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Don't Give Up On Your Dreams

Whenever I begin coaching a new business client, one of my first questions is always, "What goal or dream have you given up on?"

It may seem like a strange thing to ask. After all, my clients are high-achieving people who have every expectation of attaining their goals and dreams. That's one of the reasons they're working with me - so they can get there faster!

But even high-achieving people have unfulfilled ambitions. Big plans that seem, for one reason or another, less and less realistic as time goes on.

In answer to my question "what goal or dream have you given up on?" people have responded: climbing Mt. Everest, writing a best-selling novel, being a world-famous figure skater, being a concert pianist, being a CEO.

A person's abandoned dreams can offer a lot of insight into how they see themselves. What sort of person they consider themselves to be.

Maybe you've been telling yourself, "I'm a technical person. I don't relate well to people. I could never be a good manager."

Many times we've made the decision to give up based upon what we were told at a very early age. For instance, one of my clients always wanted to paint, but she never pursued it because her art teacher in elementary school told her she had no talent. The teacher actually said, "Put down the paint brush. You can't paint."

When I was invited to be president of the International Coach Federation of New England (ICF-NE), my first reaction (only in my head, thank goodness) was, "What? Are you kidding? I'm an introvert! I don't speak in front of large audiences. I only work with people one on one."

The next thing I knew, I was giving my acceptance speech for the ICF-NE Hall of Fame Induction in part for having served as their president.

Well, that wasn't really the next thing. First, I took a course called Speaking Circles taught by Carla Kimball. The program used positive feedback to give me confidence to be authentically present in front of an audience. Later, I took a course called Platinum Presence created and lead by Cheryl Dolan, which helped improve my speaking skills even more.

I've certainly had to shift how I see myself during this process. And I have not done it alone.

If you're like most people, there are certain skills that don't come naturally to you. That doesn't mean you can't learn these skills. Take courses. Read books. Find out if your company offers training in areas that will support you on your learning path. Or how about working with a business coach? A coach can help you identify where you want to grow, encourage you to create goals, and then partner with you in order to get there. When you're just starting out, it pays to be careful whom you tell about the changes you're trying to make. You need someone who will support you, not squash you.

My client, the one whose teacher told her to put down her paintbrush, has decided that that was only one person's opinion. She's going for it: she's taking art lessons, carrying a sketch pad with her, having fun with color.

Like the late-blooming artist, we often find it all too easy to pigeonhole ourselves, put ourselves into categories. We tell ourselves "I can't do that" and we believe it, so we don't even try.

How are you labeling yourself? What have you decided you're no good at? It's not too late to change that decision. But it helps to have someone who can give you positive support as you learn and grow.