Dream Big…And Then What?
Is It Enough to Dream Big?
The night before bone cancer took his right leg, Terry Fox lay in a hospital bed reading a magazine article about an amputee running the New York Marathon. That night, he dreamed of running across Canada and beating cancer forever. And what a dream it was. Thanks to Terry’s grit and determination, his Marathon of Hope grew into a phenomenon that inspired and united his country and earned millions for cancer research. Today, people around the world continue to honour Terry’s legacy with annual fundraising runs in his name.
But imagine for a moment that things had happened differently. What if Terry Fox had talked about his Marathon of Hope, but never laced up his shoes and set out on the journey? How long would it have been before people stopped paying attention? Would they have even started listening? Dreams require action if they are to be achieved.
Philanthropic dreams are no different.
Strategies to Follow Through on Our Dreams
When I was a business executive, I frequently followed the steps one should follow to achieve financial and organizational success. These same principles can be applied to achieving our philanthropic dreams.
Write it down
We’ve all heard the expression, “talk is cheap.” It’s true. The first step to moving our philanthropic dream forward is to put it down on paper (or type it into a word processing or other digital program). The point is to make a written record of our intentions. This written copy provides an easy-access reminder of what we want to accomplish and gives us a way to communicate our philanthropic dream to others. The action of committing our dreams to paper forces us to condense our lofty visions into well-defined goals and improves the encoding process for our memories. In fact, according to one study, writing down our goals makes it 42% more likely we’ll achieve them. The same principle applies to philanthropic dreams.
Flesh it out
Once it’s written down, it’s time to start thinking about how to bring our philanthropic dream about. What sorts of actions are involved? What causes are we passionate about? What are some realistic time frames? Do we want to impact our community, our country, or even further abroad? What resources do we have to work with and how can we access additional resources? What support and help might be available? The more detail we develop, the more real our dreams become.
Changing the world is an enormous plan. How can we ever accomplish something so monumental? The answer is: one action at a time. How many of our projects and plans die because we try to tackle too much too quickly? Start small. Let each action build on the previous success. Momentum is a very real force and it will grow as our plans move along.
Create a Schedule
“Inspect what you expect!” is used extensively in business management. Monitoring progress is a big part in any successful plan. We need to check in on our dreams at regular intervals and ask, am I on track? What’s working to increase momentum? What’s not working? To track progress on your dream, set a series of SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely). Build in some “quick hits,” things you can achieve in the short-term. Minor successes drive bigger ones that ultimately drive the success of the plan. You can even create your own digital or practical tracking system (such as a thermometer that slowly fills) so you can easily visualize your progress.
Share the Plan
When you share your plan with someone, it builds accountability. Choose a friend or acquaintance who won’t be afraid to ask you how it’s going? As adults, we require accountability to achieve most of our plans. Too often, we’re not hard enough on ourselves to stay on track. Working with someone you trust can maintain the momentum as it builds.
Big Dreams Happen One Step at a Time
Certainly, it takes a lot of effort to move our philanthropic dreams from words into action, but we can achieve our goals one step at a time. The question of taking that first step comes down to asking, how important is my dream? If it really is deeply inspiring and meaningful to you, it should be exciting rather than overly-taxing to think it through. In fact, if you’re truly passionate about it, this early legwork will fan the flames of our enthusiasm and drive our dream forward. Are you willing to put in the work required to accomplish something big?
What’s your philanthropic dream? The world is waiting to see.
Contributed by David Barker
Gift Planning Consultant