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Fear, Growth, and Fulfillment: 5 Lessons from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for Professional Success

Hey everyone! I’ve been doing some research on legendary figures and I came across this amazing quote from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (The first female president in Africa). It says, “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” We’re going to dive deep into the wisdom of this saying. This isn’t just about setting goals; it’s about dreaming big enough to make your own reality. Get ready for some real talk and actionable steps as I’ve extracted five valuable lessons that will propel you towards success.

Lesson 1: Ambition Fuels Growth

Your dreams should be so expansive that they push you beyond your current capabilities. They should be like a thrilling adventure, pushing you beyond your comfort zone and propelling you towards new horizons. Take actionable steps by regularly reassessing your goals. It’s not just about setting objectives; it’s about ensuring they are dynamic enough to foster continuous growth. Are your goals bold enough to make you stretch beyond your current capabilities? Set benchmarks and milestones that force you to stretch and evolve. 

Remember, the discomfort that accompanies stretching beyond your limits is not a setback but a sign of progress. Embracing discomfort is akin to embracing the journey itself. So, don’t shy away from the uneasy feelings; instead, see them as markers on your path to becoming the best version of yourself. 

Actionable step: Define three short-term and three-long term goals that require you to acquire new skills or enhance existing ones. Commit to a timeline for achieving each goal.

Lesson 2: Fear Signals Opportunity

If your dreams don’t induce a bit of fear, you might be playing it too safe. Fear is not the enemy; it’s a compass pointing towards untapped potential. Identify the fears associated with your aspirations, and dissect them. Are you afraid of failure, of the unknown, or perhaps of stepping out of the routine? Whatever it may be, dissect these fears, break them down into manageable tasks, and watch fear transform into a powerful motivator. It’s not about eliminating fear; it’s about leveraging it as fuel for your journey. 

Actionable Step: List three fears or challenges tied to your most significant dream. Develop a plan to address each fear systematically, turning them into stepping stones towards success. Example: build up a tolerance to failure, by not calling your day a “bad day” until you have failed at least five times. Give it a try!

 “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”

Lesson 3: Continuous Improvement is Key

Dreams that outpace your current abilities demand a commitment to continuous improvement. Regularly invest time in personal and professional development. Staying curious is the compass guiding you through the labyrinth of growth. Seek out learning opportunities not just within the confines of your comfort zone but in the vast expanses of the unknown. Attend workshops, take online courses, and engage in conversations that broaden your perspective. Remember, the more you invest in your own development, the more equipped you become to turn dreams into reality. Stay curious, seek out learning opportunities, and embrace a growth mindset. Your dreams will thank you for it.

Actionable Step: Create a monthly learning plan. Identify one skill or knowledge area to improve upon each month. Utilize online courses, workshops, or mentorship programs to facilitate your growth. Don’t know where to start? You can ask ChatGPT to list ways for you to improve your skill and start with that list. Just start.

Lesson 4: Purposeful Goals Breed Fulfillment

Embarking on a journey towards your dreams is not merely about chasing ambitions; it’s about infusing your professional path with a profound sense of purpose. Ensure your goals align with your values and passions. The intersection of your aspirations with your core beliefs creates a powerful synergy that fuels your motivation and resilience, making the pursuit of your dreams not just a quest but a meaningful odyssey. This alignment will provide the motivation needed to overcome obstacles and stay focused during challenging times. Each challenge becomes an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to what truly matters to you, making the journey not just about reaching a destination but about embodying the essence of your values throughout. 

Actionable Step: Reflect on your current goals. Are they aligned with your core values? If not, adjust or redefine your goals to ensure they resonate with your sense of purpose.

Lesson 5: Overcome Obstacles with Resilience

Dreams that scare you will inevitably come with challenges. Develop resilience by reframing setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve. The journey towards ambitious dreams is not a smooth highway but a winding path where setbacks are not detours but opportunities for profound learning and improvement. Picture setbacks not as failures but as guideposts nudging you towards growth. Reframe each obstacle as a chance to refine your skills, adjust your strategy, and emerge stronger. I want you to view your setbacks not as defeats but as pivotal moments in your narrative. Remember, the most significant triumphs often rise from the ashes of setbacks.

Actionable Step: The next time you encounter a setback, take a moment to reflect. Identify one lesson you can learn from the experience and one action you can take to move forward positively.


As your coach, I challenge you to dream big, embrace fear, and commit to continuous improvement. Your journey towards professional development is an ongoing process, and the size of your dreams will guide you towards achieving greatness. Remember, it’s not about where you start; it’s about the distance you’re willing to travel. Dream big, achieve bigger, and let success be the reward for your relentless pursuit of greatness.


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