Martin Luther King Jr. Inspired Our Nation to Dream Big. This Therapist’s Advice Will Help You Make Your Life’s Goals a Reality
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and spoke about his dream for America.
He called for civil and economic rights. He called for an end to racism. He called out the gap between the American dream and reality.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech inspired a nation to dream big—to go after not only what we want to see in our own lives, but the ways we want to see humanity move forward, too. And on this weekend when we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and his big dream, we thought we’d take a moment to consider how each of us can make our dreams—big or small—a reality.
The Sunday Paper sat down with licensed clinical therapist Earl C. Martin Jr. to get his best advice on goal setting, what he believes is the secret sauce to making your biggest dreams come true, and more.
A CONVERSATION WITH EARL C. MARTIN JR.
We all have dreams and goals for our lives, and sometimes they feel out of reach. What’s your best advice for taking the first steps toward reaching those goals or making our dreams come true?
All too often we have these big dreams for our lives, and we forget that the first steps we take often only need to be very small steps. So, I like to tell people to start there. What are some initial, realistic goals? These should be attainable goals, so that reaching them will help you pick up some momentum.
Dreams are all about setting an intention and then taking steps that are in alignment with that intention.
When I went after my dream of starting a private practice, I knew I couldn’t do that in a week. You know that old-school phrase Rome wasn’t built in a day? It’s like that! Taking steps toward making my dream happen required research. It meant reaching out to my network for help. And it meant having patience.
Remember, reaching your goals isn’t linear. You’ll have to have some flexibility on your path toward what you want. Give yourself both grace and patience as you move forward.
Martin Luther King Jr. had very big dreams—a vision for humanity that some said would never happen. What are some of the best strategies for approaching goals that feel lofty and possibly even out of reach?
For these goals, I think it’s all about connection. Reach out to your tribe for help. We talk about Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream, but he wasn’t doing it by himself. Look at his wife and all that she did for proof of that!
It’s unlikely you’ll make goals that feel really big or out of reach happen by yourself. My best advice is to connect with others so you can be a force together.
I also think it’s important to ask yourself this: Am I helping even one person? I remind myself of this a lot. My friends often say to me, “Go change the world today!” and I always respond, “Well, I’m going to start with just one person.” Helping even one person feel just a little bit better—or feel like they can thrive versus survive—that’s my job. Do I want to make an even bigger impact? Of course. But think about it this way: When you help one person, that person is more likely to help someone else. And that’s when you start to see even bigger shifts.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is full of hope. What role does hope play when it comes to making dreams a reality? Is it crucial?
To me, hope is like the fuel that allows you to strive toward your dreams. It helps you trust that your vision can become a reality.
When I think of Martin Luther King Jr., I think of hope and determination.
If someone isn’t filled with hope, I urge them to look inward. In the moments you don’t have hope, I’d challenge you to see that you’re here today. You’ve survived. You’re showing up. If your dream is there and you have even a small glimpse of it, that’s the hope trying to show itself.
Yes, the dark moments will come—moments when the light feels like it’s been snuffed. But think of it this way: You’ve made it through your darkest moment so far, because you’re here. You may not be thriving in the way you want, but you survived. And those dark moments make us appreciate the light moments even more. It’s the harmony between the light and the dark where the magic happens, and the dreams come true.
Earl C. Martin Jr., MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical therapist and podcaster in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the owner and creator of Innate Virtue Counseling and the proud creator of 26 Affirmations for Boys of Color. To learn more, visit earlmartinlcsw.com.
Question from the Editor: We’d love to hear about your dreams, whether it’s something you wish for yourself or for our country or world at large. How will the advice in this article help you take another step toward making that dream come true?