Reigniting Your Dream Beyond Mid-life

At a recent Go-DRREAM Workshop I hosted, I was amazed to find an audience of mostly 50 and 60-somethings waiting to learn how to reach their dreams. I should not have been surprised. After many years of moonlighting as a grant writer and evaluator, I left a full-time faculty position to dedicate my time to a research business my wife and I own. The business took off.

So I was eager to hear answers to my opening question “What is your dream?”

The answers were as diverse as the men and women themselves, who hailed from Central and South America, the Caribbean, New York and even India.

“I want to start painting again,” said Alicia Faierman, 65.

“A retirement home in Costa Rica,” said Julio Brokate, 64, who attends Saint Mark Catholic Church in Cooper City.

“To get out of debt,” said Paulette Harris, 52, who attends the Universal Truth Center in Miami.

“I want to start an entrepreneurship camp for children,” said Verna Roberts, 65, also a member of Universal Truth Center.

“I have a long bucket list,” said Gloria Pena, 52. “I want to do so many things.”

Diane Danforth, 51, was not sure.

“The problem is – I am still trying to figure out what to do when I grow up,” said Danforth, who attends the West Broward Church of Christ and has a passion for the French language but not for teaching it.


Gateway protective factors

To all attendees, I gave one overarching piece of advice: GO-DRREAM!

Go-DRREAM is a model for success I developed during years of research and practice among successful young adults who experienced trauma during their younger years. The acronym stands for Goal-oriented, Diligent, Responsible, Resourceful, Efficacy, Attitude of Perseverance and Motivation. The model is steeped in resilience research and focuses on key “success strengths” – gateway protective factors. Protective factors are individual attributes that promote health development and well-being, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

During the past several years, these qualities have been highlighted in best-selling books such as Outliers: The Story of Success, and Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.

The GO-DRREAM model to reach my own mid-life goals. I developed high school support group curriculum using the Go-DRREAM model and presented it at churches, before high school and college students, community groups, parents of all income levels and at national and international conferences. In my mid-40s, I used the principles of the GO-DRREAM model to help the South Florida community raise more than $250,000 to establish foster youth support programs at local institutions of higher education and co-founded Florida Reach, a statewide network of professionals to promote academic success for vulnerable youth in our state.


Bible verses on success

The success strengths are related to familiar Bible verses as well.

In Philippians 3:13, Paul writes “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:23 emphasizes diligence with the words “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” The need to take personal responsibility for our success is evident in Galatians 6:5 – “each will have to bear his own load.” Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” deals with efficacy. Attitude of perseverance? That’s 1 Corinthians 15:58, which admonishes us to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

During GO-DRREAM I encouraged dreamers to specify one or two dreams and then develop the seven key “success strengths” toward interim and long-term goals related to the dreams. After the opening session, everyone broke into group and developed one-year action plans.


A dream fulfilled

Focusing on his dream despite many challenges helped Roy Barker, Jr., a member of the Boca Raton Church of Christ in Palm Beach County, to reach a major dream last month. As a teenager Barker dreamed of becoming a doctor. But shortly after his 18th birthday he became homeless. He dropped out of college twice but eventually became stable, got married and became a successful realtor. Adopting three children from Central America reignited his desire to complete his degree. After many years Barker finally went back to school and obtained his bachelor’s degree in education from Florida Atlantic University last month at age 44.

“My road to graduation has been long, difficult and full of tribulations but 20 years later here I am,” said Barker, who was hired immediately after graduation and started teaching seven classes, and coaching debate, at South Broward in late August. “I wanted to finish what I had started because I wanted my children to see that an education is important and not something to be put off to the side.”


First things first

At the GO-DRREAM workshop, Verna Roberts realized that before she can pursue her dream of establishing an entrepreneur camp for children, she needs to reach interim goals like decreasing her monthly living expenses by finding a less expensive place to live.

“The GO-DRREAM Workshop gave people an opportunity to really sit down and evaluate what is important to them,” Roberts said. “What we did is get down to the nitty-gritty of what the dream really is about.”

As the facilitator, I was impressed that even after successful careers and though in the third-third of life, the attendees were eager to strive for ambitious new dreams or reignite dormant ones.

Since the workshop, Alicia completed a painting after having not painted for a while. Paulette plans to call a nonprofit consumer credit counseling service. Verna is taking the lessons she learned at the workshop and teaching her employees about goals and dreams.

“At our age, many people are realizing that this plan we have had for 20 or 30 years is not going to make it,” Verna said. “This is the 21st century and things are changing very fast. We need to keep up.”


Dr. Steve J. Rios, president of NPO Library and owner of Rios Research & Evaluation, holds a doctorate in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. He can be reached at [email protected] or 954-990-3849.

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