Guest Contirbutor Scott Ford trains at the Clinch Academy in Frederick, MD, is the author of Financial Jiu-Jitsu:  A Fighter’s Guide to Conquering Your Finances, and is the CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management Group in Hagerstown, MD.

Dreams:  Impossibly fragile.  Easily discarded.

In our teens most of us stopped imagining a life of stardom, athletic achievement, or adventure when we decided others were more intelligent or talented or simply had opportunities denied us.  Later, after landing our first real job, the cold weight of responsibility slowly crushed visions of incredible personal success.

Today when old longings occasionally resurface, out of self-preservation we push those thoughts back to where we assume they belong.

And we settle.

Settling is tragic.  We need our dreams – the bigger and bolder the better.  Dreams provide hope and inspiration and, ultimately, a sense of who we truly are as individuals.  Dreams take us places others dare not go.

If you’ve started to settle, stop.  Get your dreams back.  Here are five ways:

Sleep in your old bed.  When you were young, you were naïve and unsophisticated and a lot less cynical – and you dreamed your best dreams.  Experience makes us wiser but unfortunately also colors and shapes our dreams, chipping away at the edges until they become more reasonable and attainable and therefore less inspiring.  What did the innocent “you” dream of?  Those were your purest dreams.  What you most wanted then is likely what you still want now – if you grant yourself the freedom of hope.

Find inspiration close to home.  Read the story of a BJJ superstar and their incredible success can seem a foregone conclusion; you already know the ending.  Stories about notorious failures – in any aspect of life – results in a life that reads as a cautionary tale.)  in real time, the reality is much messier.  Certain success is anything but; inevitable failure is more likely due to simple miscalculation or a momentary lack of judgment rather than the dark hand of fate.  The lens of celebrity or notoriety creates caricatures out of real people.  To get inspired, talk to the guy in your studio who literally started from nothing and now can roll with the best.  Talk to someone who took the Ramen Noodle path to success.  Talk to the CEO who started at the bottom and through hard work and persistence became a leader.  Real people illustrate the power of dreams better than any “How I Made It” biography.  If real people can do it, so can you.

Never give up on your dreams

Avoid dream killers.  Dreams are incredibly personal, yet we often allow them to be framed and reworked by others.  Say you dream of competing in tournaments, or something unrelated to BJJ like starting a new career; share your ideas and the chorus of, “Yes, but…” inevitably chimes in to explain, in excruciating detail, how failure is the only realistic outcome.  Avoid people who only say, “That will never work.”  Surround yourself with people who say, “Hmmm….That may not work…but if you also do this I bet you could…”  Helpful advice adds; it never takes away.

Forget traditional definitions of success.  Think of the word “success” and you probably imagine good grades, a college degree, a solid career, a nice house and a 401(k)…Success often seems like a canned program with predefined outcomes, not an individually defined path.  (As wealth managers, we consider “True Wealth” to be whatever you consider wealth to be:  Rich in dollars, rich in assets…or rich in friends, family, or community service.  The only right definition is your definition.)  Picture what would make you happy regardless of whether others would consider you “successful.”  Ironically enough we love stories of people who avoid the beaten path yet we hesitate to walk our own unbeaten paths.  What does success mean to you?  Your definition is the only worthwhile definition.

Write your epitaph today.  A somewhat morbid – yet very powerful – way to break through the clutter is to write your epitaph.  What will you want others to say when you’re gone?  That you nibbled around the edges of BJJ but never gave it your all to see what you could accomplish?  That you spent thirty years in the same job or that you took a chance and backed your own abilities?  That you tried to help others?  That you taught your children how to conform or how to live their own lives?

Imagine a life you want to look back on.  Those are your real dreams.