ACT your Dreams into Reality

I love writing speeches for Toastmasters. Writing has always been a way for me to work through problems and clarify my thoughts so it’s no surprise that with each speech I learn something new and gain valuable insight.

I had several epiphanies  working through Speech 3 that were so powerful that I wanted a way to remember them. Acronyms work and ACT fit perfectly.

I chose ACT because each point got me from planning to DOING.These ideas reframed my thinking so I could move past my fears and start but also keep me going when the novelty and excitement of my goals wear off.

So here is how you ACT your dreams into reality:

A – Accolades do NOT equal growth.

I got a lot of good feedback  and encouragement for my first speech and was riding high afterwards. I worked hard on my second speech and, in my mind, it was even better than the first. Not only did I think the content was inspirational but I thought I delivered it well. My head swelled with anticipation at my critique. While I got high marks, my evaluator did exactly what he was suppose to do. He pointed out both the good and bad (areas he thought I could improve on).  But there was no fawning, so I was deflated. I became unmotivated and it took me two weeks to recover. It was Speech 3 that helped me see what happened and change my perspective.

The reason I signed up for Toastmasters was to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, learn and grow. Accolades are great but can be a double edged sword. It’s wonderful to get feedback that you’re on the right path, doing a good job, that all your hard work has paid off BUT it can stunt your growth if you’re not careful. I focused on approval and when people (rightly) didn’t fall all over themselves to tell me how great I was…it stopped me in my tracks. But when I switched my focus to improving myself, my motivation returned.

The takeaway – Switch mindset from approval to improvement.

C – Create value.

I had a fear of being rejected. It was so big and ingrained in my belief system that I didn’t realize it drove every thought and action. Or more accurately, inaction. I wanted to do great things and be so much more but I rarely followed through resulting in frustration and self-incrimination.  Once I quit focusing on myself (“what do they think of me?” “I don’t have the right degree”, “I’m too old”, etc) and focused on creating value, something amazing happened. I was no longer paralyzed by fear because it wasn’t about me anymore (phew!). It’s about making a difference.

The takeaway – Albert Einstein said it best – “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

T – Tiny steps.

The buzzword in the goal-setting community is Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Dream big! And I whole heartily agree but I overwhelmed myself into couch potato status and the cycle of frustration and incrimination would begin all over again.

One of the cornerstones of the Kaizen Muse Creativity Coach model (where I received my certification) is small steps. The concept isn’t new and is based on ‘kaizen”, a Japanese word meaning continual improvement (weren’t we just talking about that?)

One aspect of small steps is committing to something for just 5 minutes (I’ll write for 5 minutes, I’ll exercise for 5 minutes…you get the idea). It works by overcoming the inertia or resistance we have to getting starting by being so ridiculously easy and non-threatening. If you become engrossed in the project, you can keep going or stop after 5 minutes and celebrate that you met your goal (these small successes keep us motivated and moving forward).

But thinking about small steps made me realize something else. Breaking a big goal down into little steps  not only keeps us from being overwhelmed, taking our goals one small step at a time helps us gain the knowledge and confidence we need to GROW into our Big Hairy Audacious Goals. My mistake had been thinking that I could skip right past “beginner” and be an expert. Growing into my goals was a game changer for me.

The takeaway – “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

Do any of these ideas resonate with you? What do you do to get started and keep motivated? I’d love to hear from you.

Stepping into My Light


Before my divorce, I would have described myself as a wife, mother, college graduate and runner with an insatiable desire to make all things, especially if it involves yarn or fabric. I would have told you  how I once kept yarn in my kitchen cabinets instead of pots and pans and how I couldn’t tell a joke to save my life.

And while these words are a good description of the things I’ve been, done and accomplished, I see now that they really don’t paint an accurate portrait of the person I am today or the person I strive to be.

We all come into this world as blank slates. We are shaped and molded by our genes, our environment and our experiences. We adopt our beliefs, which influence our behavior, so we can fit in, be accepted and loved. It’s what we all ultimately want, isn’t it – to be loved? I spent a good portion of my life letting my beliefs go unquestioned, thinking my unhappiness was due to some lack in myself. If only I was thinner, prettier, smarter, funnier, dressed better, knew more about sports or didn’t laugh so loud. I was constantly twisting myself up like a pretzel trying to fit in so others would approve of me.

It’s not a comfortable or pleasant way to live, never believing you are enough, always trying to prove yourself and looking to others for validation of your worth.

I was constantly searching for THE FIX that would make my life better, make Me better. And one day, in a moment of great clarity, I realized that I didn’t need to be “fixed”. There was nothing wrong with me. I was just different. It was a simple revelation that took decades of introspection to bubble up to my conscious, that put me on a new path.

I spent the first half of my life living in fear, fear of failure, fear of not measuring up, fear of rejection, fear of making mistakes, fear of looking foolish, fear of being invisible. I decided to spent the second half of my life living in love. To be open to different perspectives, to see the joy and beauty around me, to let things go, laugh more and most importantly, to quit worrying about what others thought of me and focus on how I could be of service to others.

Changing a lifetime of negative beliefs doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. It’s a lifelong journey. It takes awareness, patience, a sense of humor, compassion and a commitment in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of progression. It’s a balancing act of looking inward to love, accept and forgive myself, warts and all, and know that wherever I am, I am enough. And looking outward with kindness, compassion and gratitude at the wild, messy sea of humanity that we share this planet with and not make assumptions, jump to conclusions, judge others or take things personally because every one of us is acting out from our own fears and desire to be accepted and loved.

As I see it, there are really only two paths in life – love and fear. Fear keeps us small but love lets us shine. This is my journey of stepping into my light.