4 Ways to Make Your Dreams Come True

IMG_8956Do you have a secret dream that you’ve been working towards for years? Or, maybe a dream you once had, but never reached? What’s holding you back? Why aren’t you moving forward? Do you feel stuck in your daily grind, with no time to finish that project, or follow your dream?

I’m reading a book that provides a strategy to make dreams come true.

It’s called “From Chump to Champ: How Individuals Go From Good to Great” by David Benzel. He’s an author, athlete and sports family coach. I discovered him on the USA Swimming website. He offers monthly webinars and has written books that are inspirational and helpful.

The Belmont Pool, where many dreams came true.

The Belmont Pool, where many dreams came true.

What I’ve discovered and learned so far from reading this book are the following four tips:

  1. Dream—Be specific about your dream. Like going to Olympic Trials. Please take note as a new Masters swimmer in my 50s, this is not my dream. It’s someone else’s dream, but a good one to use as an example.
  2. Goals—Set steps that you need to take to reach your goal. Say, if you’re a swimmer, and your dream is Olympic Trials, then you have a specific time goal. If you need to drop a second to get your cut, what daily things are you going to do to get there? Cut out junk food? Work on underwaters? Those would be specific goals to reach your dreams.
  3. Visualize—Use the theater of your mind to picture what it will be like getting your Olympic Trials cut. Make a movie in your head and replay it over and over all the way through.
  4. Belief—This is the hardest one for me. Get rid of that pesky voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, or your dream is just a dream. “I’m not talented enough to make it to Olympic Trials. Other swimmers are stronger and taller than me.” Change the self-talk to positive. “I’ve worked hard my entire life for this. Nobody works harder than I do.” Reflect on all your accomplishments and the hard work you’ve put in. How you’re setting yourself up for success.

Step #4 is the one that 80 percent of us need to work on. It’s the last stumbling block we need to overcome before realizing our dreams.

Sunset at the beach.

Sunset at the beach.

Can you imagine what it would be like to face life fearlessly every day? Excited to reach your dreams? Carpe Diem! Let’s go for it!

Carpe diem.

Carpe diem. Photo by Debbie Gardiner

3 Things I learned from graduates — back in the day when we had graduations

I wrote this post six years ago, back when kids got to graduate. I feel so sorry for the class of seniors this year. They don’t get to experience all the milestones that mark the end of school and the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. I wonder if they will feel cheated? I know the parents will. Perhaps a lot of the graduation festivities and traditions are as much for the parents as for the kids. Here’s a look back to three high school graduates I learned from in 2014.
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Yesterday I interviewed three graduating seniors in Desert Hot Springs for a small scholarship fund I’m involved with. 

Each girl was a joy and their spirit of kindness was refreshing. Our scholarship fund requires recipients to have high academic achievement, leadership, and a commitment to their community.

The high school we visited yesterday is poor compared to the one my daughter attends, although it’s only 10 miles away.

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All three girls had one thing in common — they are the first in their family to be attending college.

One girl was the fifth child in her family. The parents never went beyond 8th grade in their education. She loves her parents, but she has seen how hard life can be without an education. This is what spurred her to take AP and Honors classes to get on track for college. She volunteers while following a path that no one else in her family has attempted.

The second was the salutatorian. Not only did her parents not attend college, but she has an older brother in his 20s that is mentally disabled. I could tell that she was equally as proud of his accomplishments as her own. On weekends, this bright, confident girl, travels 30 minutes to volunteer with animals at the zoo.  Her goal is to be a veterinarian. I have no doubt she will achieve her dreams.

The third girl was very soft spoken and shy, but she had a warmth and grace about her. She has volunteered for four years at a local hospital and said she loves working in the surgery center. “The patients are cranky and I like to do everything I can to make them more comfortable.” Her mother is a single mom that makes $22,000 per year. 

imgres-6I’m proud and honored to meet these three girls. They have given me hope, especially after being around kids in my daughter’s world who are given everything they ask for, want everything and need nothing, have supportive parents, yet still act as though the world owes them something. 

What are the parents of these so called “underprivileged” kids doing that we are not? Perhaps they’ve let their kids fail and learn from their mistakes. Or, they don’t believe their kids are perfect and never make mistakes. They didn’t spend their parenting years fighting every battle for them. These three beautiful girls had to make it all on their own. 

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My scholarship committee after interviewing the three girls.

What are your thoughts about the class of 2020 and graduation ceremonies that won’t happen?

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Waffles in his graduation garb.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

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Where I spend my days writing.

I get overwhelmed with big projects and that leads me to procrastinate. Whether it’s cleaning out a room, closet, or working on a book proposal, I also have a tendency to overestimate how quickly I can complete a project. I’ve been reading lots of interesting books lately and I’m seeing the same advice over and over. For example, in Finding Water: The Art of PerseveranceJulia Cameron talks about her goal of writing a few pages each day. She doesn’t say she’s going to write a chapter, or tens of pages. Her goal is three. Her consistency of writing each day adds up to complete books and screenplays.

The most important thing is to keep working small and steady. If you break down a project into small daily tasks and don’t overwhelm yourself, you’ll have less drama in your life and be able to finish the job. The biggest bit of advice is to start. That’s right, don’t wait for things to be perfect or your muse to appear, like Nike says, “Just do it.”

I found an article on Inc. called, “Use These 6 Little Steps to Make Really Big Things Happen” by Chris Winfield. “This simple system will help you start (and finish!) any big project, achieve huge goals, and make each day ‘your masterpiece’.”

Here are the basics of his six tips. (If you want more details, read the article linked above):

Step #1: NAME Your Goal

This one is pretty easy because all you have to do is think about a big project or big idea that’s looming in your mind.

Step #2: SET a Reasonable Deadline

I underlined reasonable because many times, especially when we’re feeling really motivated and inspired (think New Year’s resolutions), we can be a little over zealous with our deadlines.

Step #3: BREAK It Down (Work Backwards)

For this step, you’re going to work backward in time.

Break your goal down by weeks, months, quarters…whatever timeframes are necessary based on the goal itself and the deadline you’ve set…from the deadline backward until today.

Step #4: ANSWER the “When?” and “What?”

Once you have your goal broken down from the deadline to today, the next step entails deciding the “When?” and the “What?”

Step #5: START

The fifth step is simply to start putting your plan (your when and what) into action.

Step #6: BRING IT to the Present

The next and final thing you want to do is maintain that action, that motion, that momentum.

“How do you eat an elephant?” my husband asked me. “One bite at a time.”

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Where I think and clear my head.

What’s advice do you have for reaching your goals and dreams?

Running the Boston Marathon in memory of her father

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Brett (right) with her siblings and mom and dad. (From left) Romy, Allie, Christy, mother Cathy, dad Andy, Andrew, Maggie and Buff.

I wrote this story about an amazing young woman three weeks ago. She is running in her first race, the Boston Marathon, and raising money for kidney disease research for her father, who has been suffering for the past year and a half. I’m saddened to say that her father Andrew Simpson passed away last week after a long struggle with his health. I’m sending healing prayers and love to the Simpson family in this difficult time of their loss.

From Brett’s fundraising letter:

“Family and Friends,
I’m running the Boston Marathon April 16, 2018 to raise money for the Center for Kidney Disease Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Why?

I’m an athlete because of my dad. From him, I learned that personal fulfillment starts in the body – he was the kind of 65-year-old you’d catch doing push-ups on the beach….And, I want to show him in a big way that the training that I put in every day is for him.”

Brett Simpson, age 24, is running in her first race, the Boston Marathon, on behalf of her father and raising funds for kidney disease research. What a race to start with, right? A graduate of Princeton University and a four-year collegiate athlete, Brett was on the rowing team which won the Ivy League Championship in 2016 and she earned a top academic award from the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA). Although she hasn’t entered a running race before, she said she’s been running as cross-training for rowing.

A college teammate who lives in Boston gave her the idea about the Boston Marathon. This teammate asked Brett to run and pace her for part of the New York Marathon since Brett lives in New York City. Her teammate from Boston, said, “I don’t know anyone else in NYC.” Brett said her friends from crew are “teammates for life and she’d drop anything in a moment to support them.” Later, her teammate suggested Brett should try the Boston Marathon. Brett explained that although this is a race with qualifying times if you represent a charity it’s possible to enter the race. Of course, since it’s her first race ever, she doesn’t have a time! After she looked through the listed charities the kidney disease research “jumped out at her.” She’s raising money for the Center for Kidney Disease Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which is the Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital.

I was surprised to learn that you can’t just sign up to represent BIDMC and raise money for them. Brett had to submit an essay and eventually was selected as someone who the hospital would want to represent them. Most of the team members are in Boston and there are two in NYC and in California. Brett said although she hasn’t met her “teammates” in person, they are a “virtual team with a coach that sends the workouts.”

Many collegiate athletes feel a loss after graduation when they no longer have their team to motivate them and be a part of their daily lives. Brett feels inspired by her father who is into athletics and would call her and ask about her running and workouts. Since he experienced kidney failure in July 2016, Brett’s inspiration to workout has come from her dad. She has to run for him.

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Sisters (from left) Maggie, Christy, Buff, Brett, Romy and Allie (seated).

In July 2016, Brett was far away from her dad, mom, and six siblings. She was with her Ivy League championship rowing team in the United Kingdom competing in the oldest rowing race in the world, the Henley Royal Regatta. She likened it to a big social as well as athletic event, similar to our Kentucky Derby. She said it was a unique and great experience, but she was worried about her dad. He’s been in and out of the hospital and on dialysis since.

In addition to academics and athletics, Brett is an accomplished bass player and was a member of the San Francisco Youth Symphony. In college, she couldn’t row and play in the orchestra, so she decided to pursue athletics. With five sisters and one brother who are gifted athletes and musicians, I asked her how they became such accomplished athletes. She said, “Well, we’re a tall crew and then there’s what my dad always told us.”

“My father always said personal fulfillment starts in the body. Discipline and joy come from challenging yourself physically first and then seeking out other challenges in life.”

Brett’s goal is to raise $7,500 for the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center by running the Boston Marathon April 16, 2018. She is looking for any size donations and would greatly appreciate all support. As far as running, her personal goal is to run in a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon in her first race ever.

Here’s a link to her donation page with her story: donate here.

Read more about Brett on the Roster from the Princeton Tigers Rowing page.

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Brett Simpson

How to catch your dreams

download-2I’ve discovered a few secrets on how to take control of my life and pursue my dreams.

First, have you defined your dreams? If not, write them out. Make it specific and concrete. Write out a few steps you can take right away. They can be baby steps, not huge leaps.

Second, after you’ve written down your dreams and goals do you find that everyday life gets in the way? I’ll sit down and write or make that phone call — after I unload the dishwasher, sort the laundry, and weed the garden. Plus, the car needs an oil, lube and filter. Then, I’ll get started on my dreams.

Third, is it fear that is holding you back, not life in general? Why aren’t you following up on your baby steps? Take a close look at what you’re doing, or what you’re not doing and ask why.

Here are my tips on how to overcome my fears and reach for my dreams.

ROUTINE:

I revel in my routine. I was talking about routines with my husband this morning. He said he believes all mammals crave routines. For example, Olive, our cat, leads a structured life. She stays out all night. She wanders in announcing her arrival with three short little mews at the same time every morning and then jumps onto my tummy. She meows a little louder and wants me to walk her to her food bowl. Minutes later, after I’ve snuck back into bed, she’s back on my tummy for a kitty dance before she settles in for the day.

Baby Olive

Baby Olive.

At this point, I have to slip out from under the covers without disturbing Olive, to start my morning routine.

My routine involves writing three pages longhand every morning of every day. This clears my mind so I’m open to new creativity. It serves as a brain dump to get those niggling uncomfortable thoughts out into the daylight. Some days my morning pages are a long to-do list.

The few times that I’ve missed my morning pages I’m anxious and jittery.

EXERCISE AND FRESH AIR:

The second phase of my morning routine, besides the basics of toothpaste, floss and face cream, is to walk. I walk two miles around my neighborhood and park, marveling at the beauty and how I get another chance to start fresh. I throw in a short stretching routine, sit-ups and pulldowns. Energized and refreshed, I’m ready to start my work.

DO THE BAD STUFF FIRST:

Another tip is to tackle those things that you don’t want to do–first. Get them crossed off your list and your day will open up.

Fear and anxiety can be big blocks. When I take my fear head on I’m motivated rather than blocked. Anxiety is energy. I tell myself to harness and ride it toward my dreams.

I have a sign in my living room that says, “Live now. Procrastinate later.” Such good advice that I try to follow it.

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You Have Two Choices: Quit or Keep Trying…

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My kids learned perseverance and to never give up from swimming.

I got an unfortunate email yesterday. It was from an agent, who was reviewing my mid-grade novel I’ve been working on for years. Long story short, it was a no.

This is a big goal of mine, to get this book published. Finding an agent is one step along the way, and I had glimmers of hope when a couple agents were truly interested and one in particular, wanted eight weeks to take a deep dive.

When my husband consoled me I said, “I have two choices. I can quit or keep going.”

Four times since that email, I ran into messages like someone was placing a big neon sign in front of me with specific directions.

One  

Dad shared that he spent almost three hours fishing yesterday. He was ready to give up, but decided to cast one more time in the last few minutes before he was due to return the boat. Yes, he caught a fish!13726609_10210408420550641_3524328241513157479_n

Two

I was looking at FB and a writer friend posted how lucky she was to find several four-leaf clovers yesterday after hours of looking. She said to never give up. Never!

Three

On Twitter, I saw from bestselling author Brad Thor a book recommendation for #Grit, a book about passion and perseverance. Yes, I’ll order it from Amazon today.

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Four

On SwimSwam.com, an article jumped before my eyes: “6 TIPS TO KEEP YOU CHASING YOUR SWIMMING GOALS WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE GIVING UP,” by Olivier Poirier-Leroy, who writes really good stuff for swimmers, that can be used in all aspects of life.

Here was part of his advice to get in touch with your feelings when you started on the journey:

“What are the reasons that I want to achieve this goal? List 2-3 reasons for why this goal is important to you. This is the simplest way to get in touch with your original set of motivations.

How will you feel when you push past the resistance you are feeling now? Think back to the last time you kicked down the wall of resistance that was in front of you. Yeah, that time. How did you feel afterwards? Proud? Like a certified O.G.?

Will you regret giving up a year from now? Imagine yourself a year from now. A year smarter, a year older, and hopefully a year further along. Is “Future You” going to be pumped about you having quit today?”

I got the message loud and clear. I’m not giving up on my goals or dreams. This is all part of the process, and yes there will be some ups and downs. It’s so cliched, but it’s also true.

In  masters swimming we have a new slogan and shirts. After a hard set that I was convinced I couldn’t finish, I blurted, “Hey, it’s not that bad!”

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Showing off new shirts at Piranha Swim Team’s Masters. “Hey, it’s not that bad.”

 

Yes, getting a rejection letter is not great, but how much better is it than quitting on a dream? Honestly, it’s not that bad.

How do you handle disappointment?