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How to Get the Life You Want

Step 1: Build in a "can't flake out" clause.

Onetime, daring dreams take guts, so find a way to avoid chickening out. Enlist a friend to join you in your skydiving adventure, and put down a nonrefundable deposit. Invite everyone you know to come to the poetry slam where you'll read your work. Busser turned her rock-star fantasy into a "Battle of the Bands" charity event, which meant she had to get on stage no matter what. "The experience taught me that I could be okay with being nervous and just relinquish control and go for it," she says. "It was one of the most amazing—and liberating—feelings I've ever experienced!"

Step 2: Use your skills.

So what if you've never run more than three miles? Use the talents you already have as a tool kit for training for that marathon: Think of times when you used the mind-over-matter discipline your goal requires (Hel-lo! Childbirth?). Busser, a human resources consultant, used her business skills when she pitched her fund-raiser concept to a community group, who loved her idea and put the plan in motion.

Step 3: Uncover your deeper dream.

Ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?" If it's just to have fun, great! But under-the-surface reasons are worth exploring: Your mountain-climbing dream might actually symbolize a desire to prove to yourself that you're brave enough to tackle another difficult obstacle in your life. Your wish to see the European city that your grandparents emigrated from may represent a yearning to strengthen your family ties at home. Once you've figured out what's really behind your "just once" fantasy, you'll be that much more motivated to give both pursuits your all!

Whatever your goal, you've already got the tools to stop dreaming and start doing.

"Once you've cut through all the baloney and the beliefs that have held you back," says Fortgang, "there's no limit to what you can achieve." And here's a bonus: Being true to yourself by following your heart's desire benefits not only you, but also the people you love. That's because giving to yourself recharges your spirit - which enables you to give more of yourself as a wife, a mom, a friend. The bottom line: Being 100 percent who you are—not 75 percent, and not 86.7 percent—is the not-so-hidden key to a happier life. And what could be more important than that?


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