In Los Angeles (among other places), today is the day we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Most people think of this as a “black” holiday, as Martin Luther King Jr was a big proponent of civil rights.
The reason, however, that I’m writing about him today is because of something more universal. Something that applies to each and every one of us listening here today.
Read the following excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
Now, what did you just read? Did he say, “I have a dream that I will be able to ride in the front of a bus?” Did he say, “ I have a dream that I will be famous and get a holiday named after me?” No. He had a dream that was larger than himself.
When Neil Armstrong took those famous first steps on the moon, what did he say? Did he say, “Woo hoo. I achieved my goal I’m standing on the moon!” No. He said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Do you see the connection here? Do you see what’s important? These men… ALL great men and women, really, have a dream. A dream that is bigger than their individual goals. It’s a dream that impacts all of mankind.
Do YOU have a dream?
One of the keys to achieving your personal goals is to develop them out of a larger sense of purpose. Sure, it’s nice to have “Success.” You can buy nice toys, go great places, and have a lot of fun. But, is that why we are here? Is that why you were born—to get a nice car and take exciting vacations?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, no. That’s not why you were put on this earth. Each one of us here is put on earth to make a difference. To make the world better than it was before you got here.
“Dr Traci! That sounds kind of lofty, don’t you think. I can’t make a difference in the world. I can barely make it through my day!!”
Did you ever stop to think that maybe the reason you’re having trouble getting motivated to achieve your personal goals is because you haven’t connected them to a dream?
Let’s get specific here. What in the world would YOU like to see changed? What have you seen that made you feel, “That is NOT fair. Things like that shouldn’t happen.” For every one of you, it’s going to be a different thing. My sister, for example is PASSIONATE about animals. She is one of the most passionate animal rights activists I have ever met. That passion keeps her up a night, writing letters, taking action. She’s not “too tired” to take action, because she believes in her cause.
I know another fellow who has been battling a life threatening illness for the past 15+ years. He’s been on disability and unable to work. And yet, he is the busiest “retired” guy I know, because he volunteers for the charities that are important to him. He, more than anyone I know, has a GOOD excuse to say, “I can’t do it.” But he does. You know why? He says, “I want to leave the world a better place for me having been in it.”
So, what’s your dream? If you had a magic wand (and you do, by the way, it’s called your mind) if you had a magic wand, what would you change? Hunger? Poverty? The environment? Education? Every single person listening to this cares about SOMETHING. The key to personal success is to connect your goals to a bigger cause. A bigger dream. What happens then is that it takes on a life of its own. You get swept up into it, and suddenly, you’ve got more energy, more passion, more LIFE than you ever thought possible.
Okay, so how do you connect your personal goals to a bigger vision? I’ll give you my personal example. I just recently lost about 35 pounds. Why? Yes, so I can look good in my jeans. Yes, so that my teenage daughter isn’t hotter than her mom. That is definitely part of it.
But you know why else? Because I have been hearing the statistics that say that two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. That is horrible to me. And yet, I was one of them! How can I tell people to improve their lives if I can’t even do it myself? So, for me, losing weight is connected to my personal dream of helping people live their best lives.
What about money? How can getting rich be connected to some altruistic goal? Let me ask you this. Who donates more to charity, Oprah Winfrey or me. Who builds schools, rescues starving children in Africa, and achieves every other socially responsible goal—the person with money, or the person struggling to pay their rent?
You need money to make a difference in the world. Now, that isn’t an excuse to put off your dream, but it is a darn good reason for getting rich, don’t you think?
I always say that money is like a naked two year old getting ready for a bath. What happens when you try and get your kid to take a bath? They run down the hall the other direction. Money is like that. When you go after money directly, it runs away. You have to get the 2 year old interested in the bath. “Wow, look at these bubbles. These toys sure look like they are having fun…” The kid comes to check out the bath because he’s interested in it. Money will come to you when you have something interesting to do with it!
Take a look at your biggest goal. The one you want more than all of the others. Look at that goal and ask, “What is the dream that is connected with that goal?” Once you see that connection, between your personal goal and the dream that goes with it, watch and see what happens to you. You’re going to find that you are more motivated, more energized, and more passionate than you’ve EVER felt before.
Finally, remember this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” Now, go take a step in the direction of your dreams…