How to Kick-Start
Your Dreams

Written by Judy Tierney

What started with a love for helping people find passion in their lives ultimately turned into a part-time career for one NCU professor. Alycia Harris, PhD, in the Department of Psychology, is also the founder of her own life coaching business, Solution Focused Life. As an educator with more than 24 years of experience working with adult learners, Harris has always used coaching as an integral part of her interactions with students.

Alycia Harris (PhD, Core Faculty, Foundations Faculty, Department of Psychology, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences)

"There’s an intimate connection between your career and your life," Harris explains. "The things and people we are passionate about are very much connected through where we go to school, how we live and the careers we pursue. I want to help people live those complete lives."

This philosophy led Harris to kick-start her own dream, and six months ago she earned the designation of certified life coach. We asked her to share her tips on how people can start turning their own dreams into reality.

Tips to Kick-Start Your Dreams

1. Explore Your Options
If you don’t already have a specific goal, consider and evaluate the things you want to do and visualize outcomes. That can help you focus. "It all boils down to what possibilities you can see," Harris says. "This exploration can help you to further refine your vision."

2. Consider Your Values
As you begin to identify and pursue your dreams, take a strong look at what is most meaningful to you to ensure that you’re being true to yourself. Harris recommends using a values worksheet to help create a framework for where you want to go.

3. Reframe the Conversation
"We all experience that nagging voice in our head that tells us we're not good enough or that we can't achieve our goal," Harris says. "It constantly reinforces all of the reasons we shouldn't, or can't, do the things we want to do."

By being mindful and listening carefully, you can train yourself to turn that negative voice into something positive. "Recognize that limiting belief and reframe the message," suggests Harris.

"It’s okay not to be perfect," she continues. "But it’s important to reinforce to yourself that you have the resources, skills, ideas and capability to accomplish whatever you want."

4. Give Yourself an Identity
"Sometimes it's helpful to go one step further and actually give yourself an identity," Harris says. "Saying ‘I am a coach,' ‘I am a writer,' ‘I am an entrepreneur,' or whatever it is that is meaningful to you, becomes a very powerful way of removing the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goals."

5. Make a Plan
Consider your dreams as a path, especially if the goal is so big that it's hard to visualize. Harris uses the example of becoming president of the United States. You may not be able to picture exactly how to get there because it's so far removed from where you are now. Building a plan that starts with manageable steps for the immediate future, such as running for a local office, can help you start to imagine the possibilities.

6. Take Risks
"The person who is successful is the one who is willing to take chances when it's the most uncomfortable and when there is a potential for failure," explains Harris. "It's important to be honest and say, 'I'm excited about this, I want to move forward, and I am ready to be vulnerable.'"

7. Embrace Failure
Harris is a huge supporter of Kickstarter, the online fundraising platform. Despite the wonderful ideas she's seen, including several that she funded, many of them have failed. "It's fascinating to watch people who have failed come back and create something meaningful," she says. "Despite the terrible comments they hear, they bounce back."

Harris believes it’s the failures and not the successes that save us. "People who have failed," she says, "can tangibly say, ‘I’ve tried this and it didn’t work. Now what can I do differently?’"

NCU provides a unique environment for students following a dream. "There is a strong focus on being self-directed and drawing from an internal reservoir of energy and intent," says Harris. "That self-directed strength is a powerful asset to someone trying to achieve a goal."

The program also offers access to doctoral professors who are all experts in their field and can mentor and advise students about what it’s like to work in a certain area. "The faculty, as well as other students, all have a vast range of different experiences that you can draw from," continues Harris. "Regardless of what you want to do, there is likely someone at NCU who has already done something similar and whom you can use as a resource."

"NCU's goal as an institute of higher education is to prepare students and graduates to reach higher and fulfill their goals, both professionally and personally," says George Burnett, president of Northcentral University. "The NCU Kick-Starter Grant, announced earlier this year, was conceived to invest in the University's graduates and provides each recipient with a $20,000 check to kick-start their goals and dreams—to make a difference, not just in their own lives, but a positive impact on their communities."

NCU announced the winners of the Kick-Starter Grants in April. The winners, and their dream goals, are:

  • Patricia Hansen, Doctor of Business Administration candidate: Design a certification program for business owners/managers that standardizes skills for effective management.
  • William Hancock, Doctor of Philosophy in Business candidate: Establish a nonprofit to help convicts avoid recidivism by providing them with housing, education and counseling assistance.
  • Tanisha Smith, Doctor of Business Administration candidate: Establish a 501(c)3 nonprofit for the hearing impaired to raise awareness of the benefits and availability of cochlear implants.
  • Krystin Mavity, Doctor of Philosophy in Education candidate: Start an alternative career center for young adults seeking different pathways to careers, instead of a four-year college.
  • Peter Hunt, Master of Education candidate: Start a language school for business professionals and ESL (English as a Second Language) students to study English, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.
  • Eugene Clancy, Master of Education candidate: Establish a scholarship to help veterans transition to civilian life.
  • Mary Jane Symkovkiak, Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy candidate: Author a series of picture books for grade school–age readers that address events and issues that can disrupt families.
  • Patricia Zimmerman, Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology candidate: Establish a support center for women that helps reduce recidivism by providing former inmates access to counseling and education.