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Health & Balance

How to Get the Life You Want

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Ask yourself: Are you ready to reach for something really huge that you never thought you could accomplish?

Write a book or go back to school or renovate your home or start a volunteer group or...?

Your dream is a capital-B big one—and it feels like a mountain you're not sure you can climb. "These are 'wouldn't it be great if...' dreams," says Fortgang. "What's difficult about them is that people get tripped up by the 'how.' It's such a huge undertaking that you feel like you need to know how to do the whole thing from the get-go—and because you can't see the end, you think you don't know how to start."

That's what happened to 40-year-old Cate Colburn-Smith of Boulder, CO, who sat on the idea for her book, The Milk Memos, for two years before she finally went ahead and decided to do something about it. "I thought it would be impossible because I didn't know anything about publishing," she says. "But the experience taught me that it's okay to just start doing the work before you really know what you're doing." To jump right in:

Step 1: Hunt and gather.

Get your hands on any info you can find about what it'll take to attain your goal. Read online, check out books and magazines, investigate courses and local adult-education centers and colleges, and talk to people who've done what you want to do. Don't know anyone with "connections"? Call associations that represent the subject area that interests you (if you want to become a massage therapist, call the American Massage Therapy Association) or visit businesses related to your dream (Want a horticulture degree? Chat up the salesperson at your local garden center). "This is a confidence-builder because it helps squash the feeling that you need to know it all from the outset," says Fortgang.

Step 2: Tackle your fear.

When you're embarking on something huge that you've never done before, it's completely natural to be scared. "You're out on a limb without a net and you don't know what the outcome will be," says Fortgang. Keep your nerves under control by having an "anchor"—a tangible reminder of your goal that you can refer to when you start to wonder why the heck you're putting yourself through all this. That anchor might be anything from a mission statement that you write in your journal, to an object you keep on your desk, to a person (your husband, your sister, a close friend) you can turn to for encouragement whenever you need it.

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