It sounds a bit pretentious doesn’t it. As if I, this eco chic who ran away to Greece, has all the answers and will endeavour to impart her wisdom and knowledge on you. I don’t mean it to sound pretentious in the slightest. This blog post is purely about the very, very specific things we did to achieve our dreams and make them reality.
By the age of 28 and 32, Mr Sidestepping-Normal and I owned two properties without mortgages, had no debts, a healthy bank balance and a new life in Crete. Nobody gave us money, we didn’t inherit a fortune, but equally, this didn’t happen by accident.
I’m not professing to have found perfection, or all the answers, but I have noticed some things along the way. Equally, my measure of success may be different to yours. Success is measured by the individual, and not by my thoughts and opinions. Do we feel successful? Yes, in a sense we do, because we found what we were looking for.
Without realising it at the time, we did very specific things to achieve our dreams, and it’s only now, in retrospect that I can see how we made it possible. After lots of thinking, here is my compilation of everything we did to get here. There are 15 tips in total and we use all of them, however number 2 and 4 are ones to really take note of.
Our 15 tips to achieve your dreams:
1) What is your dream/ goal? And what’s preventing you from achieving it?
If you eliminate all the factors that are prohibiting you from achieving your dreams and goals, such as: money, ties, responsibilities, fear, opinions, etc, what is left? What makes you feel excited? What do you want? That’s the dream right there. It may be a life like ours, or something entirely different. Either way, set a goal or a vision, however unachievable it may seem right now. The dream/ goal isn’t the difficulty, it’s the hurdles that stand in-between. Now you’ve ascertained what you want, the plan can emerge.
2) Work backwards.
I know that sounds ridiculous, but the way we achieved our dreams was to set the goal way ahead in the future, and then work our way back, step by step. For example, we knew that we wanted to live in Greece and have no mortgage. From that point we worked backwards. Here’s an example:
Question: How do we save enough money to achieve our dreams when we’re both earning minimum wage?
Answer: Become self employed and earn more.
Question: How do we become self employed?
Answer: Begin looking for self employment opportunities.
Question: How do I save money in the meantime, until I can earn more?
Answer: Reduce outgoings and pay off debt.
Question: How can I reduce outgoings?
Answer: Move into a caravan and sell unwanted possessions at a car boot sale to pay off loans and debts.
Question: How do I find a caravan?
Answer: Begin asking everyone around you.
As you can see, the first steps in the process are to begin looking for self employment opportunities, sort through possessions and sell them, pay off debts, and ask around to find someone who has some land or a caravan for rent or sale. None of these steps directly result in the end goal, but incrementally they become part of a process that does eventually achieve the end result. I’ve noticed that most people don’t set a goal in the future, and if they do, they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of getting there. Break it down into tiny pieces.
3) Start taking action.
A dream will always remain a dream unless you act upon it. I always get a bubble of excitement at the though of doing something that will alter the coarse of events. All the time you sit and dream without taking any action, nothing will happen. Imagine picking up the phone and booking a house viewing or going for a job interview or booking a flight. Those things could start a domino effect that changes the course of your life. Sitting at home watching T.V is all good and well, but it won’t get anything done.
4) Use flexible visualisation.
I’m a very visual person and imagine everything in very fine detail. In my visualisations I imagined everything about our new life in Greece: the house, the pillowcases, the garden, what flowers I’d plant, the conversations Mr SN and I would have whilst cooking, the walks with Dora, renovating our cottage, the stilted conversations in Greek.
This might sound a little sad, but, my visualisations were FLEXIBLE, and this is the most important part. They were never fixed visions, although the theme was always the same, the details could change all the time. If something happened in the present which altered the plans for the future, then my visions would change too. I never felt upset when things didn’t go to plan, instead I just altered my visions to adapt.
Even though we’ve achieved our dreams, I still use flexible visualisation everyday to keep me on the right path to achieve the rest of my dreams and goals.
5) Distance yourself from the people that don’t want you to succeed.
It’s sad, but lots of people won’t want to see you succeed. I know that sounds very pessimistic, but it’s true. As we began to progress and find success, we noticed that some people tried to bring us down and attributed our achievements to luck, or privileges they didn’t have.
Those same people came running when things went wrong and seemed to enjoy our misfortunes. Negative people will drain your energy and enjoy your failures; but this can be because they are struggling themselves. Some people feel threatened by people who achieve what they set out to achieve, because it makes them reflect on their own lives. We tried to distance ourselves from these people while trying to understand and support them. We began to surround ourselves by the people that wanted us to succeed and supported us. Those people shared our vision, encouraged us and are still there today.
6) Celebrate every little, teeny, weeny bit of progress.
Indulge yourself in celebrating your achievements as you go. Why wait until the end? The encouragement from yourself will spur you to keep going. Every step of the journey is an achievement, not just the end result. I’m all for celebratory tea and cake every day of the week. At the end of writing this article, I will celebrate and treat myself to a coffee and chocolate.
7) Do what ever it takes…
I don’t mean like robbing a bank, I mean in the sense that sacrifices will be worth it in the end. Don’t buy takeaway coffee, quit the gym membership and get a bicycle, don’t go on holiday this year, buy the cheapest thing on the menu. etc, etc. Strangely enough, I don’t even like the word sacrifice in this context, as far as I’m concerned, Mr SN and I have never made any sacrifices in order to achieve our dreams. Living in a caravan with no running water and electricity wasn’t a sacrifice, living frugally isn’t a sacrifice. I see everything as experience. I can find the positives in everything, I feel grateful for everything, and when it goes wrong, there’s a funny story to tell.
8) Don’t follow the crowd.
In my opinion, following the crowd won’t result in quick results. You must take risks, be inventive, problem solve and do the opposite of everyone else. If you look at society, the majority of people spend their whole lives doing what they’re expected to do. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you want something different, you need to swim against the tide and do the opposite. Did the most successful businessman/women follow the rules? Of course not, they took huge risks and did what other people were scared to do. Is there a possibility of failure? Absolutely, but you don’t know until you try. The majority will always play it safe.
When I looked around me, I saw that we could never succeed by following the expectations that were set out for us. We were supposed to buy a big house, get a mortgage, work full time for fifty years, take two weeks holiday every summer, climb higher up the property ladder, buy more gadgets and things, and finally retire with healthy pensions and lots of regrets. No thanks.
9) Don’t listen to other people, trust your gut.
Only YOU know what you are capable of, nobody else. If you tell yourself you are capable of anything, then imagine the power you have. Other people’s opinions should be listened to, but never acted upon to please them or feel accepted. I know what’s best for me, nobody else. I use my intuition and gut instinct to guide me. When I’m trying to find the solution to a problem, I visualise all the scenarios and feel which one is right. It’s never failed me and I’ve made a lot of decisions that other people have told me are wrong, but turned out to be right. If I’d listened to other people, Mr SN and I wouldn’t be together. Those same people now tell me that I’m lucky to have found my soul mate – which I am.
You can create and recreate yourself as many times as you want. You have the potential to be anything you choose. Maybe tomorrow I’ll decide to be a doctor and train for seven years? Maybe I wont. Only I know the answer.
10) Fear is an illusion.
I think that fear is an illusion of the mind. It’s there to be challenged and if left unchecked, will greedily devour your freedom. Fear is useful when you’re walking through a dark park at night, it heightens senses, analyses all possible scenarios and out-comes and prepares you for the worst. But is fear in our every day life useful or detrimental? Personally I thinks it’s extremely detrimental. When I feel fearful and anxious, I tell myself that I must face the fear head on and conquer it.
11) Make lots of mistakes.
Making lots of mistakes is necessary. What’s the point of not doing anything, just in case you fail? I fail everyday, that’s not even an exaggeration. I try hundreds of new things every year, and some of them are a resounding success, but most of them aren’t. You name it, I’ve probably tried it. Since I was a little girl, I’ve tried and failed at so many things it’s hard to remember. I’ve exploded homemade blackberry wine in the airing cupboard, made flip flops out of PVA glue and string (they held up until the weather got hot and they melted) I’ve caught fire to a chopping board, killed plants, crashed a motorbike, lost dogs whilst running my own business as a dog walker…I could go on and on. Eventually, you will improve and succeed and these skills may lead to achieving your dreams, or just bring you a lot of happiness along the way.
12) What will you regret on your death bed.
Call me macabre, but I imagine myself on my death bed as an old lady whispering my last words to my weeping family. Will those last words be laced with regret? NO they will not. Will those last words involve minute details about whether I bought the right car, or broke my favourite plate, or whether the shelf in the bedroom was straight or not. Of course not. We all get bogged down with tiny everyday details, but look at the bigger picture, don’t let a little detail ruin your day or cause an argument. We’re all guilty of it, but when you take a second, it rarely matters much. If you imagine yourself on your death bed regretting all the things you never did, the dreams you never fulfilled, then act now and make them happen.
13) Seek and ye shall find.
I receive a lot of emails from people, and I often reply that if you search enough, you will find it. I truly believe In the power of intent. If you intend to do something, and search for a way of making it happen, then an opportunity will present itself. Don’t be fooled into thinking that opportunities will keep coming your way, it’s up to you to act and make the most of them. I’ve witnessed lots of people around me passing by opportunities. They have excuses as to why they couldn’t take the opportunities, but it’s rare that the opportunity ever opens back up again. Keep searching and grab the opportunities.
14) Self reliance.
Self sufficiency and reliance goes well beyond growing vegetables in the garden. Call me paranoid, but I don’t trust anyone that hasn’t got my best interests at the forefront of their motivation. I trust myself, Mr SN, my close friends and family, but it stops there. This extends to companies, banks, drug companies and governments. I don’t think I’ll succeed if I leave it up to them. They have their place, don’t get me wrong, but I won’t leave my destiny in their hands.
I’m responsible for making my dream happen, no-one else. Lots of people are motivated by their own gain, I try to make sure I’m not trodden on by them. Companies are driven by money and don’t care about me. I avoid being tricked by advertisements and promises made by them. Governments are driven by control of the population, their decisions are not motivated by individual people. Banks are businesses, they don’t loan me money because they are worried about me. Drug companies are profiteers, I’m cautious about their genuine care for my wellbeing. Do I live in a state of paranoia? No absolutely not. I just try not to place my destiny in the hands of people or companies that have ulterior motives.
15) Don’t leave a trail of destruction behind you.
If achieving your dreams and goals comes at the expense of treading on other people, inflicting negative consequences, exploiting others or hurting animals and nature, then you’ve gone wrong. Success should be driven by passion and love, not greed and selfishness.
So, that’s about everything I could think of. By using these strategies, we’ve managed to achieve our dreams. Do you think there’s a secret to success? Have you used any of the above techniques? Do you have any that I haven’t listed above? Let me know.
Never miss a thing! If you’d like to be alerted of new blog posts, subscribe to our newsletter.