MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE: SETTING AND ACCOMPLISHING GOALS

Recently events in my life have thrown me into reminiscing mode.  I have spent the last few weeks thinking about my youth, oh so long ago, my dreams back then, how I planned and hoped my life would be and how thing actually unfolded.  Such introspection is good for the soul and the human psyche.  And so I thank whatever spirit moved me to this very useful point in my life.  I have found this exercise very cathartic indeed, even though there are a few remaining goals in my life I am yet to fulfil.
Since I am a firm believer in the maxim “experience is the best teacher”, it was necessary for me to undergo this “self-examination” so that I could offer my life experiences as they relate to my goals and ambitions and the manner in which I think I have accomplished these in the hope that at the very least I can teach what not to do when attempting to achieve one’s goals.
It was American poet Carl Sandberg who said: “Nothing happen unless first we dream.” We all have dreams. We all wish for things. Some of us wish to change our situation. For many of us our wishes become our goals; but as a wise man once said, a goal without a plan is merely a wish.  And we all know what is said about wishes! If wishes were horses, beggars would ride!
It is very interesting how we formulate our goals. One does not usually wake up one day and decide:  I want to be a doctor, an engineer, or perhaps a millionaire, a pilot or a model, or businessman/woman or say “I am going to climb Morne Diablotin (Dominica's tallest mountain)”, or “I am going to retire at 60”.  I would hazard a guess that most of us formulate our goals based on an experience, a book, a movie, someone we admire or even a combination of some or all of these.  I was influenced by an advertisement put out many years ago by the American United Negro College Fund:  “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
I remember as a child growing up in my island of Dominica in the 1950s.  The goal of most of us girls was to grow up, maybe find a job, get married and have a family.  By the time I got to Form 3 or 4, I expressed the desire to study dietetics.  My aunt wondered why – I was fairly okay looking, I should get married. Only plain-looking girls needed to go away and study...that was then! I was considered precocious for my age. My parents, especially my dad, encouraged me to join in the discussion on issues of the day with grown-ups.
I recall once when one of Dominica's famous court cases was going on. It was a land dispute among family members. My father and his friends, among them my godfather who was a lawyer, asked my opinion. I reasoned it out.  My godfather agreed with me and that was the decision handed down by the court.  That was the first of many occasions I was told I would be a good lawyer. But I also bore in mind what my aunt had to say about pretty girls not needing to study.
I left for England at the age of 16, studied for a couple of years, married at 18 and had my first two children before I was 21.
At that stage all goals and ambition regarding studies were placed on hold.  But I had to earn a living when I found myself a single mom at the ripe young age of 22.
The first lesson for me was that life must go on, even whilst one is waiting to fulfil their goals.  The second was that there are many times ambition has to make way for responsibility.
I have been blessed with many talents and I have never forgotten what someone told me years ago:  Our talents are our gifts from God.  How we use them are our gifts for Him.
During the next 15 years, while my children grew up, I ran my own cooking school and catering establishment, as well as doing dressmaking, flower arranging and cake decorating.  I lived in Saint Lucia then.  At some point during those years, the University of the West Indies (UWI) commenced its distance learning programme for non-campus territories.   UWI has three campuses in the Caribbean, one each in Jamaica (Mona), Barbados (Cave Hill) and Trinidad (St Augustine).  The other English-speaking countries were deemed to be non-campus territories. The Extra-Mural Department in Saint Lucia, where I then lived, offered courses in the social sciences.  I enrolled along with about 100 other persons. Only two of us stuck it out and wrote the exams at the end of the year. I attribute my stick-to-it-iveness as being key in my development process.
The following year I took two more courses.  I had to drop out of the third year because of pressing family commitments.
A couple of years later, the resident tutor called to tell me that UWI was now offering law courses to non-campus territories, that she had enrolled me and that I should come to her office to sign the forms. I had hitherto never divulged, let alone discussed, my burning ambition of wanting to study law with her.  Whenever I think back to that time, I cannot help but call to mind the biblical quote in Proverbs 15:22: “Without counsel, purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.”
The resident tutor became more than just a counsellor to me, and I learned another important lesson:  In one’s quest to achieve one’s ambitions, one should enlist all the help that one can find. The power of prayer and meditation are also helpful.
I went on to achieve the distinction of being the first student to complete first-year law studies in a non-campus territory.  I have the added distinction of being the “poster girl” in a documentary which was made about distant learning.
By the time I made it to UWI entering direct into my second year, both my daughters were at UWI.  My first was in her final year at Cave Hill and the second was at St Augustine. My mum died one week after I received my second-year exam results. I could have given up.  My counsellors stepped in and urged me to continue.  I did and took my eight-year-old daughter with me back to Cave Hill.  She also accompanied me to Law School in Trinidad.  My dad died the very week I arrived in Trinidad to start my Legal Education Programme studies (equivalent to the U.K. Bar).  My last daughter sat her Common Entrance at the same time I wrote my Bar Finals.  Thank God, we both did very well.  My mum and dad would have been proud.
On completing my law studies, I decided to return to Dominica instead of Saint Lucia.  When SHE magazine interviewed me and asked me why, I said because I perceived Saint Lucia to be a male-dominated society and I felt I would be more “at home” in the country of my birth.
Up to now I have never regretted that move but I maintain close links with many people in Saint Lucia, the land I refer to as my second home. That is where I spent many, many happy years and where I still have so very many good and beloved friends.
I have to admit that being Speaker of the House was never one of my ambitions.  But once that position was bestowed on me, I decided to be the best I could be in that very daunting and prestigious role.
I fervently believe that there is nothing like working on a new ambition or goal to give one’s life a renewed sense of purpose.  As one moves closer to a long-held goal one also feels that way.
I did mention that looking over my life I have one major goal left unfulfilled. No prizes for guessing what that goal is: to lose weight, of course! That remains the ultimate challenge which I hope to overcome soon.
So my dear friends and colleagues, where does that leave you and your burning ambitions to achieve your goals?
The first thing you have to do is to clearly define your goals and keep them constantly in focus.  Do not be deterred if your goals seem over-ambitious. Know your limits, yes, but never stop trying to exceed them.
Criticism, constructive or even otherwise, plays a huge part in assisting one to reach your goals.  Heeding advice along the way also helps to make the road less rocky.  We are advised in the Bible through Proverbs 15:32 that “he that refuseth instruction dispiseth his own soul; but he that heareth reproof, getteth understanding”.
Never put yourself down or permit anyone to put you down.  In any event, always remember that some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people who it seems were not smart enough to know these feats were impossible. Life, essentially, is what we make of whatever is thrown at us.
Once you have identified your goals, and taken the first steps towards them, stride purposefully on.  Ralph Waldo Emerson exhorts:  “The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.”  Furthermore, if you are not sure where you are going, how will you know when you have arrived? You have to work hard and never give up.
I want to leave you here with the words of the late great Sir Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal:  it is the courage to continue that really counts.”