If not, do you know what is stopping you? Who is the voice in your head that talks you out of going after what you really want for yourself and achieving your potential?

- by Heather Dranitsaris-Hilliard

This is top of mind for me as both friends and clients alike struggle to, not only follow their dreams, but feel safe to put them out there. Last week, two friends bailed on their dreams – one because of pressure from peers to start making more money, the other because she cannot see how to be a mother and pursue her career ambition. When helping a client to define her desired future state for her career, every time she said what she wanted, it was quickly followed with a ‘but that’s not possible, that doesn’t exist’.

Where do we learn to limit our dreams?

Yesterday, my 10 year old daughter’s teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, what she envisioned for her life when she was older in terms of her career, her home, her hobbies – in essence he asked her about her dreams. My daughter has a very clear vision of what she wants and it has not changed from the time she was 2 when she asked how she could get into the TV like kids that were on the shows she was watching.

Her teacher responded by telling her that it was unrealistic and that very, very few people who want to become stars ever do. He went on to tell her she would have to be a waitress and learn to live modestly because she was unlikely to achieve her ambition. When questioned by me, he said that he was hoping to ‘inspire them to start humbly’. Imagine my daughter’s confusion – that to be a star, she must first be a waitress and so needs to focus her plan on that goal instead. Imagine my confusion that dreaming requires us to be humble; there is an oxymoron in there somewhere.

Why do we bail on ourselves?

It doesn’t surprise me, but it saddens me to see how we bail on ourselves and achieving our potential. Too often, people reject the dreams of others, dismissing them as being impractical and so we start to do the same towards our own dreams. When I decided to change my business focus, my husband told me I would never make any money at it and so shouldn’t pursue it. My dreams scared him, despite my track record of building a successful business. I chose not to let him get in my way but it cost me my marriage.

To envision our future, we must engage the upper right rational quadrant of our brain. This part of the brain is only concerned with what we see as possible, what we intuitively know about our potential. However, most of us have learned to filter these ideas against the emotional/experiential parts of our brain, which shifts the focus onto what is realistic and what keeps me in my comfort zone so I don’t trigger any fear.

How to become dream chasers again?

Acknowledging and articulating our dreams – to ourselves as well as others – is frightening. When we take that risk, only to get met by negativity, fear wins and we pursue other paths instead of our dreams. We become self-protective and use emotional reasoning to aim lower, tell ourselves it doesn’t matter or that we likely would have failed. We talk ourselves out of achieving our potential because we don’t know who we are meant to be and let the external world – and the people in it – define it for us.

Each of us is hard wired with all the talents and abilities we need to achieve our potential. Understanding our brain organization and the needs, as well as fears, that drive our behaviour, allows us to chart a course to realizing our dreams. We stop doubting what we envision for ourselves and instead focus on what it will take to get there. Maybe my daughter will not be a movie star, but given her innate talents and abilities, we both know that she will be a star on some stage if she continues to pursue her dreams and believe in her potential. It’s my job – and her teacher’s – to help her to create and execute the plan to get there, not tell her to stop dreaming.

Want to learn how to chase your dreams again? Learn how to shift from self-protective behaviors and leverage your whole brain to become who you are meant to be.

Author's Bio: 

Performer Striving Style

Always curious about what makes people perform and why some people achieve their potential in their lives while others do not, Heather embarked on a journey to understand performance and motivation as well as behavioral change. Her background in organizational and leadership dynamics, coupled with her own experiences as an entrepreneur and parent, has influenced the development of the Striving Styles Personality System.

A Systems-based Approach

With a keen interest in business, Heather pursued an education focused on understanding how organizational systems and practices drive performance and the achievement of potential. Attending the Ivey School of Business, she obtained her bachelor's degree in Honors Business Administration. Upon graduating from university, she completed post-graduate courses in Human Resources Management (HRPAO) as well as Compensation Management (Canadian Compensation Association / World At Work), Organizational Development (Linkages), Performance Systems (University of British Columbia) and Management Consulting (CMC). In the past she held a Certified Human Resources Practitioner designation as well as her Certified as a Compensation Professional designation.

Heather started her career working in human resources for a major publishing company in Toronto and then as a consultant in Vancouver where she designed performance and rewards systems for organizations seeking to increase employee performance. She was the co-author of a Canada-wide study conducted in 1997 through Mercer HR Consulting on Performance Management Practices in organizations. This study focused on whether or not organizations were able to foster the performance they desired from their employees.

Through this work, Heather began to see that — despite well-designed systems — there clearly was something missing in organizational approaches to employee performance. It was at this time that she began studying with Anne to learn about the impact of personality and emotions on behavior and ultimately on performance.

People, Systems & Results

Blending systems-thinking with behavioral dynamics, Heather has spent the past 20 years guiding clients out of dysfunction, chaos, apathy and more on the way to achieving higher levels of performance and realizing potential at the personal, team, leader and organizational level. She has worked in the areas of leadership assessment and transformation, organizational effectiveness, strategy development, performance management and cultural change. Her clients are executives and entrepreneurs, typically in high-growth organizations, from a broad range of industries that operate both locally and globally.

Successful Entrepreneur

Before devoting herself to the development of the Striving Styles, Heather was the driving force behind Caliber Leadership Systems, Vancouver’s largest independent leadership and human resources consulting firm. The firm originally started as a way for Anne and Heather to combine their expertise and develop unique models to expedite results for their clients.

Heather constantly developed and applied strategic leadership and behavioral models in her own company, offering clients a first-hand look at what it takes to lead and build a successful business. Her results led to coverage in Profit Magazine (Fastest Growing Companies in Canada) and Business in Vancouver.

In 2007, her firm was selected by BCBusiness Magazine to develop a model for determining which companies in British Columbia should be recognized as being the "best to work for in the province," a designation awarded annually by the magazine. Wanting to ensure the selection criteria fully reflected a 'best company,' Heather created a multi-dimensional model that integrated organizational systems, leadership, culture and employee engagement - the first of its kind.

Sought After Speaker

Heather is also a highly-recognized and sought-after speaker at professional, business and entrepreneurial events. Audiences love her unusual, thought-provoking and often cutting-edge concepts and insights, delivered with both humor and energy. They relate easily to her ideas and feel inspired to take action and improve. She engages audiences with her illustrative and entertaining stories while providing them with the clarity they need to achieve their potential.

Heather has delivered a wide range of courses, workshops, and keynotes to employees, human resource professionals and leaders. Over the past few years, Heather has begun working with parents and teachers to help them understand and support the emotional needs of children, particularly in situations involving learning or behavioral difficulties.