I’ve learned the secret to making dreams come true.
Ten years ago I wrote a list of twenty-two goals I wanted to achieve. At the time, none of them seemed possible. I suffered from an anxiety disorder. I didn’t fly on planes, nor did I go near an airport. Actually, I didn’t even like uttering the word “airplane.” I also didn’t like bridges. For this reason, I cancelled any road trips that involved crossing a bridge (you can imagine how many trips were cancelled). I didn’t go anywhere that involved parking my car in a parking garage. I didn’t ride elevators, and preferred to search for stairs and huff up fifteen flights. This way of life was no life at all. In addition, panic attacks gripped me at unexpected moments. I recall a calm moment years ago in Toys R Us waiting for my son to choose a video game, when suddenly my heart raced so fast I thought it would leave my body and a dizziness convinced me I would flop over the rack of hero action figures. Panic attacks don’t care where you are or what you’re doing. Actually, they prefer to strike when you think life is starting to go your way, then boom, the panic attack hits.
I started seeing a counselor known for his work with patients dealing with anxiety. On my second visit, he gave me an assignment. “Write down the reasons you want to change,” he said, “and bring the list to me next week.”
At home I wrote the list. I had 22 reasons. For one, I wanted to travel and I wrote down the countries and places I wanted to visit. I also wanted to see old friends who lived in other states, as well as get involved with activities and ministry.
I took the list back to the counselor. After reading my reasons, he handed it back to me and said, “I want you to tape this list somewhere in your house where you’ll see it.”
I taped it to the inside cupboard door of my desk. Every time I opened the cupboard door, there it was−my list of reasons gawking at me. Achieving them seemed preposterous. Number one: Go to Ireland. Hah! Number fifteen: Sip tea in England and Scotland. Hah! Hah! I wasn’t even willing to take a trip to Astoria, Oregon, how would I ever be willing to get on a plane and fly to those countries?
Today, I still have the list pasted inside the cupboard door of my desk. Just the other day I read the list and realized I’ve accomplished most everything on the list. The few that I didn’t accomplish are no longer relevant. I did everything I once dreamed of doing, or hoped to achieve.
Now to the secret.
Of course, it won’t be a secret once I share it.
- Know what you want. I had to know what I wanted to change my life. I didn’t want to be the fearful, panic attack person running like a mad woman in Toys R Us. I wanted to be the fun and free person dancing to fiddle music at an Irish pub in Ireland. I wanted to be free of anxiety.
- Write it down. I had the dream of going to Ireland after learning I have Irish ancestry. But I never wrote my dream on paper. Automobile executive Lee Iacocca said, “The discipline of writing something down is the first step to making it happen.” When I wrote it down, the desire to see Ireland seemed more real. I had a concrete reason to recover from my anxiety condition and became invested in the process.
- Post your written goal, or list of goals, some place in your home where it’s visible and you will notice it. Every day I noticed my list and it began to sink into my subconscious.
- Pray. This was an important step for me. I needed God’s partnership. In AA, people seeking recovery from their addiction to alcohol call on a higher power. Whatever our situation, we can’t do these things on our power alone.
- Identify the path to the goal. I needed to overcome my fear of flying so I could go to Ireland. I signed up for the Fear of Flying class in Seattle, taught by two former commercial pilots. This class helped me to start flying again and even utter the word “airplane.”
- Visualize achieving your goal. This technique has proved effective for winning athletes. They visualize the home run, the slam dunk, the hole-in-one ahead of the game. I bought a painting of Ireland, a linocut watercolor of colorful Irish cottages set on a waterfront. I visualized myself boarding a plane and flying there.
- Work toward the goal in small steps and realize achievement often includes sacrifice. I started a travel fund. I bought books on Ireland. I hung shamrocks on St. Patrick’s day. But the sacrifice came when I decided to invest in a peaceful future by facing my fears rather than running from them.
- Dreams come true when you make it a goal and put it into action. My number one reason “Go to Ireland” happened last summer (along with number 15 “Sip tea in England and Scotland”). I wandered the streets of Cobh, Ireland enjoying the hanging baskets of brightly colored flowers highlighting old stone buildings. I searched for a curling iron in shops painted in every shade of Crayon box color. The airlines had lost my luggage, thus no curling iron. My hair, without a curling iron, took on the chaotic, flyaway look. I couldn’t find a curling iron, but I did come across some large pink-foam curlers in a drug store. My exploding hair aside, l felt wonderful to be free and at peace having realized my goal at last and overcoming the obstacles that stood in my way.