Ruben at the Salt Lake Olympics
I’m going to share a sad fact with you. When I speak at an Elementary School and ask my audience, “Do you have dreams?” almost every hand goes up. When I ask the same question at a Middle School, only half of the hands go up. When I ask High School and College students if they have dreams, only a few hands go up. And when I speak to adults at conventions, or corporate events, I’m surprised if anybody raises their hand. In fact, I don’t even ask the adults anymore because it just embarrasses them.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Most men die at age 25 but are not buried until they are 70.” What he meant was, most people give up on their dreams before they are 30 years old, and spend the rest of their lives in “survival mode”, living day to day, just trying to get through the day rather than living a life filled with passion, in the pursuit of their dreams.
Life is tough. There’s no doubt about it. And unless you are crystal-clear about where you want to go, crystal-clear about your life purpose, mission, calling, or destiny, and unless you believe it is possible for you to make your dream a reality, you will not act on it and you will revert to “survival mode”. Believe me, “survival mode” is not a good place to be.
The whole secret to a successful life is to find out what it is your destiny to do, and then do it.
I know. I’ve been there. Ever since the third grade, I dreamed of being an Olympic athlete. But I didn’t believe in myself so I never committed to acting on my dream. Eventually I put my Olympic dream up on the shelf. For years, I felt lost. I felt like a nobody. I felt I was not making a difference. I did not like myself. Many years later, while in College, something happened that inspired me to go for it.
When I saw tiny Scott Hamilton win the Gold Medal at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, I said to myself, “If that little guy can do it, I can do it too! I WILL be in the next Olympics!” And I made a commitment to do whatever it took to make my dream a reality. All of a sudden, my life had purpose, meaning, and passion! Four years later I was marching in the Opening Ceremonies of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.
I believe God puts a dream in our heart, he gives us all the gifts, talents, and resources we need to make our dreams a reality. But it’s up to us to believe in ourselves and it is up to us to do the work. Many times, you will not discover your true gifts until you put yourself through the struggle of chasing your dream. The person you become through the struggle is your gift back to God.
You were created to make your dream come true. It is your life purpose. It is you calling. It’s your mission. Your dream will draw on your talents, it will appeal to your highest ideals, and will give you unlimited energy. Having a vision of where you want to be satisfies several universal drives within each of us. Having a dream connects with the spirit that dwells in our heart; it gives us an outlet for our unique gifts and talents, and makes us feel that our lives matter. It makes us feel that we are making a difference.
A dream does several things. It gives you a future focus. Instead of being worried about the frustrations of the present, a dream gets you thinking about the possibilities of the future. A dream gives you energy. Have you ever been so engrossed in a book or in a project that hours seemed like minutes? That’s what it feels like when you are passionately chasing your dream. Finally, a dream keeps you from wasting your life. Dreams keep you from wasting your talents, your abilities, and your creativity. They keep you from living a life filled with regret. That terrible “What might have been?” feeling.
You will experience success in life to the extent that you are clear about and commit to achieving your life purpose.
How do you find your purpose? It all comes down to spending some quality time getting to know yourself through some very specific questions. I would suggest going out by yourself for a couple of days to a quiet place, maybe a cabin in the woods, out by a lake, a place where you will not be interrupted and really thinking about it. It might be a good idea to take a notebook to write your thoughts.
Before I give you the questions, I’d like you to think about some people you deeply admire. What is it about them that you admire? Specifically what qualities do you admire in them? I’d be willing to bet that anyone you admire, is someone who is dedicating their life to their unique calling. If you are having trouble thinking of people, just think about people like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Mother Theresa, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Norman Schwarzkopf, and the NASA Astronauts.
What do they have in common? They love what they do. They would do it for free. They are good at what they do. Doing what they do is extremely important to them. They have a sense of destiny, a sense that they are doing what they were born to do.
Well you know what? The experiences you have had up to this point in your life have prepared you for your life purpose. You have unique talents, abilities, interests, and values that only you can bring to greatness. There is a destiny that only you can fulfill. But first you need to find out what you would love to do. What you would be willing to do for free. What you are good at doing. What is extremely important to you. What you were born to do.
So here are the questions. Don’t just glance at them. Invest some time in them. Remember, what you learn from them could change your life – and the world! You might want to write each of these questions on a separate index card and spend at least 15 minutes on each one. Fifteen minutes writing your unique answer in your life mission notebook.
Note: Some of these questions are very similar. They are just worded differently. This is done intentionally. I want to stimulate different parts of your brain in order to get closer to your true answer.
What are my greatest talents?
What do others say I am good at? (You want to weigh this heavily because many times our gifts come so naturally to us, that we underestimate them. Your true gifts will be more apparent to others.)
What have my unique life experiences prepared me to do?
What do I love to do so much that I would do it for free? Why? (The why is very important. It will give you clues to your driving force.)
What activities give me satisfaction? Why?
What excites me about life? Why?
What is my secret ambition? Why?
What are my hobbies?
What is my greatest character strength?
What is my greatest passion?
What would I be willing to die for? Why?
What will I feel like when I make it happen?
What will the regret feel like if I don’t make it happen?
What am I good at?
What do I get complimented on?
Where have I excelled in the past?
Where have I been successful?
What is important to me?
What do you naturally do well?
What things do you view as your greatest successes? Why?
Is there a cause about which you feel passionate?
What is it about that cause that attracts you to it?
What are the most important lessons you have learned through your experiences about life?
What do you daydream about doing? Why?
What things do you want to be remembered for at the end of your life? Why?
What things will your life be incomplete without? Why?
If you had a year left to live, what would you do differently? Why?
What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Why?
What would you do with your time if you were wealthy? Why?
What do you stand for?
What were you born to do?
What is your unique mission in life?
What does God want you to do?
What are your unique opportunities?
Where can you make a difference?
How do you want to be remembered? Why?
What will outlast you?
What will continue after you are gone?
What legacy do you want to leave behind? Why?
You might want to go through this exercise on an ongoing basis (maybe a couple of questions every day) until you become crystal-clear about your purpose in life.
Remember, you can’t make your dream come true if you don’t even know what it is. If you can’t see it, you can’t get it. Once you see it, dedicate your life to making it a reality. Give yourself to your vision. You are worthy of it. It’s why you’re here. It’s how you will make a difference in the world. It’s how you’ll be remembered. It’s your legacy.
DO THIS EXERCISE! If you don’t, you have no one but yourself to blame for not realizing your dreams!
I don’t care who you are. I don’t care if you are a CEO or the President of the United States! I don’t care if last week you climbed Mt. Everest. You need to do this. You need to find out what your next dream will be!
Otherwise you are sentencing yourself to a life of mediocrity.