As children we all know exactly what we want to be when we grow up. It could be becoming a professional dancer, an orthodontist (don’t laugh, that exactly what my friend wanted to be from the age of six) or in the case of a then eight year old Charlotte Phillips, to become a teacher.
She remembers going into the kitchen one night before dinner and declaring, “Mom, I’m going to teach!” She was matter of fact, not question for a moment that she would not fulfill this calling.
But then Charlotte grew up and like so many of us; reality squeezed its way in between her and her dreams. School wasn’t as fun as she thought it would be, finding work wasn’t as easy as she’d always believed it would be and she started to question what exactly she was meant to be. So she entered the US Army on a whim- in part because it seemed like a nice distraction from school and her sister had enlisted, in part because she needed a return ticket home from Europe and they would foot the bill.
It was a long journey home.
Fast forward 22 years and in an immaculate home in San Antonia, Texas I get to sit down with Dr. Charlotte Phillips, who, after a seemingly endless journey to fulfilling her 8 year old dream and now sits with a doctorate in education from the University of Phoenix, and the wide smile of a woman who is living proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Even if it takes you 22 years. Even if you can’t afford to quit your day job!
Here are her secrets to success:
LEARN HOW TO BE TAUGHT
Charlotte now has a doctorate in education and teaches a classroom full of students at the local Army base, but getting that degree was far from easy.
Before she discovered a university that allowed her the flexibility to work from home whenever and wherever she was, she had enrolled and dropped out of countless local colleges often due to being relocated for work.
Many people would have given up content to say, “at least I tried”, but not Charlotte.
“In the military it’s all about ‘mission accomplished, don’t quit until the job is done.’” That training meant she persevered to find the right teaching method for her, and wouldn’t quit.
HARD DOESN’T MEAN BAD
When you need to pay the bills, and studying your ideal vocation seems like a luxury you can’t afford, remind yourself that anything can be accomplished, but it’s going to take sacrifice.
In order to stay in her paying job at the army and study, Charlotte often would wake up at 3am and get a few hours of work in before hitting the army base. Then, after a long day at “work” she would come home and finish her studies. Her social life suffered and so did some of her relationships, but she knew it was worth it.
Ask yourself, “What am I really prepared to sacrifice to fulfill this dream”.
As inspired as Charlotte was, there where many times along her 22-year journey when she wanted to throw in the towel, but she found clever ways to stay motivated and keep her eye on the prize…these are her tips:
HAVE A PLAN
Sounds easy enough, but far too few of us have a real strategically plan of attack. Wishing for something doesn’t make it happen, having steps in place both for the short term and the long term is what gets you there.
Charlotte says, “start small”, it could be just enrolling in class and showing up each day.
GET A “FUTURE” BUSINESS CARD
To help visualize her goal, Charlotte got faux business cards made up with the title “Dr. Charlotte Phillips” engraved on them. When she was struggling to stay inspired, she would look at it. That alone was enough to get through the tough times.
FIND A MENTOR
We’ve all heard this before, but finding someone who truly believes in you and already sees you as the person you are trying to become can set you straight and motivate you when the goal seems so far away. Find someone with qualities you are trying to possess or who has reached the goal you are trying to reach. Sometimes just having someone who believes in you is enough to remind you to believe in yourself.
IT’S ONLY TOO LATE WHEN YOU’RE DEAD
As long as you’re still breathing, it’s never to late to head towards your dream. After all, you’re getting older anyway, why be old and full of regret when you can be old and doing what you love!
Photo credit: Michelle Day Photography