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Sandra Dean – Registered Member

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Using our strength and aspirations to make our dreams come true, using lists in a productive way and the question ‘To aim high or not?’

I’m going to talk about dreams, aspirations, making lists, helpful ideas on getting what you want and do we aim too high?  Also, where does mental illness fit in with our dreams?

Years ago when I took up a few weeks of career counselling, during another of my ‘I don’t know what to do in life’ procrastinations, I learnt some useful tricks to feed my self esteem and help me with decisions around my work.

I was advised to write some lists about myself and my skills – an idea which I then manipulated to suit my needs.

First of all, I wrote down all major events and things I’d done throughout my life. This really showed up just how many experiences I’d had and events that had occurred during my life to date. It was great to remember past holidays, travel, births, jobs, family events and achievements, such as parachute jumps, diving and learning to swim better. I could see I’d had fun, and had had courage to take up challenges.

It was also helpful to see how adversities had affected me, like the death of a family member or personal ill health, and realising how I had managed to get over those adversities boosted my strength and confidence to take on all that was thrown at me thereon in a positive way.

I then wrote down all my skills in life – work or otherwise. This incorporated everything from travelling alone and learning languages to PC skills and customer service experience. That list, surprisingly, got very long. And as it did, my self esteem grew.

Next was ‘What I like doing’. So this was not just about what I CAN do, but what I actually like to do. This helped me to recognise skills that could be utilised in a job or in hobbies, which would be an enjoyable job for me – what I really like doing.

Next came the list ‘What I dislike doing’. Now this may seem a little negative, but it highlighted things that got me down and shed some light on tasks that I could delegate, and if this was not possible, to change my attitude towards the task.. Changing a negative to a positive is so rewarding and I was able to find ways to make some niggling jobs a little more pleasant. A simple example would be ‘I find washing up boring’. So, I decided to change the time of day I washed the dishes – to the morning instead of evening – and put on my favourite music while I washed up. It then became an enjoyable thing to do with my first cup of tea of the day. It also stopped me from wallowing in bed, delaying getting started for the day ahead and making myself late (although that is another story!).

Of course, not everyone is in the position to change jobs, seek out their dream job, or make big changes in their lives BUT I write this article because the whole exercise of writing down skills and likes/dislikes has helped me in my daily life. It has also helped me to form hobbies and interests outside of work and to see my skills laid out really boosts my confidence. Too many of us are negative about our abilities, but these lists can really highlight just how many we have. I am not a mother, but just thinking about what I would write if I were, well, the list would be endless! Raising a baby is the ultimate in responsibility.

When doing this exercise for the first time, in my twenties, my new found confidence pushed me to go for a management role which was much more responsibility than I had been used to. I got the job and was given a substantial pay rise within six months which I asked for. Those lists made me assertive and gave me a real sense of just how many skills I had to give an employer.

My mental illness eventually got in the way though, unfortunately, and took away my ability to see my skills and knowledge for a few years, so I used all my strength and courage to get though my illness, write, edit and publish my memoir about that journey, and to regain a more normal life, albeit I still have remaining issues around responsibility and other anxiety/depression led symptoms. Oh yes, I may well come across as confident many a time, but I am still a timid little girl inside at times who needs a boost of encouragement.

But now I have remembered those lists, I am going to work on them again to boost my self esteem, acknowledge how far I have come since the last time I did them and what I have to offer NOW in order to make my life even better. Off the top of my head, I am now a writer, editor, published author, a regular ‘blogger’, I run various websites, am attending a counselling course at college, am gaining more communication skills, have learnt about mental illness… I cannot wait to start, as I know there will be a lot more than that to add.

So all this brought me onto the question of ‘Should we aim high or not when we have a lack of self esteem, or mental illness, or anytime our confidence is lacking?

Above I have talked about how writing these lists helped me to recognise my strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and how they helped me to aim higher in my work at the time, which worked out good. But what I didn’t say is that when my mental illness ‘got in the way’ I was talking about when I depression at that time. OK I went on to be diagnosed with much more, but I mainly had symptoms of depression at that time in my late twenties.

What happened for me was that I woke every day in my management role and wished I didn’t have the responsibility. I dreaded work and that my staff relied on me to fill them with enthusiasm when I had none of my own to share. I truly didn’t want to be alive most days and lost all love for myself. Other events were factors in this kind of breakdown, and I left that job – that job that was going so well, paying well and had seen me living alone in a 3 bed house and affording it for once. I had, I decided, taken on too much. But was it just that? Would I have left any job and run home to mum and dad even if it didn’t have such responsibility, given the illness, or was it the responsibility that tipped me over the edge? It’s hard to say.

What I do know is that I have been driven to get over adversities and ill health, essentially, by my dreams and aspirations, and have achieved a lot and made great progress, by following them. So my failures are far outweighed by the highs and achievements I have experienced. I cannot imagine what would happen if I stopped dreaming and aiming high. And these dreams do not need to be grand or out of reach. When I was mentally ill, for example, my dream was simple “I want to have a life worth living’ – that was it. And because I didn’t have a life worth living at the time, and half the time wanted out of my life, this really was a big dream. But by repeating it to myself, writing it down and aspiring to it every day, progress was made towards it, and now I can say that “I do have a life worth living”.

Yes depression still creeps in and shocks me as it repeatedly lashes my brain and wellbeing, bringing me back to feeling hopeless and worthless again. But, essentially, I know that when it passes, I will still have a life worth living, no matter how many things are missing from it right now. Those missing things will come next, and my lists will help me to recognise what they are…

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you…

Have you used motivational techniques you’d like to share?

Have you aimed high and achieved those dreams?

I do hope so and I wish all of you my best wishes in fulfilling YOUR dreams!


Amanda 🙂



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