Personal strength expert Marcus Buckingham answers questions on finding your place in the work force Ask Marcus your career question
Q: I feel like I've been searching and yearning to do something bigger my whole life. I have a lot of ideas, but never seem to follow through on them. I am too busy most of the time and am a poor planner, so I know I bring stress on myself. I have big ideas: I want to write a book, want to be a professional speaker, want to be super organized and have a super clean house. Why do I sabotage myself from going forward with these dreams?

— Lauren Kirkpatrick, age 44

A: It's interesting how often the word dream comes up in our society when we talk about our hopes for the future. We talk about our dream jobs and about living the American dream, and we all think we understand what the word means. But different people mean vastly different things when they talk about dreams. For some people, the word dream is synonymous with goal—it's something they are working actively to achieve. For others, dreams remain mere fantasies, things they don't believe they can achieve, and so they don't even try. For such people, the appeal of having a dream is that it skips ahead to the accomplishment, rather than bogging down in the difficult details of the process.

We dream of having a clean house—but who dreams of actually doing the cleaning? We don't have to dream about doing the work, because doing the work is always within our grasp; the dream, in this sense, is to attain the goal without the work. And for that kind of dream, there is simply no solution except either to abandon it, or to turn it into a true goal. The only way to do that is to start doing what's necessary to achieve it. Of course, it can be difficult to take that first step, and we can get bogged down in our weaknesses—in your case, not being organized and being a poor planner. But if you're energized by your ideas and can't find a way to channel that energy, that's when you have to rely on your friends and colleagues and family members. Often, if you're having difficulty starting a project, it can be easier to collaborate or brainstorm with others to get the ball rolling. If you know someone with a knack for planning and organizing, ask if she'd mind sitting down with you to talk about some of your ideas. Involving others can also give you someone to be accountable to for making progress. Once you're started down a path, ultimately it's up to you to sustain the momentum.


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