Yet I have no job, pension, or savings account. I do not depend on a rich family, nor do I have any other form of financial security…
So you see, limited resources are no excuse! They merely provide an opportunity to do things differently.
“If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got”
Let me share six secrets for living YOUR dream life:
- Know what you want and communicate it
- Face your worst fear
- Start NOW!
- Work with what you have
- Take little steps
- Don’t be afraid to fail
1. Know what you want and communicate it
If YOU don’t know what you want, how are others going to know? So talk about it and you’ll be amazed at the suggestions and help that will come your way. In the Netherlands I knew a guy who was going to quit his job to sail around the world. When his employer, a large telecom company, found out, they refused to let him go and even offered to sponsor him for a year!
If you don’t know exactly what you want, that’s OK. Sometimes you have a vague inkling, or you just know what you DON’T want. Ask yourself the following questions:
What would you do if you only had a limited time left to live?
What if you won the lottery?
What have you always wanted to see or learn?
What location, activity or kind of people makes you happy?
2. Face your worst fear
What is the worst thing that could happen? And is that really so bad? Once you cross your own boundaries you’ll never be afraid again.
During my travels I often get challenged. Two years ago in Madagascar I discovered that it was not possible to use my ATM or credit cards, so I was almost penniless. I had to travel south, but I had no money for a flight. A nightmare scenario! But then some fishermen offered to take me along in their sailing boat, but warned me it could be more than one week’s travel, depending on the wind. It was a great experience. All day I sat in their tiny boat made of a hollowed tree trunk. At one point my I-pod was empty all my to-do lists were made. Because I had nothing to think about, I reached an ultimate peace in my head.
My participation in Survivor was really facing my worst fears. I was used to eating every two hours, was a vegetarian and not a group person at all. Being on Survivor with no food, having to catch, kill and eat my own fish and live with other candidates I had to cross many boundaries. But I learned a lot (for example I now like eating fish!) and it brought me new adventures.
3. Start NOW!
Don’t wait for the ideal moment, when all circumstances are going to be perfect. That moment will never come and your dream will never be realized. Take the first step NOW, and the next step will materialize. Any problems can and will be solved along the way.
I sometimes use my Coins for Care project to illustrate this. In 2002 the Euro was going to replace the national currencies of 12 European countries. I came up with the following idea: What if I collected all obsolete foreign coins for charity? It sounded like a simple plan. But without money, resources, a network or relevant experience, it was bound to become complicated. Especially for a 28 year old girl. I’m just triggered when people say something is impossible. Even in the most desperate situations I see opportunities. I started this project without having a clue where it would lead. In the end, it led to $25 million!
4. Work with what you have
Again, Coins for Care is a great example of how to achieve more with fewer resources…
Coins for Care was a great idea, but because I had no office, money, contacts and reputation, nobody believed that my plan was feasible. But precisely because I had to start from scratch, I was very resourceful. It may sound weird, but it really helps to start a project with NO budget. If you do have money available, you’ll be thinking about what you can do with that amount. Having no resources, you’ll have to think creatively, out-of-the-box. For example, when we needed 4.000 collection boxes to put in supermarkets and banks we used transformed sewer pipes. We got sponsors to help with nearly everything. That worked because it was a charity project. But you’d be amazed how much you can get for free or very little if you just ask. Use the internet to get in touch with people offering services and products. Be very specific about what you need and what you can offer in return.
5. Take little steps
How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite!
I don’t advocate that everyone should quit their jobs and live like me, but I do want to show that within your own context, you can always change things. For example you could choose to spend your next holiday differently. Why not take the kids camping in South Africa? Thanks to the exchange rate this trip could still be within your budget.
I would encourage people to look at their options instead of limitations. Could you live in a smaller house so you have to work less? If you are not completely happy with your life, there are always possibilities to do things differently. It often helps to think in small steps. For example, if you have the dream of ever going to live in Mexico, you can start taking Spanish lessons. If you take the first step, then the next one often becomes clear.
6. Don’t be afraid to fail
In our society we learn from childhood to opt for security. Not to risk taking a different path or to go for what you really want. We think we are safe by saving for our children’s studies or to buy insurance against all kinds of things, but security is an illusion, life is about taking risks. The only way to learn is by doing, even if that means failing many times. That’s what happened to me and I learned a lot! Think of it this way: wouldn’t it be a shame if at the end of your life you were thinking: ‘I wish I had done this or that’ Wouldn’t that feel more like failing?