Last week, I experienced having a big dream come true in my life, being spotlighted in a video sponsored by one of the world’s top social media networks (more about that in a January post). As I sat there watching it all unfold, I thought back on other big dreams of mine that have been realized, from earning a Master’s degree, to writing a book, publishing on Forbes.com, and more. Each time a big dream was achieved, I had a myriad of thoughts and emotions, including elation, of course, but some other feelings that truly surprised me. I thought about what happens when we arrive at a level that we’ve been stretching toward (and longing for) for years. I remembered how an acquaintance of mine shared after he’d won a Grammy award that nothing in his life really changed afterwards.
Back then, I wondered how that could be possible. How can you win such a prestigious award and not have things shift for you? Years later, I believe I might know why he said that. Because once you’re at the level where your talents garner you a Grammy (or once you achieve any other huge accolade or accomplishment), it’s simply a positive reflection of who you are in the world already. Most likely, once you win it, you’re on to the next dream and longing that represents you at yet another level.
Wanting to know more about what achieving big dreams feels like for others, I reached out to a few of my favorite Forbes interviewees, all of whom are at the top of their respective fields in business, arts and entertainment, lifestyle, and startups, and have achieved huge dreams. I’m grateful for their stories, and their candid descriptions of what it felt like to reach their big dreams.
Here’s what they shared:
Amma Asante – Film writer and director
“I’m a British movie writer and director. My dream was to create a movie that would be released worldwide and crossover to American audiences successfully, since the US is a big and important market to crack. My first movie, A Way of Life was distributed in the UK and other parts of Europe. It won many awards, but never made it to US distribution. As the US is the capital of movie-making, I had a desperate wish to see my work resonate with US movie-goers.
So when I completed my film Belle, which was subsequently bought by an important US distributor, I knew this was my chance to make the impact I’d always dreamt of. I was elated in the months leading up to the US release of the movie. But as the opening weekend loomed, I began to feel the pressure that the opening weekend brings for any filmmaker. My film was in movie theaters but would anybody want to go and see it? That opening weekend went well, but with every evening that followed, the expectations of what the day’s box office figures may or may not bring, increased my feelings of anxiety. A couple of bad box office weekends can mean the removal of a film from movie theaters, so each day felt like a new challenge.
Ultimately the movie did well and remained in movie theaters for many weeks. Still, once it had completed its run, I couldn’t help that feeling that my years and years of work on the project had now reached its climax and there was nothing left to do. Projects are like your children – they live inside and outside of you, while you are working on them. So when there was no more work left for me to do on Belle, I was at a loss. Time to move on and detach from the baby I had carried for so long and then birthed. There was sadness.
People had already started to ask the inevitable, “What are you going to do next?” And so the pressures of box office success began to be replaced by the pressures of creating another hit movie. I had no idea of what specifically I might be doing next. Offers were coming in, doors previously closed, were certainly opening now – I had to keep up, and make decisions, and I felt a need to ensure that I made the right decisions. I felt excited too – I had opportunities to talk to industry about other labor of love projects that I’ve been working on for years, and had industry folks who now could see a value in me and were encouraged to want to work with me. I was excited to be embraced by a new level of my creative world – Hollywood producers, actors, studios, who were passionate about the movie I had made. The interest in Belle also meant that industry visited my previous work, and the creative voice that I had always wanted to reach America had finally landed.
The achievement of this particular dream was not an overnight process. It happened in steps – increments. Over the last couple of years, there were moments when it felt like a struggle to find any remnants of life before Belle. There is ‘work Amma’ and ‘home Amma’ – both have grown along the journey. ‘Creative Amma’ has grown and developed new facets too. Expectations that I place on myself are weightier, but the old me still sits at the root of everything. I’m contacted by lots of people who also feel that somehow I can now help their dreams come true. Of course, I can’t – I’m just me, still trying to achieve, one dream, one goal, at a time, and though releasing Belle in the US helped me hit a huge marker in my life, there’s so much more I’d still like to go on to achieve.”
David Siteman Garland – Creator of Create Awesome Online Courses and The Rise To The Top
“When I was 22 and straight out of college I set a big business dream: I wanted to be a self-made millionaire by the age of 30 and create a freedom-based business. Meaning, not be tied to doing work 24/7 but working when, where and how I want (and being super excited about the work I was doing).
“I wanted to create a fun-fest…not a stress-fest. To be completely honest, it was super scary. I didn’t really have a game plan and I remember a specific incident when a person (who shall remain nameless) looked me straight in the eye and said: “That will never, EVER happen.”
This year I turned 30. And after about a zillion twists, turns, setbacks, shifts, I more than hit this dream. Just saying that makes me smile. The funny thing is I’m still in a bit of disbelief. I remember grabbing my old high school calculator to double check everything (did this REALLY happen?!).
How this all happened would be a 5,000+ word novel, but here are some CliffsNotes: I learned that you can’t be afraid of shifting, pivoting and changing which comes from learning, experimenting and taking action.
I went from someone doing an inline hockey startup to starting a TV show and podcast where I interviewed entrepreneurs to creating online courses to, what I do now, teaching people how to create and sell online courses.
It’s a crazy path (that even includes hiring my dad full time two years ago which is pretty much the coolest thing ever in my book…being able to work with my dad every day.)
Probably the neatest thing about hitting a big dream or goal is you really do start to get that feeling that big things are possible. Not just in business, but in life (with a baby girl on the way, I’m super excited for the next set of dreams and challenges). It makes us feel alive and hungry and no longer playing small.
I would say that one surprising thing about a dream coming true is that when you get close to achieving it, there will already be another big dream ready to take its place.
My advice for hitting your dreams? Be 100% unapologetic and honest about what you really want. Not what you ‘think’ you should want or what other people think.”
Claudia Chan – Founder of ClaudiaChan.com and S.H.E. Globl Media – a women’s media and education company designed to ignite positive change for women globally.
“For me the big dream was to build, and personally become, a financially successful brand that would make empowerment accessible and impactful for women globally. The vision came to me in fall 2010 so it’s been just over 4 years that I’ve longed for it. Many small moments have shown me I am living my vision but the most powerful was when I finished my last SHE Summit in June of 2014. I learned that women in over 100 countries watched the livestream and we had reached over 200 million impressions on social media.
I think of this milestone though as having reached an early phase of my big dream. That I have just laid the ground work for the many more ways I want to grow and make impact. Like building on small chunks to get to the big big dream, if there is ever a peak.
With that has come a variety of emotions. Beyond the sheer joy and happiness high that immediately comes from the milestone, I have also felt vulnerable and scared. Because all of sudden you represent something that is highly bold, visible and out there — there are more eyeballs on you. What comes out of that is out of your control. I often say it feels like standing on stage naked because you got there, not by following what others did, but by what you believed, and that’s uncomfortable.
Because I have just conquered one phase and about to embark on the next, there is also a sense of beginning and birthing something new, which is really exciting. Most of all, because I was able to achieve something that seemed so impossible just a few years ago, I have stretched the potential of what I believe I can make possible. This is why I preach that if women realize and believe in their potential and start chunking away at their dreams, their potential truly is limitless.”
Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized career success coach, writer, trainer and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business. She is the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough:The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose, and Founder/President of Ellia Communications, Inc. and the Amazing Career Project, focused on helping professional women build successful, rewarding careers of significance. A Forbes, Huffington Post and LinkedIn contributor and top media source on women’s career and workplace issues, she has appeared in over 100 leading newspapers and magazines and on national radio and television. For more information, visit www.kathycaprino.com and connect with Kathy on: Twitter, FB, LinkedIn.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.
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