How to Enlist Support for Your Dreams
You often need the support of family and loved ones—a parent, a spouse, or a friend—to help you achieve your dreams. Sometimes this support is spontaneous, but at other times you may have to enlist it. This article addresses the latter instance and shows you how to convert the “Doubting Thomases” in your life into believers and get the support you need to succeed.
Without the enthusiastic support of those closest to you, every step of your dream journey becomes twice as difficult. You are fighting your own internal doubts while contending with their opposition. Sometimes the opposition is subtle—the deafening silence, the cold shrug—and sometimes it is clearly articulated. “I will not give you money for that.” “Who will watch the kids while you attend the evening classes?” ”I don’t think you should go, it is not safe.”
It is key to realize that, no matter how close someone is to you, they are not you. You are two different individuals with two different appetites for risk. It is possible that they see the world slightly differently than you, and it is your job to help them understand your vision. Once they can clearly see your dream and your reasons for pursuing it, they can then support you in achieving your goals. One by one, you will build a support system of family, friends, and colleagues to travel this journey with you.
The tips below will help you get the support you need to pursue, and achieve, your dream.
Tip #1: Have clear goals
It is unfair to expect your inner circle to be ecstatic about fuzzy goals. Kinda sorta goals will produce kinda sorta responses. Write your goals in six words or fewer. Get a nursing degree. Visit Africa. Start a clothing line. A clearly stated goal is a good starting point for drumming up support. It is my experience that the world generally makes way for someone who knows where they are going. Know where you are going.
Tip #2: Understand why
People need to know why this dream is important to you, so be ready with your answer. If the reasoning is misty in your mind, it will be cloudy to your audience; if it is cloudy in your mind, it will be complete darkness in theirs. Strive for clarity in your explanation. To help with this step, write down your reasons for pursuing this goal. Your thoughts will untangle themselves as they leave your fingers and come to life on the page. Understanding your “why” will help motivate others to support you.
Tip #3: Show progress
Start on your goal and generate momentum. It has been shown that people are more willing to support a cause that is already in motion. As John Maxwell, the leadership expert, says, “Momentum is a winner’s best friend.” Do you have credits that can be applied toward that nursing degree? Have you started planning your Africa trip? Have you researched the market for your clothing line?
Tip #4: Celebrate little wins
Publicize and celebrate every milestone with your friends and family, no matter how small. This is another way to garner momentum (Tip #3). Found out you can apply those credits? Yay, now pop the champagne! Found a great deal on flights? Awesome, now make a big deal about it! Discovered a clothing need you can fill? Nice, throw a party! The point here is that enthusiasm is infectious, and you want others to catch the fever of your dream.
Tip #5: Address their fears
Opposition is usually rooted in fear. Understand what their fear is. Don’t assume you know. Ask. The dialogue is good, both for the relationship and for your goal. The process of talking it over, of addressing differing viewpoints, of explaining why it is important, is the foundation of success. Welcome this opportunity for others to challenge your goal, because it may uncover some pitfalls you were previously unaware of.
Tip #6: Keep moving
The proof of desire in is pursuit. Your loved ones will gauge how much this really means to you, not necessarily by how much you talk about it, but by how much they see you constantly walking the talk. This goes back to the momentum principle (Tip #3 and Tip #4). Whether you take baby steps or giant steps, it doesn’t matter; just don’t stop. Keep moving.
I detailed in my book, DREAM, how people close to me didn’t get why I wanted to head to the US for my PhD when a cushy life awaited me in Nigeria. Their fears felt particularly justified in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. “He is going to where they shoot at people.” I went about canvassing for support using the tips I outlined here:
- My goals were clear (Tip #1): Get a PhD in Chemical Engineering.
- I knew why (Tip #2): To have the flexibility to work as a professor or in the petrochemical industry, or both. The US had the type of education I was looking for.
- I celebrated each step of progress along the way (Tip #3 and Tip #4): When I scored in the 99th percentile in my Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), I told everyone about it. When I started applying to graduate schools, it was not a secret. I made sure I did well in college, too. Each of these accomplishments was proof of my resolve.
- I addressed school shooting fears (Tip #5) by using numbers. The fact remains that school shootings, like most incidents that make the news, are rare. They are news-worthy precisely because they are not everyday occurrences. Each school shooting case is regrettable, but thankfully, statistically, most of us will never experience one.
- I kept moving (Tip #6). The first round of schools I applied to rejected my application. I learned from that experience and kept moving. I applied to more schools the second time and struck gold. Several juicy offers came back, and I picked the sweetest: University of Arkansas. The rest, as they say, is history.
Let’s face it: Haters gonna hate. To some people, you can do no right. They are always implacably opposed to your ideas. This article is not about these “haters,” and hopefully none of the people you truly love and respect fall in this category. I write these tips to help you manage people who are normally for you, but now may be seeing this dream of yours in a less favorable light. They don’t get it…yet. They need persuading, and you need tact. If you follow the steps I outlined, you will be well on your way to enlisting the support that you need to keep following your dreams, even when it gets tough. I wish you the best.