In working with clients, I often give out what seems like contradictory advice. On the one hand, I encourage clients to have obtainable career goals—especially when looking at the short-term need to pay their bills or develop their skills. On the other hand, I encourage clients to work toward their dream jobs—especially when considering their long-term happiness and fulfillment.

There are important steps in working toward a dream job.

Investigate. Find out what the qualifications for your dream job are. This sounds obvious, but in my experience many people simply assume they know what the qualifications are. Instead of taking the next step—investigating the dream job so they know what the qualifications are—they assume themselves right out of the dream! First, if you don’t know for certain what the qualifications are, then how can you know for certain that you don’t meet them? Second, if you don’t know what the qualifications are, then how can you make a plan to become qualified?

Make a Plan to Become Qualified. Once you know what the necessary qualifications are, you can see how you match up. Are there areas you’ve already got covered? Areas you need to work on? Remember as you improve on your weaknesses, you should also be improving on your strengths.

Consider a New Dream. If you just can’t make your reality fit your dream—it’s a fact of life that not everyone will be qualified to be an astronaut no matter how hard they work at it—consider whether it’s time for a new dream. So maybe being an astronaut is not for you after all. Think about what appealed to you about the dream, and think about what else might scratch the same itch. There are other ways to be involved in the space program other than being an astronaut. Maybe be an engineer, a pilot, a science writer, or a researcher. Maybe teaching physics, studying lunar dust samples, or manufacturing shuttle parts is for you. Maybe you can volunteer as a tour guide at Goddard Space Flight Center. If you are creative, and do your homework, you will find a way to touch your dream.

Bottom line: Don’t give up on a dream without a fight!