By Ivy Salijeni

As a young girl living with a single mother in urban Malawi, I learned to understand that going to school was a must, not a need. There was no one to encourage me, apart from my mother – who didn’t know much herself. Her main concern was that I didn’t end up in an abusive marriage because I didn’t go to school. I had no role model or visible inspirations, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming. I dreamed my life through the windows of poverty and ignorance. I would lay down on my bed and wish and wish, then suddenly one day I got tired of these day dreams and thought of making them a reality. You see, life in Malawi isn’t easy when you’ve finished secondary school and you’re unable to go to University, unable to achieve your goals. In my case I strive with one goal in mind, making my dreams a reality. But how did I achieve this goal? How does one actualize their dreams?

1. Dream – All ambition starts with a dream. Writing and caring for humankind were things I longed to do. I never stopped dreaming about managing a hospital and saving lives, all while selling an inspirational book about the realities of life. But then I had no story in mind to write.

2. Determination – I never lost my focus to a moment of “career crush” i.e. being indecisive about what one wants to do. Some of my friends wanted to do one thing today and chose an entirely different path the next day. I knew what I wanted.

3. Goal – Set one. I put God first, did my research and set a timeline for achieving my dreams. I was bold and spoke to anyone who would listen, gathering information that would help me set my goal. I wasn’t discouraged by people who warned me against speaking to people who were “too important” for the likes of me, that made me want to speak with them even more. I had to see for myself. To my pleasant surprise, many of them were very kind and helpful.

4. Hard Work – I worked and practiced day and night. I started by volunteering at a local hospital in the children’s ward, then adult wards. While there I got learned a lot about the hospital as a professional, and not a patient. I met consultants and doctors who inspired me. I also got a job at a local pharmacy where I learned a lot about drugs.

5. Pragmatism – As much as I wanted to achieve my dreams, I could not turn a blind eye to the reality of poverty around me. There were a lot of challenges but, as I said earlier, I put God first in all that I did. I prayed and fasted for God to see me through. It wasn’t easy, I assure you. There were times I wanted to give up, even times I wished I had never been born. But I pressed on through my pain, nothing could stop me from pursuing my dream.

6. Courage – Where do you find strength when everything you’ve tried has failed? When there doesn’t seem to be a way forward? The answer is simple, remain still with an unchanged mind. These are the times I stand with my head high, like a warrior who refuses to be defeated. I never take ‘NO’ for an answer, rather I see it as a gate way to improvement. “You can do it, you will do it, you must do it.”, repeating these words remind me to be courageous and to never back down.

7. Honesty – Have you ever evaluated yourself? I have. I analyze my actions often and give myself feedback. Knowing your faults and owning your shortcomings is the only way to achieve your goals.  Its called maturity, growing up, the moment when you see situations from different angles and choose a rational conclusion. Honesty and self-criticism are tools that are available to all us.

8. Time – Knowing what your doing, when you’re doing it and how it will get done are the important core principles of success. When you find yourself spending a day without meeting one or two of your set goals, you’re wasting time. Time can never be retrieved, once you lose it it’s gone for good. Use it wisely. Spending time doing things that don’t actualize your dreams is a big mistake when you have a goal to achieve. Fun and pleasure are important, but if you can sacrifice them when needed you’ll always be able to indulge afterwards.

Enjoy practicing these simple rules and be encouraged. Your dreams are within reach.