I hope you have some big goals you are trying to reach. Setting the right type of goals is key for personal and professional growth. But have you adequately prepared for what is ahead as you chase your dreams?
Our family faced a situation several years ago when my wife was facing a professional identity crisis. She enjoyed teaching math to high school students and was quite good at it. Although she loved the students, teaching wasn’t leaving her personally and professionally fulfilled.
So we began to discuss a big goal for her – making a career change that would take her from classroom math teacher to CPA. Those initial discussions were exciting. But, they were also filled with some indecision, apprehension and a little fear about how to accomplish the task.
The point here isn’t to be a discouragement as you chase your dreams. By all means, find your passion and go for it. However, many people have a tendency to jump before they think. That’s a mistake. You have to plan for the drawbacks and unforeseen situations that will arise as you chase your dream. The better you can prepare for those ahead of time, the easier they will be to deal with when they come.
We faced our share of issues during my wife’s transition. The great thing is we dealt with them and she eventually reached her goal.
Could it have gone smoother? Absolutely! That’s why I’m sharing five hints today from our experience that I hope will help you chase your dreams and reach that goal. You have to think these things through ahead of time and know how to deal with them if you want to win big.
Analyze the Opportunity Costs
Remember the term “opportunity costs” from your Economics 101 class? In economic theory, opportunity costs refers to the loss of potential gain or satisfaction from all other options once one option is chosen. For example, if a person decided to spend $5,000 to start a printing business, they would miss out on the benefits (gain) that $5,000 could have produced if used in some other area (ex. paying off a credit card or saving for college).
Another way to think about opportunity costs might simply be with the term “sacrifice.” Once my wife chose to direct her efforts toward one goal, she couldn’t direct that same effort toward another goal. There is only so much effort that can go around.
Opportunity costs is simply a reality that occurs when decisions are made. It shouldn’t be viewed as positive or negative – you simply have to weigh the outcomes of all possible choices. As you chase your dreams it reminds us that there are things we will have to give up (temporarily, perhaps permanently) in order to go up.
Pride Goes Before a Fall
My wife and I spent months developing a plan that would allow her to continue teaching for two more years as she pursued her Master’s degree, then look for a job after graduation. We thought that plan wouldn’t shake up the status quo. We wanted to keep things as steady and safe as possible.
That plan was blown up one afternoon during a chance meeting with a mutual friend – who also happened to be a CPA at an accounting firm. I’ll never forget the words that came from her mouth during that conversation:
“So, when are you going to come work for us?” she asked.
Wait…what did you say? You have a job opening? Now? She can’t leave teaching yet! That’s completely against our plan and simply too crazy!
We almost blew her question off. No way could we make such an abrupt change…or could we?
We took a week to think and pray about it. During that week, our minds were opened to possibilities we had never imagined. Once we were willing to think through other scenarios, the decision became obvious.
What better environment to be exposed to while in school to become an CPA than working for an accounting firm! We would have missed a golden opportunity if we stubbornly clung to our original plan thinking it was the only way to go.
Don’t succumb to your own pride as you chase your dreams. It can easily get in the way of considering a course correction in the middle of the plan when someone comes up with a better alternative.
Chasing Your Dreams Will Cost More Than You Think
If you are going to chase your dreams it’s going to cost money. That should not be a surprise. Our big costs were tuition, fees, and books. Based on the available information, we were able to calculate beforehand approximately how much it would cost to return to school.
But, just like building that brand new dream home, there were hidden financial costs we did not consider, like:
– eating out more (from decreased time to prepare meals)
– increase in gas expenses from a longer commute
– updating a wardrobe for a more professional career
– paying for other school expenses (shipping of textbooks, purchasing CPA review course, CPA exam expenses, etc.)
– buying an iPad to allow for more convenience in studying
Although these costs were manageable. The bottom line here is that your goal will cost more than you think. That’s why it would be a good idea to establish an emergency fund before you chase your dreams. You’ll need that money at some point along the way.
Your Relationships Are at Risk
I wouldn’t say our relationship was irrevocably damaged. However, there was relationship-tension to manage.
The best way I can describe this tension is to visualize the stretching of a rubber band. One finger (the dream) pulls the rubber band in one direction while another finger (relationships) pulls it in the other direction. The task becomes managing the stretching so that the rubber band doesn’t snap.
So what were the relationship tensions to manage? First and foremost was the marriage relationship. The more time my wife poured into studying and the more effort I gave taking care of the kids and the house, the less time we had to connect with each other. There were certainly times when we felt lost, not really knowing what was going on in the other person’s world.
Kid relationships also were affected. There were many occasions when the kids wanted to play with mommy and they simply couldn’t. We did our best to carve out time but on most evenings, papers and exam review videos took precedence.
And we never really saw our friends. Those couple’s night outs disappeared quickly. Facebook commenting was traded in for online classroom forum commenting.
Some Activities Will Have to Go
As you are probably sensing, the underlying downside as you chase your dreams is lack of time. Whenever you transfer effort in a new direction, something has to give. You simply can’t do it all.
That’s going to mean giving up some activities that you love.
During our journey, we were not able to be involved in as many church or school functions as we had been before. We cut back on our kid’s rec-sports league activities. I was unable to lead any more Financial Peace University classes like I had planned. I gave up coaching high school basketball.
Other daily activities also suffered like exercise, cleaning and doing projects around the house and finding time to read. Our two dogs were seldom walked. We quit watching most of our favorite shows.
All of those activities have value. They simply had less of a priority during that segment of our lives.
Chase Your Dreams Because It’s Worth It!
I may have painted a depressing picture of what life was like for us during this transition. And perhaps you are thinking twice about whether to chase your dreams or not. I wouldn’t call that time period of our lives depressing. It was just more challenging than we realized at the beginning.
The good news is that we were able to manage through it with the help of family and friends, the understanding and support of our kids and with the wisdom and strength given to us by God.
Most importantly, we both can say with complete certainty:
It was worth it!
Now, on the back end of the journey, we are reaping the rewards of our sacrifice.
My advice for you today is to chase your dreams and be excited about it. But don’t let your excitement and passion for change blind you from considering what it’s truly going to be like. There will be tough, painful sacrifices to make, some of which you might not be thinking about at the start.
Questions for Discussion: Have you ever felt like you are giving up a lot to chase your dreams? Have you ever changed a plan mid-stream because something better came up? What other advice would you give someone looking to turn a dream into a reality?