If you have an audacious dream – launching a successful startup, publishing your first book, winning a major promotion – it’s not going to happen without a strategic approach. In her new book Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream, author Whitney Johnson argues that every successful professional needs to think big, identify what matters to them, and leverage the resources necessary to make it happen. Here are Johnson’s five tips to get moving on your goals.
Embrace Uncertainty. Some people get paralyzed by options. Should I invest in that startup? Take a job abroad? Turn my hobby into a business? So they wait, hoping more data will come along to show them the way. Get over it, says Johnson. “I don’t think you ever reach a point of certainty,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a leap of faith. You can collect too much data and miss an opportunity. Dreaming is discovery-driven.” You can assign yourself trial periods to test out your dream. How does it feel after a week? A month? As with startup entrepreneurs, you can regroup and “pivot” to a new goal if necessary.
Own Your Dream. No one’s going to line up behind you unless you can clearly explain what you want. “Women especially tend to struggle with the ‘dare’ piece of it, and believing it’s our privilege to dream,” says Johnson. “We’ve been socialized to believe that we can only be feminine in the context of relationships and giving up resources like time or money or labor. We need to become aware of whether we’re feeling bad because we were told it’s wrong to want something for ourselves.” Your dream won’t happen if you can’t articulate it – so start talking.
Share Your Vision. “When we say our dreams out loud, they come alive,” says Johnson. “And we become accountable.” If you never share your ambitions with others, there’s no risk – it’s fine to give up or slink away. But there’s also no potential for gain, because you’ll need support from others to keep you motivated and take you to the next level. Talking about your goals with others, says Johnson, “lets people know they’re legitimate and valid, and you’ll be more likely to achieve them.”
Build Your Team. Most meaningful goals require help from other people – whether it’s financial (investment in your startup), emotional (support from a spouse), or informational (advice from senior colleagues). Johnson suggests starting with longtime friends or allies – “people who think you’re wonderful because you’re you.” But that’s only a small part of the picture, she cautions. You’ll need what she calls a “Dare to Dream Team,” which involves knowledgeable experts in your chosen field – often people you don’t already know. So how do you get a bunch of strangers to help you achieve your goals? Johnson advises that you tap your existing network, and ask if they’d be willing to introduce you to crucial contacts two or three degrees away. But it’s essential to recognize the seriousness of your request: “The person is risking their political capital to make that introduction, so they need to know you’ll honor that risk and somehow find a way to reciprocate over time.”
Think Like an Entrepreneur. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs “bootstrap their dreams,” starting with the funding and resources they have on hand to build a scrappy, resilient, profitable business. Johnson says we should take the same approach to our own goals. “When you have limited resources, it forces you to start iterating and innovate early on,” she says. “You can’t succeed if you believe the key to achieving your dream is ‘out there’ and not ‘in here.’” The key is starting with an honest assessment of your strengths – aided by a supportive team of allies who can clue you in where necessary. “It’s quite likely your most valuable resources are the ones you’re blind to because they’re so instinctive and powerful, you don’t even see them,” she says.
For some people, thinking big is a challenge; for others, executing on their vision is the hard part. Regardless of where you stand, Johnson aims to ensure you’ve put the structure in place to make your dream a reality. What are your strategies for setting bold goals – and achieving them?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on May 15, 2012.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.