Taking her own advice, career columnist following her dream

Contributing ColumnistJuly 6, 2014 

The clock is ticking. I had just found out that I had less than five hours to gather transcripts, references and other documents for a scholarship I desperately needed to pursue my dream career.

I also had a deadline for my column looming over my head when the idea struck me to write about pursuing your dreams.

What really struck me is the realization that while I am making this huge change in my life, I must really want this in order to make it work. I decided to share some of my personal story and thoughts about what it takes to pursue your dreams. My thoughts might be a little cliche, but I believe they are words to live by and words that can inspire.

What's the big deal about the change that I am making? I finally have the freedom to pursue my dreams. And that freedom is important to me. But it's also very scary and challenging because I am a single mom and I face a financial burden.

The program I need to complete requires me to be a full time student, so I won't be able to keep my current job. Coming up with the finances will be a challenge, and I will have to make a lot of sacrifices. I also feel the guilt of basically subjecting my children to making these sacrifices with me. No more eating out, more "beans and rice" type meals, and being flexible about our schedule because my classes will change every semester.

I ask myself, "Am I being selfish?"

So, why would I make such a big change and all the sacrifices and hassles that come with it? For the money? I know from my years of studying psychology that external motivators like money are not that effective. You have to find the motivation within, something that you truly believe in.

My goal is to eventually become an advanced practitioner in health care; a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant. My heartfelt reasons are that I want to be a healer. I love working with and helping people. I want to provide quality health care in places that are in high need, doing medical mission work locally and abroad. I also want to be a positive role model to my children; to teach them to pursue their goals despite the obstacles and not give up on their dreams. To some people, this may sound like rationalization, but I also have to put aside what others may think about my choices and do what I feel in my heart is right.

Mental preparation is of the utmost importance. Fear can hold you back or even paralyze you. This is where your passion really comes into play. If you really want something bad enough it will help you overcome your fears. If someone is trapped in a burning building but very afraid of heights, they will probably still jump out the window in order to save their own life. Fear does motivate people but it's also not a good motivator because of the stress it causes. So you need to be mentally prepared for the fact that you are going to have to face your fears and also learn how to deal with the stress.

I have always taken the attitude that where there is a will, there is a way, and it has been my guiding principle whenever I was working with someone else to pursue their goals.

Why not apply it to myself?

You have to be prepared to make sacrifices when pursuing something that is worthy. I have talked to people before that were unhappy and making those around them miserable because they were not actively pursuing the dream they had.

Yet, they would also shoot down every idea I could throw at them to make a plan because it required changing their current circumstances.

Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, stated that "The brick walls are there to show us how badly we want something, because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough."

Anything worth achieving is going to be a challenge, trust me, but it will be worth it. I have always been a positive thinker, but I also know that any good goal must be accompanied by a plan. If you don't have a plan yet, don't give up, but you need to come up with some logical and practical ways to make your dream a reality. That is the difference between a dream and a fantasy. Persistence and determination are essential for achieving your goals and anything of value that is worth pursuing is not going to be easy.

Another key thing to remember is that you can't do it alone. This is a tough one for many people who are driven because you want to feel the accomplishment was yours. However, in order to be successful, we all need support. If your goal is worthy, people will support it. The people who care about you the most are likely to be positively impacted by your success as well so they have a vested interest. Seek out help when you need it and you should find people to play specific roles in your success, such as the cheerleader, the mentor, and even the stress relief buddy.

On the flip-side of that coin, it is also important for your mental well being and your success to avoid naysayers. I have positive goals that are going to be challenging enough for me in the years ahead. So I don't have room in my life for people who don't support me in what I am trying to accomplish. It's not mean, but "Debbie downer" has never really been a good source for positive solutions to the obstacles I've faced. You don't have to write people off. Just explain that you are really busy with your goals, and make time for them when you don't have to talk about the setbacks you just endured.

As you may realize, I will be returning to school this year and so this is going to be my last column. It is yet another thing I enjoy that I will have to sacrifice, and I hope to get back to writing again someday. While I am stepping into this new journey of my career, I invite you to find me on LinkedIn if you want to follow me and find out where I end up.

I have enjoyed giving practical career advice and hope I have even inspired some people to pursue their dreams as well.

Theresa Mickelwait holds an master of science degree in psychology and a certificate in career coaching from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. She has been a senior assistant director at the University of Kentucky's James W. Stuckert Career Center. Reach her at tespen0@uky.edu.

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