Making Your Dream a Reality

Once I’ve talked my head into accepting the fears surrounding a new challenge, I am then faced with making my dream a reality. Bringing the plan to a place where it can sensibly work for me can be daunting; I’m sure I’m not alone with these thoughts.

Although making her dream a reality, Zoe looks at the camera with anxiety in her face. She wears a ski helmet and goggles on her head. An expanse of blue/white snow and the backdrop of the French Alps lie behind her.
Looking unsure as I face enormous fears on the slopes at La Plagne ski resort, in the French Alps

How then does that dream adventure come to fruition? How do I move from the in-my-head ideas, through the sludge of doubt, to a solid plan of attack to get the mission accomplished? Read on and hopefully, you’ll get a flavour of how I do it. From this, you can pull out some nuggets that may connect with you, adding those nuggets to your hit list of ‘jobs to do’ towards making your own dream a reality.

Zoe is wearing a blue and red checkered shirt and holds her right hand up to her forehead in the shape of an L with her forefinger and thumb, depicting 'loser'. This image was taken after her skiing accident in 2019. Her dream became reality but didn't go according to plan.
Not exactly the finger, but close!

You’ll need to imagine you are past the stage of ‘no way, I can’t possibly do that’. Even when I’ve booked to undertake a challenge, I will still harbour those uncertain thoughts, however. I don’t think they ever leave me… it’s just a case of me learning how to deal with them in the background, sticking the proverbial finger up at my demons and doubts. A friend, mentor or cheerleader can help you with overcoming this too, if not permanently, just enough for you to get the job started and see it through to mission accomplished.

Think ahead

It sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many people don’t think ahead. Consider everything you need to achieve in the next two years and then set a date. This will be very much dependent on the type of goal you are aiming for. If you’re planning to trek to Antarctica, then you may need longer than two years! If you want to walk a long-distance path, you may only need a few months. Gauge this according to your own circumstances and personal commitments, such as family and work.

A map of the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, UK, with a route penned out in pink highlighter pen. The pen sits in the top right-hand corner of the map. Planning using a map can help a dream become reality.
Planning a shorter walk on the 100MappyDays Challenge

Establish a time frame – if this is possible. How long will it take to complete the challenge? Sometimes, this simply isn’t realistic to confirm, but where you can, it’s a good idea to declare your expectation of time frame – will it take ten days, three months, a year or even five years, as it did for the inspiring Rosie Swale-Pope, when she ran around the world? My current adventure, the Mon and Brec Bridge-Bagging Challenge, may take nearly two years to achieve. 

  • What research do you need to do? 
  • Do you need to buy books or maps? These take time to read, so it’s a good idea to buy them early on.
  • Do you need financial support or help from others?
  • Are there open applications for grants available?
  • Will you benefit from an adventure partner or multiple crew?
  • Do you need to read blogs on other people’s experiences of this or a similar topic, trip or challenge?
  • Can you find Facebook Groups to join where the community can share their knowledge and ideas with you?

Preparation Plan of Attack

After figuring out the general thoughts about your dream and how you’ll make it a reality, you’ll need a Preparation Plan of Attack. This might include: 

A guide book of the Southern Upland Way by Cicerone Press, with lots of page markers attached for planning. Zoe's hand sits at the bottom of the photograph, holding a pencil over the page of the book. Planning like this can help a dream to walk a national trail become a reality.
Planning for the Southern Upland Way in 2020 – now postponed until 2022
  • travel arrangements, to and from the start/end.
  • the average expected weather at the time of the challenge. Knowing the typical season will affect the choice of kit. 
  • understanding the terrain you’ll be visiting. 
  • looking at kit needs, including specialist gear.
  • possibilities for resupplying with food, water and other consumables.
  • do you struggle with time management, having good intentions to fit the training into your day, but then find you can’t stick to it? 

This latter point is something that I have had issues with in the past, particularly around trying to squeeze too many aims into one day or week. The danger is that we leave tasks incomplete. You’ll then fall behind, thus losing momentum and interest. Write a list of all the things you know you’ll need to do, in order to see this project rise off the ground.

Using SMART Targets

Next look at the time you have available between now and your ‘launch’, ‘set-off’ or ‘start’ date. With a purpose-made calendar in front of you (use a free printable calendar – or make an easy table on Word), begin writing in all those jobs and commitments you know must stay. Then add in a challenge/adventure/goal task for each day. Ensure to make it realistic and within your reach. Also, make it measurable and not just a generic goal. For example, if I was working my way towards embarking on a hilly long-distance path, instead of adding ‘walk more’ as one of my goals, I might add ‘walk up a hill five times per week’. As a teacher, I am used to working with the acronym of SMART targets. These are:

  • Specific – as with the example above, ensure you are digging deep into exact needs. Avoid general language.
  • Measurable – make it measurable in time, distance, length and so on. This means you can tick it off when you reach it.
  • Achievable – (or attainable), it’s about ensuring you keep the goal you’ve set within reach in the time frame specified.
  • Realistic – with the resources you have, is it possible? Don’t set yourself seriously impossible targets.
  • Time-bound – give yourself a deadline. A time slot in which to work around. This will help to keep you on track.
A white rectangle, bordered on the left and right by two bands of lime green and sky blue. The words SMART, in diffused blue and TARGETS in diffused purple sit at the centre of the white rectangle.
S.M.A.R.T. targets

I have used SMART targets both with students and for myself for goal-setting. I can vouch that it works well. Keeping a spreadsheet or visual chart on a wall or fridge can be incredibly motivating, too. This allows you to watch your progress towards your goal increase and helps to deter the demons of doubt, when all you feel like doing is giving up. Thoughts that the entire project is a waste of time or impossible to achieve can damage the way towards your end goal. Visible progression should help to keep you buoyant.

Making Announcements Work

Announce on social media. Tell your friends and family. If I think it’s still going to be hard for me to commit to myself, I would enlist the help of an accountability buddy. It should be a friend or social media acquaintance who I can trust to message me, text or call me. These people will help you ensure you are meeting your short-term goals in your training plan, which will ultimately lead to making your dream a reality. It shouldn’t be someone to whom you can easily say no or make excuses. 

Short-Term Planning

Once I have sorted all the above in my head and transferred notes onto paper – usually as many lists, I’ll fill in my weekly planner. This comprises a table printed on paper. I list days of the week at the top. Then I’ll list general areas of my life I need to pay attention to in blocks on the left-hand side. I have eight blocks down the side and I know that for me, this is too many. I don’t write tasks in every box, every day for this reason, otherwise, I’ll start feeling flat and overwhelmed. To give you an example, my current life blocks are:

  • HeadRightOut & Hub – a means of developing my message platform and growing a community.
  • Social Media – gently drawing potential new members into my story, message and community.
  • Book – sharing my experiences, adventures and knowledge. This will include writing, editing, marketing, etc.
  • Podcast – sharing my experiences and those of other resilient women. This will include recording, editing, marketing, etc.
  • Me/Us – ensuring I factor quality time both for myself and with my husband
  • Others – the commitments I have made to others, both family and friends. This includes my weekly care day for Mum.
  • Household – chores, shopping, phone calls. The chores will always be there. Need to keep this engine well oiled, though.
  • Teaching – occasional days of supply teaching. It’s the day job and thankfully, only part-time!

Each time I complete a task set for myself, I glide a highlighter across the entry. This tells me I’ve done it. I avoid scrubbing lines through completed tasks on this planner sheet, as sometimes I need to read back over what I’ve done. It’s a motivational tool and can get quite colourful!

A photograph of a planner chart, consisting of boxes with handwritten text and notes, like a diary. Each of the notes have been crossed with a coloured highlighter.
An example of my weekly personal planning sheet

The Benefits of a Daily Planner

Even when I’m not planning an adventure or looking to make a dream into a reality, I still use this planner method. I used it for fourteen years as a teacher and then after leaving my permanent contract post, I let it go for about eighteen months. Although free from the pain of teacher planning, I was like a ship cut loose… floating all over the place! After a conversation with Sarah Williams (founder of Tough Girl Challenges and the Tough Girl Podcast), the penny dropped. I knew what was missing and what I needed to do. I reinstated my planner, readjusting it to suit my alternative lifestyle. Now, I cannot be without it, as it works complementary to my diary and my ‘lists’ notebook.

Every time I think of a new job or task to be done, I’ll jot it down in my ‘lists’ notebook. Every Sunday evening, before the new week has begun, I go through these lists, prioritising tasks and transferring those that need to be done during the coming week, onto my planner sheet. It’s also a great time for Mike and I to compare diaries, as he has a busy schedule too.

Making Your Dream a Reality

I’m a firm believer that the core of any dream accomplishment is planning. Mindset is a huge part of it too, however, from my experience, if the planning and preparation is fluffy and you’re a typical doubter, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. Unless you know you can fly by the seat of your pants, it’s good to read up on your destination, prepare yourself and plan. Not to within an inch of your life. This can be detrimental to the enjoyment of a trip and to the natural course on which your journey may take you. Allow some flexibility for the adventure (if it’s travel-related).

The planning I have been writing about here is the pre-trip planning that will build up your blocks of confidence, experience and research. All you’re doing is creating a foundation that will help towards making your dream a reality, whatever goal in life you have. It’s nothing more than healthy preparation towards reaching your successful outcome.

Good luck and please, let me know how you get on!

If you’d like to hear other women’s stories of how they made their dreams a reality, look out for the HeadRightOut Podcast, launching on all the major pod players on 1st May. This is a different type of adventure for me. It’s taken four years since the first seed of the idea. Now here I am, facing all those doubts and finally, making my dream a reality!

The words HeadRightOut and conversations with resilient women are flanked by a cartoon woman taking a leap. It is surrounded by blue and green cartoon stars and blue mountains or waves.
The new HeadRightOut podcast artwork.

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4 Comments

  1. Lea Ingle
    April 18, 2021 / 1:25 pm

    Hi Zoe,
    Just finished reading and I admire your efforts!! Love to Mum Linda and you all. I also enjoyed your report of your time so far on the barge. Love Lea and family.

    • HeadRightOut
      Author
      April 19, 2021 / 3:41 pm

      Hi Lea, thank you! So pleased you’re enjoying reading my blogs. Sometimes it’s hard being so honest and putting your feelings ‘out there’. Then I realised, ‘if I’m feeling like this or have felt this way, then others will too.’ I know I’ve learned loads from reading about other people’s experiences… so it was time to put my own on the table, to be shared. Thanks for taking the time to comment! xx

  2. April 22, 2021 / 1:02 am

    I’ve reinstated my Filofax this year….after rather longer than 18 months! I love it, but I still feel a bit of ‘drift’ now and again – time to reset the sails!

    • HeadRightOut
      Author
      April 23, 2021 / 1:29 pm

      Hi Stephie, I love my old mini Filofax, though it’s way too old and battered to reinstate. You’re the second person to tell me they have started using it again too… I guess there must be a need to revisit the organisation methods of our younger years! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. 😀

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