How to Turn Intrapreneur Dreams into Reality
Passionate people like you dream big. But it begs the question – do you really know how to turn your big dreams into your reality?
You’re not alone if you struggle with this…
Let’s envision you work for a medium-sized NGO based in Paris, France that specializes in creating international exchanges for French-speaking students ages 10 to 16.
You’re currently on your honeymoon in Botswana. Based on a friend’s recommendation, you visit an outdoor education centre for adults based in the expansive Okavango Delta, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
This morning at dawn, you set out on a safari adventure. A trained local guide ushers you and your partner onto a small boat. Over the next three hours, he teaches you about the local species, the climate, and the political and environmental challenges the region is facing.
You’ve been taking pictures left, right and centre with your new camera you received as a wedding gift. You’ve counted upwards of 50 graceful antelopes! But the highlight had to have been spotting the enormous hippopotamus. You’d never seen one in the wild before. What a morning!
In the afternoon, you find yourself having a lively conversation with Betty Jones, a retired primary school teacher from California. All of a sudden, a goose bump inducing idea comes to you…
Over the next four wine-infused evenings at the Centre, your idea turns into an ambitious dream.
Your plan is to create an outdoor education centre for low-income, French-speaking young students from around the world. They would visit the centre for week-long study trips and stay housed in a lodge that could accommodate 20-students at any given time throughout the year.
You’d influence your NGO to get behind it and then you’d move to Botswana and personally run the centre. The funding would come from the French companies that already support your NGO as you think they would be keen to invest in a science and education programme for young students.
The students themselves would be selected based on their enthusiasm for biology, their academic results, their expressed desire to pursue further academic studies in the sciences, and their financial need. They’d go back to their home countries inspired to work hard at their academic pursuits. You’d then work with the French companies to help create a university scholarship programme for the students who visited the centre.
Your body is overcome with a warm sensation every time you picture the expression of awe that would come over a 12-year old budding scientists face as he sees a majestic African Bush Elephant for the very first time. You can’t help but smile when you think of how a 15-year old girl from the impoverished outskirts of Marseille in Southern France would be beaming with joy when she witnesses for the very first time an African Sacred Ibis in flight, a bird once worshiped by ancient Egyptians.
You hear clearly the stimulating discussions you would have with the experts you would invite to lead the eye-opening courses the visiting students would attend. A rush of energy moves through your body as you think about sharing the success stories with your corporate funders, and your colleagues back at headquarters in Paris.
When you board your plane back to Paris after your four-week holiday, all tanned and energized, you take a minute to turn around and look out over the dusty runway and vow to yourself that you’ll turn your dream into reality.
Back in Paris, nothing has changed at the office. You decide not to share your ambitious dream with your boss just yet. You don’t want it tainted.
Within three weeks of returning, you have called two companies that could potentially build the lodge, spent an evening looking up airfares, hotels and transportation options for the return visit you hope to have in six-months time, and you couldn’t help yourself, over a glass of wine after work last Tuesday you told two of your closest colleagues of your plans. They loved it!
Fast-forward five years. You’re happily married. You’re the parent of two healthy three-year old twin boys. You’ve just taken on a challenging new role as Fundraising Director at the very same medium-sized NGO in Paris.
In those five years, you never once returned to Botswana. And yet your dream of inspiring budding French scientists in the wilds of Africa is never too far from your thoughts.
Some days you think to yourself “What if?” and other days you think, “This is still my dream.”
You know how lucky you are with everything you have, but you can’t help but want this too.
Every year come January, you find yourself quietly repeating the same words: “This year WILL be different. This year… I’ll really DO IT.”
So what happened? Where did you go wrong? Or did you?
Having ambitious dreams can make our lives very rich. They inspire us to stretch beyond what we believe is possible for ourselves. The benefits we gain along the road to achieving our dreams are substantial – heightened confidence, happiness and a genuine sense of fulfilment.
On the other hand, ambitious dreams that we haven’t turned into realistic, ambitious goals have the potential to have a negative effect on us. In particular, the thoughts that can creep into our minds around how we haven’t lived up to our potential can cause us a great deal of stress, damage to our confidence, and lead us to feel unhappy and unfulfilled despite all of the other wonderful things we have already achieved in our lives.
So what is the answer? How can we have it all – good health, love, happiness and to save the world?
The only way to find out if you can have it all is if you make a plan to turn your ambitious dreams into realistic, ambitious goals. It requires you to move beyond the beautifully optimistic world of your vision, and take the time to think through and plan out exactly what it would require to turn your dream into your reality.
Take for example your life as the French NGO worker. When you returned to Paris you were still living in the bubble of your beautiful dream. What could you have done differently to set yourself up for success?
Thousands of people work with coaches every day to empower them to turn their ambitious dreams into realistic, ambitious goals. If you want to try self-coaching yourself, here are a few simple questions you could start with:
1. What are the different dreams I have? (Think professional and personal. Unlock your creative right brain by using a blank piece of paper to draw out what your dream life looks like. You may surprise yourself with what you discover!)
2. What are the steps I’d need to take in order to turn each of my dreams into my reality?
3. How would dedicating myself to achieving my dreams impact my partner or children’s ability to achieve their own dreams?
4. How could I balance all of my/our dreams simultaneously?
5. What sacrifices/trade-offs would I be willing to make?
6. Can I realistically achieve each of the steps I’ll need to take to achieve my dreams right now given the skills I have, stage of life I’m in, lifestyle I lead, responsibilities I have, etc?
7. If not, what changes would I need to make in order to make each step realistic to achieve, and when would I need to do this?
8. Do I like the reality of what it’ll take to realize my dreams, or do I prefer the pleasure of dreaming about it?
9. Am I confident I can do it, and committed to going after it?
10. What time today do I start?
If you really want it all, you’ve got to put in the time and effort to move your dream out of your head and into reality.
Maybe you ask yourself slightly different questions. If so, please do share with all of us readers. We’ll all benefit from learning your secret to success!
This is part of a new bi-weekly series on Intrapreneurship and Personal Resilience, authored by Heidi Kikoler.
Heidi Kikoler is a Resilience and Effectiveness Coach for Internal Change Agents. Having been a social intrapreneur herself at Sir Richard Branson’s corporate foundation, she is uniquely placed to understand the mindset and unique challenges faced by employees seeking greater meaning in their work, and those on a mission to change their businesses and organisations into forces for good from the inside out. She has spent over 6 years working with social intrapreneurs, innovators, corporate responsibility professionals, and third-sector employees. She applies proven personal development and coaching techniques to help change agents find solutions to the challenges they face in staying effective, resilient, and feeling fulfilled. Heidi regularly explores this often unspoken, but incredibly important area, in her blog We Are Good Rebels.
She is an advisor to the League of Intrapreneurs, and a member of The International Coach Federation and The Human Agency. Heidi has honed her niche skillset in, and deepened her passion for coaching, social intrapreneurship, and corporate social innovation through working closely with many leading thinkers, brands, and change agents, including: The University of Oxford, Virgin Unite, Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic, The League of Intrapreneurs, Ashoka, Shell, BP, Imaginals, and Burton Snowboard’s Chill Foundation.
She has trained with Coaching Development in London, earned a MSc from Oxford in Environmental Change and Management, and a BBA from the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Canada.