The smell of a brand new baseball always set me off. It was heavenly. The peacefulness of the baseball diamond could overtake me at times, allowing my mind to wander dangerously in the middle of a pitcher’s wind up. The aroma of dirt, fresh cut grass, popcorn, and sweat complemented the perfect swing; when I couldn’t even feel the ball hit the bat. I loved baseball.
My dream as a young child was, of course, to hit the winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded to win the World Series. Yes, I wanted to play professional baseball. Unfortunately for me, this was also the dream for millions of other kids growing up in the 1980s.
I didn’t make it. In fact, I didn’t even come close. In all actuality, I didn’t start to try. Growing up I assumed I was good enough to go to the big leagues, and the rest would take care of itself. I had big dreams, but I didn’t have the proper goals set in place. I approached my final summers of high school as a time of freedom; a time to goof off with my buddies and enjoy the beauty of western North Carolina. At the same time, some other seventeen-year-old was running steps and spending hours in the batting cage. I didn’t attempt my dream because I didn’t want it; it was because I was afraid to fail.
Failure does hurt, but as I get a little older I realize how important failure can be for future success.
Nothing in this world will ever be given to you. If it is, it will cripple you instead of helping you to grow. Dreams can become realities; but only with goal setting, discipline, and consistency. These things are vital for progress to occur. I think a lot of us are aware of that. I think a lot of us still think about what could have been. However, it has become tougher. The decades have passed us by and with the addition of a spouse and perhaps multiple children the idea of “living the dream” seems a little out of reach.
The two main excuses we have for not chasing our dreams as we get older are lack of time and lack of money. There is truth attached to both of these excuses. If you have children, you understand how time-consuming the daily grind can be. I’m married to an amazing woman with three young boys and a baby girl. Trust me. I get it. A busy life can definitely be overwhelming, but it still doesn’t mean we have to be miserable and give up on what makes us happy. So what do you do? I am by no means an expert, but here are some concrete steps my wife and I have drawn up for making sure we don’t “waste the summer” like some teenage bums in Western NC:
- Get out of debt. The stress of debt will strangle you with each breath and thought that you have. Communicate to your spouse or yourself a plan to get this done. Put it on a spreadsheet and keep track of every dollar you spend. If you have to get a second job, then do it. However, don’t let the overall picture discourage you. Start small and take on your debt in increments. It is not going to disappear overnight and you are NOT going to win the lottery. If you don’t deal with it the boogeyman will bring you a whole new set of nightmares. They are not fun.
- Manage your time. Whether you always wanted to be a writer or a violinist, you laugh at the idea of having time to pursue such notions. Track your time for a few days. What are you doing in the evenings? Watching television? Surfing social media sites? I bet you can find an hour a day to write, study, practice, or research. It won’t be easy. The idea of replacing down time with more work sounds daunting, but remember there’s no rest for the weary. It will pay off.
Once you find your hour or so a day, write down a schedule. I think this is mandatory in helping you stay consistent. Stick to your schedule, but do not try to multi-task too much. If you’re spending time with your spouse or kids or friends, give those interactions and that time all your effort. Don’t try to build Lego cities while simultaneously updating your Twitter feed. It’s not fulfilling and everyone involved feels a little cut short. When it’s time to study or practice, give that your undivided attention. Work into your schedule a time to be alone in order to produce quality work in a short period of time. It is possible!
- Set goals. I am not the best at this. I’m really good at knowing what to do and not always the best at following through myself. Set goals! Write them down! It doesn’t matter where: sticky notes, bathroom mirrors, your spouse’s forehead, or whatever. Write them down and accomplish them. A goal could be as simple as “I’m going to research the education needed to become a lawyer” or “Today I will write in my journal.” I once heard someone say “If you are not trying to accomplish a goal or a set of goals then you are literally committing spiritual suicide.” I believe it. If you fail to meet a goal, don’t give up. Try again. The most successful people in the world ran into many obstacles during their journey. Don’t get discouraged. Set very easy goals at first if you have to. Once you start to accomplish a few of them, it almost becomes addictive.
- The body fuels the mind. You have to exercise. I don’t want to do it either. Just do it. It’s not necessarily fun but it will make you feel better and increase your motivational levels. Of course, there are a few freaks out there that actually enjoy getting up at six in the morning during the middle of January to go for a run. I don’t think that encapsulates most of us. Start small and let it grow over time. You’ll thank yourself eventually. I promise. And remember, you do not have to get a gym membership. The living room and the garage will work perfectly fine. Just start. Three times a week.
- Take action. This is the biggest one of all. I understand we have all heard this before, but it is really important to accept; the biggest enemy you have is yourself. I spent years walking around the kitchen island thinking about how good I would be at certain things; planning what I would say and do in certain situations. It means nothing if you don’t take that first step. It’s tough at first because you honestly might not be that good at what you want to do. I assure you, there are millions of other people thinking the same thing. Just do it. Pick up that shovel and just dig a hole; grab a saw and cut a plank of wood in half. Do something! Heaven forbid you might not only start to enjoy it, but you might also discover an array of talents and skills you didn’t even know you had. And that, my friends, is when it starts to become fun.
- Pray. The beautiful thing about prayer is that it gives you direction. Asking God for guidance in your life is not a sign of weakness or misdirection; but rather a display of courage and enlightenment. Allow God into your life and I think you will immediately start to feel differently about the world and people around you. Do your best to make time in your daily routine to form a relationship with God. That relationship can open many doors and relieve a lot of worldly stress that a lot of us have. If you don’t believe in God; that’s perfectly fine. He believes in you.
Please take into consideration that I have not fully accomplished my major goals. I am not an expert on living your dreams. I am not an expert on human behavior. I simply want to better my life and I’m willing to share some pieces of that with you. We as humans can never know success until we have taken the proper risks to obtain it. Think about it. Pray about it. Then just do it. May God be with you on your travels, and may you unearth the proper road to your own personal pursuit of happiness.