember. Yes, part of us is certainly crazy, but my past life working 9-5, paying rent and car payments, buying lots of stuff I don’t need, and being location dependent seems even crazier.
When choosing a path less traveled, you must be ready for these moments to come. Folks will think you’re crazy…and some of them will not be won over. The more unconventional your dream, the more often it will happen. Just remember, your decision is for you and your family, not for applause from random strangers. Shake it off and forge ahead!
9) Be Willing To Fail
This year-long cross-country trip was not guaranteed to go well. It was a risk we took in order to share memories and experiences with those we love the most. But it could’ve gone sideways at any time. We knew that from the get-go and were willing to take that chance (with some safeguards and back-up plans built in, of course!).
Your big dream is not guaranteed to happen, even if you put your whole self into it. Perhaps the thing you will gain in pursuit of it will be far better! You just have to believe that working toward something good will produce good fruit in your life, even if it is not the fruit you were expecting. Go all in, heart, soul and guts anyway.
10) Follow Your Gut
If God wanted us all to be the same, he’d have given us one brain, and a bunch of extension cords to plug into it. But that’s now how he set things up. He equipped each of us with our own ability to reason, our own strengths, our own experiences, our own passions and our own dreams. Those who find true lasting fulfillment in life, are the ones who recognize that, and use it to find their own purpose. I don’t believe we were created to live in a house exactly like 50 others in our subdivision, and compete for who has the greenest grass and the tallest flowers. There’s a great big world out there, and a piece of it has your name on it. So ditch the Joneses, and go out and get it!