Ask yourself: Is it time to cash in on a moneymaking idea that will make you feel more self-sufficient?

Go back to work or open a bakery or switch careers or launch a Web-based business or...?

On the surface this dream has a lot to do with financial gain and security, but it really arises from a need to find a vocation that has meaning for you - one where your "work self" and your "true self" can meet. As Fortgang puts it, "It's not just what you do, but who you get to be when you're doing it." The hardest part about this kind of goal is convincing yourself that you're qualified to take it on, says Fortgang. Here's how to muster your courage.

Step 1: Redefine "expert."

You might think that people who succeed in their field spend years learning about their craft before they take a single step forward. Not so! "I tell clients to start thinking of an 'expert' as someone who knows how to get the answers, not someone who knows all the answers," says Fortgang. So do some investigating to find out the first step you need to take to make your dream a reality - which will instantly empower you. Should you get a degree or advanced training? Does anyone else have a patent for your product idea? Even the tiniest bit of information will help propel you forward.

Step 2: Road-test your dream.

Small forays are fine. Substitute or volunteer at a school before you commit to a full-time teaching career. Gauge reactions to your dream of opening a bakery by offering to sell sweets at your kid's next school function. A little experience will help you fine-tune your plan and determine your potential for success before you take big risks with your time or money.

Step 3: Establish a time frame.

"When I started my life-coaching business 15 years ago, my husband and I decided I'd try it for one year, and then I'd evaluate my progress and decide whether to move forward," says Fortgang. By having a specific "just try it out" period, you stay focused on your goal without any do-or-die pressure.

Ask yourself: Do you have the guts to go after the "just once" dream you've never dared to try?

Run a marathon or go on an African safari or sing in a rock band or try skydiving or...?

These "one-hit wonder" dreams often represent deeper longings, says Fortgang, that might not even be on your radar. Take, for instance, 40-year-old Deb Busser of Dunstable, MA, who dreamed of singing with a rock band. Busser discovered that achieving this goal was really a way to prove that she could fearlessly just be herself in front of a group and become a motivational speaker. Here's how to accomplish your fantasy and reveal the hidden desire it can represent.

Step 1: Build in a "can't flake out" clause.

Onetime, daring dreams take guts, so find a way to avoid chickening out. Enlist a friend to join you in your skydiving adventure, and put down a nonrefundable deposit. Invite everyone you know to come to the poetry slam where you'll read your work. Busser turned her rock-star fantasy into a "Battle of the Bands" charity event, which meant she had to get on stage no matter what. "The experience taught me that I could be okay with being nervous and just relinquish control and go for it," she says. "It was one of the most amazing - and liberating - feelings I've ever experienced!"

Step 2: Use your skills.

So what if you've never run more than three miles? Use the talents you already have as a tool kit for training for that marathon: Think of times when you used the mind-over-matter discipline your goal requires (Hel-lo! Childbirth?). Busser, a human resources consultant, used her business skills when she pitched her fund-raiser concept to a community group, who loved her idea and put the plan in motion.

Step 3: Uncover your deeper dream.

Ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?" If it's just to have fun, great! But under-the-surface reasons are worth exploring: Your mountain-climbing dream might actually symbolize a desire to prove to yourself that you're brave enough to tackle another difficult obstacle in your life. Your wish to see the European city that your grandparents emigrated from may represent a yearning to strengthen your family ties at home. Once you've figured out what's really behind your "just once" fantasy, you'll be that much more motivated to give both pursuits your all!

Whatever your goal, you've already got the tools to stop dreaming and start doing.

"Once you've cut through all the baloney and the beliefs that have held you back," says Fortgang, "there's no limit to what you can achieve." And here's a bonus: Being true to yourself by following your heart's desire benefits not only you, but also the people you love. That's because giving to yourself recharges your spirit - which enables you to give more of yourself as a wife, a mom, a friend. The bottom line: Being 100 percent who you are - not 75 percent, and not 86.7 percent - is the not-so-hidden key to a happier life. And what could be more important than that?