Do you relate to the words in this well known Abba song “In my dreams I have a plan”? I do. Maybe that’s why Abba is still one of my favourite pop groups today. The lyrics of many of their songs resonate with me. I have a dream – and it’s not to work all night and work all day just to pay the bills!
Apart from the fortunate few, most people do end up working all day to make enough to pay the bills and for some, they even earn enough to buy some luxuries in life. We drag ourselves from one day to the next. We dream, but we do nothing about making sure that dream comes to fruition. There’s an old saying: “Most people aim at nothing in life and hit it with amazing accuracy.” It’s a sad commentary about people, but it’s true.
For dreams to work, we have to work!
I love this analogy that I heard a while ago from a pastor at a church “If you want a job, you must first apply for the job. If all you do is suntan yourself at the beach, then God will bless your suntan” or the blonde who kept praying to God to let her win the lottery, and finally, God replied “Work with me. You have to buy a lottery ticket!”.
DREAMS ARE NOT JUST FOR BUSINESSES
Do you have a dream?
Whilst this article will focus on business, dreams and plans are not just for businesses. All of us have personal goals (AKA dreams) and plans. Having said that, the thought of just watching life go by sitting on the beach on some remote island does have its attractions – at least until I want that ice cream or chocolate 🙂 – I don’t think they have those on deserted islands! Or I better become a great cook!
What are your dreams? Do you have a dream to change the world? Or come closer to home – do you have a dream that your kids will never have to ever again worry about where their next meal is coming from or how they’re going to pay the next rent?
Growing up, I had a dream. My dream then was to leave Malaysia and make a new home for myself in a country that didn’t discriminate based on the colour of my skin. I set my sights high. As a 14 year old, I didn’t know how I would ever achieve it. My parents weren’t rich. At 17 years of age, I left Malaysia for England. Today I live in Australia – a wonderful country that I now call home. I had a dream and I wasn’t going to just sit and wait for it to fall into my lap. I worked at it.
THE BUSINESS DREAM STOPPERS
However, dreams often do cost money to realise. It takes money to make money! If that’s what everyone says it must be true. And at that thought, many give up and stopped pursuing their dreams. BUT and here’s the big BUT – I didn’t have any money as a 14 year old. Yet, I made it happen. It didn’t happen overnight. It took another 3 years. What it needed then was for me to scheme and plan and take action. If I had just sat on the couch and accepted my life, I would still be in Malaysia. I had a dream and I wasn’t going to let it go. It’s never a question of CAN’T, it’s always a question of HOW.
Every business you see today is the result of a dream in someone’s head. Someone had a passion and a vision of what could be. And they did something about it. Have you heard the saying that the graveyard is the richest place in the world? It’s filled with dreams and visions of what could be that never came to fruition.
There is no doubt in my mind that the best way to make money is by doing business. I covered how you can move from Employee to Entrepreneur previously and I won’t repeat this. There are also 101 myths why so many never make that jump to business (which I also covered in the same article). If you do have a dream for a business, I highly recommend that you get rid of the dream stoppers from your life. They will find every excuse why you CAN’T. As Barbara Streisand sang in the 1964 musical “Funny Girl” … Don’t rain on my parade.
FUEL YOUR DREAMS
There’s another Abba song that resonates with me .. “I have a dream, a song to sing”. The lyrics is so true – it’s not going to be easy. It talks of darkness and failing. There will always be the valleys. Psalm 23 says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” tells us to expect a difficult journey. Therefore, unless you keep your eyes on your future and see the “wonder of a fairy tale”, there is a high chance you will quit on your dreams.
So how then do we keep our dreams and visions alive? It’s an easy answer – Know your why!
In reality, many of us do not really know why we do what we do. Most of us tend to fall into what we do. For example, I am a qualified Chartered Accountant. Did I grow up saying “I would LOVE to be a Chartered Accountant? No, I didn’t. But I did grow up saying, “I want to run away from Malaysia.” As my parents were not rich, the only way I could leave was if I could get trained whilst I was paid. That left me with 2 choices – accountancy or nursing. And I knew that I was not going to be a nurse! Lucky for me, I found I loved accounting work and it really suited my skills and my personality. Not everyone is that lucky. Many end up in jobs and careers that they hate.
NO VISION, NO DREAMS, NO PURPOSE
In my business journey as a mentor and coach, I’ve had quite a few clients tell me that they actually don’t really know what they want. They’re tired of just going through the motions of work, eat and sleep and they’ve felt that they no longer had a purpose in life to give them that zest for life. Business is just one mundane “job” that pays the bills and the passion is well and truly gone. They no longer have a dream. Or worse, they positively hate what they are currently doing However, they can’t quit because they have bills to pay and a family to feed.
If you’re feeling like that, how do you get your passion back? There’s a very simple exercise that you can do. Ask yourself just 5 questions:
- What makes me laugh
- What makes me cry
- What makes me sad
- What makes me glad
- What makes me mad
In answering these 5 questions, you’ll become aware of what you’re passionate about. Now, before you throw caution to the wind and simply quit to follow your passion, there is one other exercise you should do.
Get to know yourself first!
I know you’re going to say that you’ve lived with yourself “forever” and you don’t need to do this stupid exercise. Trust me, you do!
From experience, I know that none of us fully understand who we are, and what we have to offer the world. Sure, we understand part of it – we all do. But never all of it. And we need to know it all. Most do not understand how unique they are. If they did, we wouldn’t see so many people on social media all trying to be that somebody that they’re not.
Napoleon Hill stated, “Carnegie’s success was due to his understanding of his own mind and the minds of other men, and not to mere knowledge of the steel business itself. Success in life is largely predicated upon our knowing men! The best place to study the man-animal is in your own mind, by taking, as accurate an inventory as possible of YOURSELF. When you know yourself thoroughly (if you ever do) you will also know much about others. Know yourself and you know the entire human race.”
In the marine corps, one of the key leadership principles they’re taught is, “Know yourself and seek self-improvement”. In the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell says, “Knowing yourself and what you want to do is one of the most important things you’ll ever do in this life.”
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOURSELF?
There are only 3 ways.
1. Self Analysis
There are 7 sides to you. You are one person – but with all these things. Consider this, if you had an opportunity to start or run a business that only matches one of the 7 areas, you would very likely be bored. And you would very soon throw in the towel and say business is too hard. But what if your business fulfils all 7 areas? Now, we take what you’re passionate about – your vision, your purpose and your why, and your skills and we add in one more thing on top of this – you have to know that you can make money doing it. What would you call that? Your ideal dream business!
2. Psychometric Tests
One fun way is to do the different psychometric tests and assessments that’s used for profiling. Personality tests can be a huge asset in getting to the root of who you really are. So, which do you use? I’ve now narrowed them down to just a few that I consider as “must do”. Each assesses a different aspect and used together, can be a very powerful tool in moving you forward in your business and leadership. They include Wealth Dynamics, Strengthfinder, DISC, Holland Code, EQ Skills and The Unique Qualitative (UQ) Assessment Tool. With the EQ Skills and the UQ Tool you do have to buy their books. I’ve included all the links for you if you do want to follow up on this. Some are free, others are paid. I’ve actually done them all and discovered some things about me that I wasn’t fully aware of.
3. Reflective Questionnaires
Then there’s the reflective questionnaires – usually found in personal development books. Out of all the ones I’ve seen, the best one for Knowing Yourself is the one found in both Law of Success and Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I usually take my clients through this when I work with them 1-on-1.
There are obviously a lot more out there that you can do and it’s not about doing these tests for the sake of doing them. The bottom line is that to become a better person, a better leader and grow your dream business, you have to be self-aware i.e. to know yourself.
Awareness + Acknowledgement + Action = Accelerated Growth
To GROW your business, you must GROW your people. To GROW your people, you must GROW yourself. To GROW yourself, you must KNOW yourself.
It all starts with YOU. These tests can help you in that journey. None of the methods are perfect but taken all together, it will help you in your quest in knowing yourself and seeking self-improvement. And knowing all that, will help you to know your WHY.
KNOW YOUR WHY
Why do you do what you do? Why are you running the business you’re running? For you to know your WHY, you must delve deep within. For example, if you say you would like to do something, say, start a business selling flowers, ask yourself WHY? Then whatever answer you get, keep asking WHY. So, if you say you want to sell flowers because you love flowers, ask why do you love flowers?
You have to drill down real deep. Ask the WHY at least 7 times. I did this with a client of mine and at the sixth WHY, he started getting rather frustrated with me. But then, it set him thinking. And the next time I saw him, he said to me, “I know WHY”. The answer is there if you dig deep enough! You can repeat this with anything you do. In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek states that this is how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. Because in business, it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters WHY you do it. This book burst on the business scene in 2009 and it has pretty much shaped the thinking of all entrepreneurs.
We all have a dream. It’s only a question of re-awakening that dream. Have you thought that perhaps yours might end up being the dream that’s going to change the world?
History is full of ordinary men and women who became “world changers” – Wilberforce ended slavery through sheer persistence (it certainly didn’t happen overnight) and Mandela spent many years in prison but emerged victorious. The same principles keep surfacing time and time again. It’s the commitment, the time and just working at it, one step at a time. And most of all, never giving up even when you’re having to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” towards your dream.
In working with my clients, I will not start on the strategies and business plan until we nail down the WHY. Because it is this WHY that will sustain you when the going gets tough. And I believe that any business must have a strong foundation if it is to be sustainable.
HAVE A PLAN, CAST THE VISION
Once you know your WHY, the rest is simple. You have a dream – now do the strategic planning for your business. It should be a very clear statement of what you would like your business to ultimately look like. One of the most simplistic but yet most powerful summaries of what creating a vision entails is stated by Stephen Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. Begin with the end in mind is sound advice.
It’s your business. You are the one who has to formulate the basis of the vision if you are to achieve your dream. You must involve your team in the formulation of the statement and create the environment that allows them to share your dream of where you want to take the company. I will go into how you actually do goal setting and your business plan in another blog. If you would like to know how, follow me and watch out for my blogs.
Once your plan is set and you’ve formulated your vision, make sure you incorporate it in as many ways as possible in the day to day operations of the business and the general philosophy of customer service. Review the strategies and plan regularly to ensure you are still on the right track and that your entire team is also working towards the same goal. Be prepared to make quick, incisive decisions as soon as you see any deviation from the vision. Secondly, you must continually assess your vision for your business. Has your dream and vision for your business changed? Is your dream still your dream?
History of Your Future
It is never too late to stop and refocus the direction your business is taking. If you have never really had a vision for where your business is going, if you have been so tied up in just managing the day to day operations, step back and out of the business for a short time and create a vision of where you want your company to be and what it should look like in say 2 years, 5 years or when and if you were to sell it. There’s an exercise that I do with my clients called History of your Future. It’s a powerful tool, when used, gives my clients the tools they need to plan their own lives and literally take charge of their future.
Then start working on your future as though this was day one of your business life. Communicate this with your team, your family and your friends. After all, if you have a dream, how would those close to you know about it if you keep it a secret. And in the words of the Abba song …
I have a dream, a song to sing
To help me cope with anything
If you see the wonder of a fairy tale
You can take the future even if you fail …
When I know the time is right for me
I’ll cross the stream, I have a dream
I have a dream, a fantasy
To help me through reality
And my destination makes it worth the while
Pushing through the darkness still another mile
About the Author:
Patsy Lim’s business and financial background (having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1980), together with her entrepreneurial spirit enables her to apply a potent blend of strong financial and accounting expertise, deep practical business experience, and entrepreneurial flair and creativity to complex business problems. As an entrepreneur, she understands the issues that an entrepreneur faces. So, unlike some accountants who only know the theory of business, Patsy has had hands-on experience of what it means to be IN business, to start a business, to grow a business, and most of all, to manage a business when times inevitably get tough!