52 Ways to Dream Big

Here it is. Your Dream Big Guide to Awesomeness! In fact, no more shooting stars and eyelashes and birthday candles! For you, dreaming isn’t mere wishing; your dreams are hopeful, purposeful, life-giving, and inspiring.

That’s why I’m giving you 52 personal and research-proven ways to dream big and live life with more meaning and purpose than you ever imagined possible!

I know what you are thinking, “Chantel, that sounds like a lot of work! Aren’t you the person who’s always telling us to find more rest?” (Yes, that’s me. Breathe easy.) I am definitely not saying you have to add fifty-two things to a to-do list that’s already a mile long. Who wants more work? Trust me. I know you’d love nothing more than to be sitting on a beach right now with a good book, a frosty drink, and endless hours to daydream your life away.

This is not about more work. It’s about creating systems that payoff and asking thoughtful questions that help us see things in a new way so we can make our secret wishes into real-life dreams come true. One small action step every week for the next year will help us do this together.

Join me, and I promise you that next year not only will your own life feel more hopeful, but you’ll also be able to encourage others to be more purposeful and inspiring too.

1. Dream big. You are never given a wish without the power to make it come true.—Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Everybody has a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. That’s called a BHAG in the biz, and without one you’ll be hard-pressed to make anything significant happen. With one, however, you can make a plan for achieving just about anything. What’s your wish, your Big Hairy Audacious Goal? Write it down and post it where you can see it every day.

2. The goal is not to be better than everyone else, but to be better than you were yesterday.  

Comparison steals your joy and paralyzes you from acting on your goals. You can commit to learning from your mentors, the material around you, and of course-- your mistakes. A little bit better than you were yesterday is a worthy achievement.

3. Magnify the moments that energize you, give you life, and make you feel strong.

Our brains have been designed to crave routine. We instinctively look for patterns in order to make sense of the world. While these systems are necessary and good, we also need to create space for inspiration to thrive.  An extra 30 minutes doing something you love is time well spent. These moments are not wasted. They are the wellspring of life!

4. Every ending is an opportunity for a new beginning.

Did you know you are twice as likely to run a marathon at age 29 than at age 28 or 30? Endings have the power to galvanize us. Is there a season in your life that’s coming to an end right now? Could this be an opportunity for a new beginning?

5. Somebody once told me that growing up is about letting go of the things you shouldn’t have to care about anymore.

I own a small, iron casting of a pair of hands. It might has well have been carved from my own flesh. The hands, cupped in hopeful anticipation, gently cradle an unseen blessing, upturned and open and ready. The casting is a reminder not to close my hands so tight around the things I have. What are you holding onto?  Why are you afraid to let go? Closed hands and closed hearts keep the generosity that accompanies shared dreams far away.

6. Pay attention to the tension in your life.

Think about your favorite story. Notice how the tension rises toward the climax. The tension is the thing that keeps you turning the pages. You can’t wait to find out what happens next! And you know things are probably going to get worse before they get better. If the heroes in our favorite books can keep going, we can too! Tension shouldn’t paralyze you. Instead, it should be the thing that keeps you moving in the direction of your dreams. Pay attention to the tension, but keep going.

7. Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it can save the girl. What are you curious about? Time to put on your explorer hat!

Maybe my favorite thing about living in this day and age is that I can literally find out anything about anything simply by typing in my most pressing question into a simple Google search. I’ve always thought that curious people were the most interesting people because they never stop learning. Best of all, they take what they learn and apply their newfound knowledge to problems that need solving. If you’re curious about something, take time to ponder it. You might not have a breakthrough, but you will definitely learn something new.

8. A picture is worth 1,000 words and also 1,000 emotions.

Find a photo on your phone that brings back a happy memory. If you’re on Facebook, the world’s most notorious highlight reel, then you know the app is very good at reminding us of what was important a year or more ago. Go to today’s “This Day” feature and find out what you posted in the past. May it lighten your heart and ignite a spark in your soul today.

9. Spend your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives.

The happiest people in the world are those that do the most for others. And while this may seem counter-intuitive, the reality is that an investment in someone else is an investment in yourself. Relationships teach us about life, promote empathy, encourage generosity, and create opportunities for mutual support. Whenever possible, try to connect with people who may not be like you. You may find yourself saying, “Wow—I really like you!”

10. Cherish the children.

Leonard Bernstein once said that young people are eager, unprejudiced, curious, open, and enthusiastic. I wish he would have said that about all the grownups he knows, but he didn’t—he was talking about kids! I also wish I could just tell you to be all those wonderful things, but that’s hard; let me tell you about an easier way! Simply pay attention to the kids in your life. If you’re a mom, that’s easy. If you’re a teacher, you definitely have the access. But what if you’re a newly minted grown up fresh out of college yourself or what if you’re an empty nester? You can still find ways to engage with young people. Whether that’s leading a small group at your church, volunteering in your community, or simply hanging out where kids hang out, you’ll find you can learn a lot just by being near them. What’s your favorite kid-tested character trait? How can you incorporate more of that into your everyday life?

11. All beauty is an outward expression of an inner good.

It goes without saying that beautiful things are inherently inspiring. You can probably think of a favorite flower, fragrance, song, sunset, or painting. Something you truly love. You smile when you gaze upon it or wear it or smell it or listen to it or whatever. Beauty and creativity go hand-in-hand. Where can you curate more beauty?

12. Reach out to people doing things you admire.

A mentor of mine wrote a newspaper editorial about the recent school shootings around the country. Although pressed about what went wrong, he decided to focus instead on what the public could have done right. This is what he said: “Kids need mentors who believe in them. They need someone who ‘has their back’ and is willing to walk alongside them during all the challenging times ahead.” All of us—not just kids—need someone like that. Reach out to someone you admire. Maybe you trust them because you’ve seen their character in action up close and personal. Or maybe you’ve just admired the work they’ve done from afar. Ask permission to share your dream. A good mentor will support you, encourage you, and if necessary, challenge you to keep the dream alive. One note: asking can be scary. The worst that can happen is that they say no. If that does happen, you have options. Co-working spaces, clubs, and networking organizations are great places to connect with people on the same path as you. And if you’re scared someone might steal your idea, let me encourage you by affirming the reality that most people don’t want to steal your idea; they actually want to help you with your idea.

13. Live in the moment.

Kids are really good at living in the moment. They are really bad at delayed gratification. For the purpose of this post, we’re just going to focus on what’s good about living in the moment. I’ve noticed that whenever I have a bad dream it’s because I’m either dwelling on something bad that happened in the past or worrying about an unknown future. Neither is healthy. But when I choose to live in the moment I am able to take hold of the best of what the moment has to offer and let go of all the anxiety the future threatens. Living in the moment means more fun, less dread. More inspiration, less worry. More gratitude, less comparison. Keep your dream alive by celebrating the moments that matter today.

14. Listen to the quiet voice inside your head. What is it telling you to do?

Do you remember George Costanza of Seinfeld fame? In one episode, Jerry asks George, “What’s the little man in your head telling you to do?” And George screams, “My little man is an IDIOT!” But you, my friend, are not an idiot. You already know what to do. My pastor, Andy Stanley, has a little trick he calls “The Best Question Ever.”  When in doubt, say, “Given my past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?” When you make decisions through this filter, you can rest assured that the voice inside of you won’t steer you in the wrong direction.

15. Your life is a work of art. Be inspired by it.

The first time somebody told me my life was a work of art, I think I laughed out loud. Me? A work of art? But when I think about my friends or my kids or my husband, I am often in awe. You see, there is no one else in the entire world quite like them. Each of these special people brings a unique contribution to the world, and you do too. Someone needs to hear your voice or read your words or experience your music. You are the only one. You and I get this one life, and Mother Nature is a mad scientist. Don’t believe the lie that you are average. Because you are here—in this time, in this place—you are extraordinary. Make a list of the things you love about you. If this is too hard, ask the person closest to you. These are your first clues about the work you were made to do. Yes, you are a work of art, and the world should be inspired by it!

16. Be generous with your words.

Our words matter. You know this because you’ve probably been hurt by careless words said by someone you thought was important. Maybe you’ve been carrying that hurt around with you for many years. Is it getting heavy? You have permission to drop it. Today, I want you to remember the life-giving words that have been uttered on your behalf. Who told you that you would make a great teacher one day or that you are a good mom or that you make the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole wide world? How did you feel on that day? You probably don’t even know about the silent prayers that have gone up to heaven on your behalf. Do you think that you could do that for someone else? Speak life, say a prayer for someone else, and the quality of your life will immediately improve.

17. Those who can see the imagined can do the impossible.

My friend Jimmy Starnes is a life coach, and he likes to do an exercise where he asks participants to create a dream board for their lives one year, three years, five years, and ten years in the future. The first time I did this exercise I was very intimidated because I feel like I’m so bad at processing out loud what I’m thinking. But you can do it. Close your eyes, turn off your phone, and do nothing. Let your mind wander as you dream big dreams and paint a picture in your head of what that life looks like. Then tell someone what you see. Write it down. When I did this exercise and actually put the words on paper, I literally saw my dreams taking shape on the page in front of me. My ideas suddenly didn’t seem so far-fetched. I had a plan, and I knew where to start. The first step was right there in black and white and staring me in the face.

18. Let your determination outpace your fear.

It’s normal to feel afraid, but fear can paralyze you. Or it can catalyze you. When the voice in your head begins to plant seeds of doubt, you’ll have to dig deep to uproot the source of the negativity. Here’s how:

  1. Focus on the things you can control and let go of the ones you can’t.
  2. Gratitude crushes fear. Give thanks for all the wins (small and large!)
  3. Fear tends to grow in darkness. Speak your fears out loud, and bring them into the light. You’ll find their power diminish.
  4. Think about what you were doing when you felt the bravest. May it be a memory that gives you courage today.

Feel better?

19. Ask the right questions.

This is easier than you think. The BEST question you can ask about your dream is “Why?” Why this dream? Why right now? Why is it important to you? How will it change the world? How will it change your world? When you find your “why,” you’ll discover the real reason the dream bubbled up in the first place. Simon Sinek authored a famous book called, Start with Why. Click on the “Friend’s Exercise” he developed and take the first step toward discovering your own WHY.

20. Be generous.

Someone once told me that the number one quality they value in another person is generosity. You may be thinking, “But I don’t have any money! How can I be generous when I feel so poor?” Generosity is simply an ability to leverage what God has given you for the benefit of someone else. Do you have a beautiful voice? Are you good with words? Do you have an extra hour to spend with someone who needs you? The greater generosity you show toward other people, the greater the return will be.  Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Your acts of generosity will do that—not only for you, but for others as well.

21. Everybody has something to learn, and everybody has something to teach.

I collect books. Not on purpose. Ok. Definitely on purpose. I just really like to buy books. There’s a pile on the desk in my office. A stack on the desk in the kitchen. Even a couple shoved under the seats in my car. Not to mention the boxes filled to the brim in my basement. Every time someone tells me about a book they liked, I add it to my list. But I don’t just collect them; I actually read them, too. The biggest thing I’ve learned from all my book reading is that I still have a lot to learn. Every new book inspires new questions. Never stop asking questions. That’s how you make sense of the world, but also—when you get a chance—share what you’ve learned. When we teach what we’ve learned the information becomes imprinted on our own brains. We are able to assimilate the new information and apply it to new problems. Learning and teaching go together like chocolate and peanut butter. (You can have one without the other, but the two together are oh so delicious!)

22. Whatever you say yes to, be all in.

I don’t remember who said it, but basically the idea is if it isn’t a “hell yes” then it’s a “no.” So many people don’t realize their dreams because they’ve filled up their lives with all kinds of things that don’t go hand in hand with what they really want. You can (and should) say no to almost every opportunity that comes your way. I hope that gives you permission to gently and kindly decline that place on the PTA board—if that’s truly not your thing. If it is, then go for it. But remember, we need to focus on the things that are life giving, not life draining. Saying no to good things creates space for saying yes to the best.

23. Decide what you want to be most thankful for one year from now.

Whether you’re working on your life’s dream or working at your 9-5, consider what it would look like to create a timeline for every win along the way. Since I have a daughter who just began her first year of college, one year from now I’d like to be thankful that she is making wise decisions. So what can I do TODAY to ensure that happens? Wait—what should I have been doing for the last 18 years to ensure that happens? Every dream should begin with the end in mind. Maybe you need longer than a year to make your dreams come true, but you can mark every milestone along the timeline with a celebration of gratitude. You’ll be glad you did!

24. Stop doing something you love if it’s not delivering the results you want.

My friend and mentor, Jeff Shinabarger, likes to say there’s a difference between ending something and quitting something. Last year, I decided to let go of a product associated with my nonprofit, Forever We. For four years, my business partner, Ginny, and I partnered with hospitals across the country to deliver dolls and books to kids with cancer. It was good. It was meaningful. It made a difference. But when I asked myself if we were the only ones who could do that work or if anyone would miss us when we were gone, the answer was clear. I needed to stop. Saying goodbye to Forever We felt sad, but it freed me up do what I really love—which is to focus on our Adventure Club for 4th and 5th grade girls. Ultimately, I found something that was better aligned with my personal gifts and goals. Don’t be afraid to stop doing something you love if it’s not delivering the results you want.

25. Create space for the things that make you smile.

My friend, Melanie, is a zombie extra in the TV series The Walking Dead. She doesn’t mind being ready for a 4:30 AM casting call and enduring the tedious hours of make-up and costuming that make her look downright creepy. Melanie loves it. We always joke that she’s “living the dream” because Melanie loves zombies, and even if she wasn’t an extra on this show, it’s a genre she knows all too well. (One of her all-time favorite books is Frankenstein). As a busy mom to three high-energy kids and a writer herself, being an extra energizes Melanie. When she talks about The Walking Dead, she sports a smile that lights up the room. What can you do that will make you smile like that?

26. Become an expert on something this year.

Okay, we all know that to truly become an expert in something you need to dedicate a whopping 10,000 hours of practice. Who has time for that? No. Seriously. Who has time for that? You do! It’s amazing how I think I don’t have time for this or that, but the reality is that I always find time for the things I want to do. At this point, I think I’m an expert online shopper. If you could choose one thing to become really, really, good at this year, what would it be? Do you light up when someone talks about cooking or decorating or starting a new business? If you feel like you don’t have time to start something new, think about what you’re already doing and commit more time to doing it well (For the record, I do not recommend online shopping). When you become an expert in shining your sink or making an amazing five course dinner or anything else that makes you happy, you gain confidence in seeing a challenge through to the end.

27. Every success story has a tinge of failure.

Oh how I wish this weren’t true! But failure is important. We learn who we are and what we are capable of when we fail. Plus, the more practice you have sitting in your own pain, the better you become at understanding someone else’s. Shared experiences create connection, and new connections are often the impetus for creative genius. Flaws and strengths work together to create complete, beautiful people. Don’t run away from your failure or deny that it happened. This is the mystery of failure, and it’s okay to sit with it for awhile.

28. Slow down.

Do you ever feel like you’re in one of those spinning teacups at Disney World and the earth is whirling around you? Some seasons are busier than others. I used to think Christmas was crazy, but once the kids started school, May made it its mission to take me down. It took me a decade before I finally began planning ahead for May’s mayhem. Between teacher appreciation and end-of-year parties, and field trips, and sports tournaments, and dance recitals and all the spring birthdays, I just couldn’t keep up. But birthdays no longer take me by surprise. I have a gift closet that I keep stocked year-round, and teachers get gift cards (Trust me, that’s what they really want). April and May are my favorite months of the year. The weather is fabulous. All I want to do is sit on my back deck, smell that freshly cut grass, and watch the leaves dance in the wind. It’s glorious! I don’t want to miss a single second. That’s why I had to figure out ways to slow it down. What are you missing while you’re running to and fro? How can you savor a moment, even if it is just a moment? Here are some ideas:

  1. Become a noticer of life. Write down what you see.
  2. Get up earlier—not because you have to, but because you want to.
  3. Take lots and lots of photos. You may not get to enjoy that sunset for as long as you want, but you can tuck the picture away as a special reminder that indeed, this was a glorious day.

29. Remember that ideas and innovation happen in the negative space.

I have a confession: I’m a recovering ellipsis offender. An ellipsis is that dot dot dot that comes at the end of the sentence. You’re not really supposed to use them in casual writing. It can be seen as lazy. I mean, if you have something more to say, then just say it! But I always felt like an ellipsis gave me permission to let my thoughts wander. That was before an actual professional writer pointed out that amateurs often use them when they really don’t know how to finish their thought. Busted! I think real-life ellipses are okay, though. You may feel like you have no time for wandering thoughts. The bank account is empty, the calendar is full, and your life is crazy. You can’t even go to the bathroom by yourself! I understand. This week, when you have a minute in the carpool line or while you’re waiting for the kids to come downstairs for breakfast, don’t pick up your phone. Sit in the silence. It will be scary at first. It will be hard. You will be fidgety, and you may even think to yourself, “This is such a waste of time!” Let me assure you it’s not. If you want to hear the voice of God, you’ve got to get quiet. Invite the ellipsis back into your life.

30. Surround yourself with courageous people.

Think about the most fearless person you know. What hard choices has she made? What have been the result? You never know what one courageous choice you make today will inspire another person. Courage is its own ripple effect. If you were being driven by courage today, what would you do?

31. Spend as little time as possible doing the things you hate.

Divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants—LOVE to Do, MUST do, CAN do, and SHOULD do. Now think about the things you do every single day. The things you do on a weekly basis. Every month. Every year. Assign each task to its appropriate column. Is there anything on the list that you simply hate doing? Is there anything you can assign to someone else? Maybe that means giving your kids more chores, or maybe it means you need to hire some outside help. Maybe the things you hate wouldn’t be all that bad if you just had someone to help you do them. Doing more of what you love and less of what you hate seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how much brain power and time is wasted on the things that drain energy from us. Focus instead on the things that bring you joy and give you life!

32. Assign meaning to your least important work.

Tiffany Dufu, author of Drop the Ball, says” the root cause of burnout is not that we have too much to do; it’s the feeling that the things we do aren’t meaningful or don’t reflect who we really are.” I spent too many years feeling overworked and undervalued. The truth was that I wasn’t really overworked, and the work I was doing was both compensated and appreciated, but—and this is huge—I didn’t love the work. When I’m doing what I love, I’ll get up early, work late, and talk your ear off about it if you’ll give me the time. If you’re feeling caught up in a job you can’t quit—yet—don’t despair. Human beings also have a unique ability to assign meaning to things. And just because you’re doing something you don’t love right now doesn’t mean you’ll be doing that thing forever. In the meantime, what can you learn? Who can you meet? How can you prepare for what’s next?

33. Meet people where they are, not where you are.

One of the greatest gifts anyone could ever give you is the gift of themselves. Wherever your path takes you on the way to your dream, make time for the people that cross it. A few years ago, one of my best friends met a family with a son battling cancer. This family lived just eight miles from me, and my friend asked me to drop in on them, see if they needed anything, and maybe deliver a dinner or two. For the next six months, our family joined theirs on what turned out to be a very painful journey. It was one that would end up shaping both our lives in unimaginable ways. Interruptions disguised as privileges are the best kind of interruptions. My new friends taught me more about empathy and generosity than I could have ever learned on my own.

34. Let go.

Is there anything you need to let go of? My husband says I’m a hoarder. Not in the traditional sense. Like the kind you see on TV. You know the ones—newspaper piles spanning four decades, leftovers from five years ago, and shelves full of old cans, paper towel rolls, and empty cereal boxes. I’m not like that. But I am sentimental. I keep letters and photos and books. So many books. Recently, we put our house on the market, and I had to consolidate my favorite keepsakes. We’re getting ready to move into a house almost half the size of our current one, and I just can’t take it all with me. Maybe, like me, you’ve had to let go of some physical things or maybe you need to let go of perfection. Let go of the perfect house and the perfect kids and perfect marriage. Let go of the things that clutter your mind and choke your soul. Experience the freedom that accompanies an open-handed way of life.

35. Cultivate a personal board of directors.

If you’re a CEO or you’ve ever served on a nonprofit, then you know what I’m talking about. But you don’t have to have a C-suite job to reap the benefits of a C-suite life. There’s a “sweet” life available to all of us, and here’s some ideas to get you on track. Your personal board of directors might look a little different than this one, but here’s a framework for getting started:

  • Networker—Someone who can introduce you to people who might be able to help you on the way to your dream.
  • Clarifier—Someone who asks clear questions
  • Challenger—Someone who inspires you to live fearlessly
  • Influencer—Someone with resources who can help make things happen for you.
  • Wise Elder—Someone with experience and insight
  • Advocate—Someone who believes in you and will help pave the way for your success.

Unlike a corporation, you don’t have to have official quarterly meetings with your personal board of directors, but you should check in with each one regularly. We are always better together.

36. Read. Read. Read.

A lot of people don’t like to read because they either feel like they’re not good at it or they don’t have time for it. If your job requires you to do a lot of reading—even if it’s policy updates or human resources manuals—you might feel like you want to gag if you see more words on paper. You don’t just have to read for knowledge, though. I like a good business book as much as the next person, but just as often you will find me with something fictional in my hands—and not just adult fiction either. I love a good children’s story. And this is why: Fictional stories make us believe that the impossible is possible. If we want to believe that we are worthy of our dreams, we have to read stories confirming it for other people. A good narrator on Audible can make you feel like you’re not “reading” at all. These are a few of my favorites. I’d love to hear yours!

  • Favorite All Time Fiction: The Book Thief and Les Miserables
  • Favorite Kids Fiction: Anything by Sharon Creech or Katherine Paterson
  • Favorite Business Book: Essentialism and The Magic of Moments
  • Favorite Biography: Loved the Audible versions of Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly
  • Favorite Writing Books: Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott and The Invisible Child by Katherine Paterson

37. Don’t let your subconscious off the hook.

“Never go to sleep without first making a request of your subconscious.—Thomas Edison.

How many times have you been just on the verge of drifting off to sleep when you had a profound idea? But instead of getting up and writing it down, you told yourself that you would remember it in the morning? If you’re like me, sleep convinced you to stay in bed, and the idea was carried off into dreamland, never to return. Try keeping a notebook next to your bed and immediately writing it down. Then make a request of your subconscious to tell you how to work it out while you’re sleeping. You’ll be surprised at the breakthroughs you’ll be able to summon.

38. Feeling stuck? Make your first task embarrassingly small.

This will jump start your brain into getting to work. I like to make a list as soon as I wake up. Be careful, though. There’s also a good argument for tackling the biggest, hardest thing on your list first, too. My suggestion is to first do the quick, easy thing and THEN jump into your hard task. If you try to do the hard thing first, you might end up just sitting at your desk staring into space and if you do more than one quick, easy thing you might spend your entire day working feverishly on a bunch of small stuff that doesn’t really matter. Make your easy thing something that helps you feel productive. For me, that’s making my bed and cleaning up the breakfast dishes. Once those two things are in order, I feel like I can conquer anything. If you’re a creative and you need to write, make your first task something like sending an encouraging note to a fried. Your easy thing should require you to exercise your brain, but it should still be easy.

39. Train yourself to not only handle, but also enjoy criticism.

I don’t know anybody who would say they enjoy being criticized, but the people I know who invite feedback the most often are the people who are doing the most interesting things; they are the ones who are putting themselves out there. As I’ve watched them in their roles, I’ve seen them get better and better at what they do—and that’s because they’ve been able to take criticism and apply it to the way they learn and grow.

40. Lack of resources is often one of the most critical ingredients of greatness.

Isn’t it true that the less we have the more creative we have to be? If you’ve ever seen a baby with nothing but a cardboard box, then you know this is true. The box becomes a boat, a house, a hat, or a stool. Maybe you remember your college or early adulthood years as one of few resources. What did you do? How did you cope? You got creative! Stop saying, “I can’t ___________ because I don’t have ________________. Think, instead, about all the things that are possible if you were to say, “I could if_______________ were true.” What do you really need for all your dreams to come true? How can you get creative with what you do have?

41. Prepare yourself for the adventure ahead.

Do you remember your first day of grade school? Do you remember everybody making a very big deal about it? Did you get a new outfit, crayon box, and backpack? I had a satchel with Miss Piggy on it. It was navy blue, and I wore a matching navy-blue jumper. That was the Kindergarten me. But every year after I prepared in much the same way. A first-day-of-school outfit. New school supplies. It was a ritual that set the stage for the year ahead. What do you need to do to prepare for your new adventure? Will you clear away a new work space? You don’t need anything fancy. Surround yourself with the things that inspire you. Purchase some new pens, some pretty paper—whatever it may be that you need to get to work. Preparation is  the best motivation.

42. Keep hope alive.

There’s something about hope that brightens even the darkest of days. It’s the reason people who’ve been given a terminal diagnosis keep on living in spite of debilitating pain and a dismal prognosis. It’s how parents who have missing children keep breathing. Hope is the thing that motivates athletes who are down by one with two outs and two strikes. Hope is a shooting star wrapped in a lottery ticket. You know you have a one in twenty-six million chance of actually winning, but hey—you can’t win if you don’t play. Freedom to dream begins with hope.

43. Finish this sentence. The future is______________.

Your attitude about the future determines your destination. Is yours foggy? Uncertain? Unknown? We live life based on a future we can’t wholly see or predict. That can feel a little scary. But fear has its gifts too. The gift of fear is faith and wisdom. Faith because you’ve seen what God can do and wisdom because you’ve seen what you can do. Together, the impossible is possible. You don’t have to be afraid of fear. Allow it to work for you. The future is good.

44. Make time for play.

Play is an essential part of the creative process. "The opposite of play is not work - the opposite of play is depression,” says Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, in his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. Exhaustion is not a status symbol, and productivity does not determine your self-worth. When you make time for play, you are filling up your replenishment cycle and creating space for ideas to mature.

45. Celebrate what God has given others; leverage what God has given you.

If you think this is something a preacher would say, you’re right. Andy Stanley says that comparison is a trap. It steals your joy. When you celebrate what God has given others and leverage what God has given you, you ensure the best of you gets combined with the best of them. Be inspired by your differences. You’ve heard there are no original ideas. I would disagree. Creativity is simply the joining of two or more seemingly unrelated concepts and applying what you’ve learned to solving an identified problem. I love the idea of being a problem solver. Do you?

46. Everyone needs someone to validate their dreams.

Sometimes we just need someone to tell us that our dream matters, that it’s achievable. Find someone you trust and tell them your dream. Our dreams are more likely to become real when we say them out loud, and the people that love us will love coming alongside us to help make those dreams come true. When I was a kid, my dream was to meet Soleil Moon Frye, start of the hit TV show, Punky Brewster. When my parents found out she would be in Atlanta for a television news interview on my birthday, they called the studio and set up a surprise meeting. It was the best day of my life.

47. Try something new.

The older I get, the more set in my ways I am. I don’t like cooked fruit. Roller coasters make me queasy. I rarely get in the ocean. But when I try something new, I not only feel refreshed, I also feel confident. I feel like I can do anything! If you want to do something you’ve never done before, you can’t keep doing things the same way you’ve always done them. Trying something new creates new synapses in your brain. These new networks may just jump-start a new way of thinking.

48. Get inspired.

Take a trip to the museum. Museums are so much more than quiet spaces where grade school kids on field trips look at art. Museums preserve history and shape what future generations think about the past. All kinds of art—theatre, books, paintings, sculpture—evoke feeling. Have you ever not been able to take your eyes off a piece of art? Listened to a piece of music on repeat? Sat glued to your seat at the end of a theatre production? Pay attention to that feeling. Why were you moved? What did you see? What did you hear?

49. Simplify your resolutions.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Join the club. About 40% of Americans make a resolution on January 1st. I used to think it was fun to dream about all the things I wanted to do. But most of the time I either ended up forgetting all about my resolution or gave up on it altogether because I didn’t follow the right protocol. You know, I didn’t write down SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) I ended up either frustrated or a failure or both. Now I just choose one word and make that my focus for the entire year. Rather than writing down a list of resolutions I’ll never remember, I’ve spent the last five years focusing instead on a single word. I love this method because every decision I make or opportunity that comes my way gets framed in terms of the one word I crafted to represent my desired future. This year’s word is Enthusiasm (which literally means “to be filled with the spirit of God.”) What’s yours?

50. Don’t Quit.

A business mentor once told me that success happens when you’re too stupid not to quit. I don’t want to be stupid, but I also don’t want to be called a quitter. We get excited about dreams when they first bubble up inside of us, but over time the hard work, long days, and sleepless nights necessary to actually make them come true can wear us down. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sounds a little too simple, doesn’t it? But I know from experience that whenever I’ve been jealous of someone else’s success, it’s because they took the steps necessary to get where they wanted to be and I didn’t. Now’s the time to baby step your way to a dream come true. Potholes and stumbling blocks, bridges and stepping stones, will all play a part in your success story.

51. Stay positive.

Did you know that negative thoughts actually cause inflammation in the brain? There are real physical changes that occur in our bodies when we’re feeling bad. Cortisol levels increase, and we end up sleeping poorly, gaining weight, and becoming depressed. If you’re feeling bad about something that has happened in your past, see if you can re-frame that event in terms of where God was when that happened to you. If you’re not a Christian, ask yourself where the helpers were during that difficult time. When you look for the helpers, your perspective about your situation changes. And when you begin to change the way you see things around you, the things around you will change with you.

52. You become what you believe you deserve.

Remember, this is your dream. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. Like all experience, it is intensely personal, and so while you may choose to share your dreams with those around you, you should know that they may become jealous or try to sabotage you on the way to your dream. You must resist the urge to give up. The people who care about you, who want the best for you, who are cheering you on when the chips are down, are the ones you need by your side. Stand up for yourself. Tell the truth about who you are. No apology necessary. You are worthy of every good thing that comes your way. Good luck!