I have known what my dream was since I was about 17, but I didn’t know how to get there.
One thing I used to struggle with (around 22 or 23) was feeling like it was too late for me to do anything worthwhile in my life because I didn’t finish college, and all my friends were finishing or already finished with college, getting career jobs, and I was “stuck” working in retail.
I had a huge mental block on myself.
I knew I wanted to help people and be successful and feel fulfilled, but I felt like it was impossible for me to get there… At the ripe old age of 23, I had reached my limits… I was… gasp … too old…
Thank god I got out of that mental rut!
I believe everyone has something in life they are meant to fulfill. A life purpose if you will.
These words can be daunting, but a “life purpose” is really just another term for a dream.
Whether you believe you are born knowing your life purpose, develop and hone it over time as you get older, or uncover it in a miraculous self-awareness “find yourself” journey, the dream is the common denominator.
No matter how you come to obtain your dream, it is what will guide you through life.
Much like a worldview colors the lenses through which you view life, your dream will color the lenses through which you think, act, and even affect how you work and interact with others.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
1. Why a Dream is Important
Why do many businesses fail, while others thrive, doing seemingly the same thing?
How have companies like Apple not only stayed relevant and up to date, but ahead of the curve and increasingly popular even, throughout the years?
Disclaimer: Much of the info in this section is from a book called “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. It’s a great read and I recommend it as an additional resource to this post.
The answer is not in their products—though people do seem to love them!
The answer is in their dream!
Steve Jobs’ dream was innovation.
He probably didn’t start out in 1976 thinking about how he wanted to create a line of different sized touchscreen devices with apps.
But his dream of innovation and creating a whole new world for people was what fueled every product that has come out.
Here’s a great example: in the 1960’s, Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, illegally sold “blue boxes,” which were just electronic devices which allowed individuals to bypass toll collection by telephone companies for long distance calling.
The dream was to create a different way of doing things!
When the dream comes first, the products that follow in line behind it always make sense.
Apple changed the way we “do phones” forever. True innovation is rare, but priceless. No product can replace or outdo true innovation.
In 2007, when the first iPhone came out, it wasn’t just a new type of cell phone that sported a touchscreen and featured apps.
It changed the whole game of the phone service provider companies.
Apple said, “With this device, now, you, as the consumer, get to choose.”
Before, phone companies dictated what kind of phone could have what plan, how much they cost, and which phones could run on what services.
Look at the world now. True innovation doesn’t have time constraints.
Now, let’s look at the opposite. Why do some companies struggle to survive, or even fail, even if they come out with similar products?
Take Dell computer company for example. If they came out with wireless in-ear headphones, wouldn’t that strike us as just a bit weird?
Dell is known for a product. Not a dream! The idea of Dell coming out with innovative headphones just seems out of place.
Ready for a throwback? Do you remember the Zune?
It was a small iPod Nano-type mp3 player. It had similar design and features and came out around the same time as the iPod Nano.
Why did the Zune never become as successful as they may have wished, and the iPod Nano thrived?
The Zune even had FM radio and video capabilities, which the iPod didn’t have.
Apple’s products followed a dream and created a following.
The Zune, unfortunately for them, was seen as simply an inferior product to most.
Let’s flip the switch… there were lots of mp3 players that came out before the iPod! So why did Apple’s version become so popular?
Maybe it’s the media… Maybe it was the interface… Maybe people like apples… Maybe it’s Maybelline… Or maybe it’s because people believed in Apple’s innovative spirit!
As you can see, a dream is crucial to staying successful throughout the test of time.
My classic example … Becoming a nurse for a higher paycheck isn’t enough to get you through months or years of overnight shifts … The desire to help people is!
I will leave you with this quote by Tony Gaskins:
“If you don’t have a dream someone else will hire you to build theirs.”
2. Do You Know What Your Dream Is?
If you don’t that’s okay.
That’s what I’m writing this post for!
There are a few mistakes people make that keep them from honing in on their dream.
Here’s what not to do:
- Don’t focus on what you don’t want
- Don’t focus on the expectations of others
- Don’t get overwhelmed
The Law of Attraction says that you attract into your life what you put your energy into.
If this is true (and I whole-heartedly believe it!), focusing on what you don’t want in life is sure to bring you grief.
If you focus on what other people want for you, and not what you want for yourself, you’ll never truly be happy or feel fulfilled.
I learned this the hard way.
My parents had good intentions for me, but I felt like I had to do what they wanted or else they’d be unhappy with me. Not only was I unhappy with where I was and what I was doing (for years!), I also stacked up a lot of debt in the meantime.
Last but certainly not least, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed or bust a brain vessel trying to come up with a dream within 24 hours.
Take it slow and have fun!
While a dream is important in achieving the life you want, you don’t have to have everything mapped out by the end of today!
Give yourself time to really let your inner self blossom, especially if you’ve never done anything like this before.
Just like any exercise you try for the first time, you have to build up your creative dreaming muscles.
3. How to Specify/Define Your Dream
So you’ve learned the importance of a dream and what not to do when embarking on the journey to create, find, and/or develop your dream.
The next step is to actually start the process!
There are lots of different things you can do, both to get started, and to continuously gain clarity and momentum for your dream. Here are some of them.
Sitting down and just writing everything that comes to mind when you think of your ideal life or your dream can be very beneficial.
I love to write. Once I start writing about something, the ideas just start flowing!
Brainstorming can be a great way to not only identify your dream, but also help get fresh new ideas that could fit it!
If you need a little help, ask yourself questions like:
- What matters to me?
- If money were no object/obstacle to me, what would I be pursuing?
- What drives my decision making?
- How do I choose the friends I have? (Economic status, their characteristics, how they can benefit you, how you can benefit them, etc)
- If I didn’t have to go to work, what would my ideal day look like? What would I spend my time doing?
- What brings me the most joy and happiness?
- If I could choose one thing to learn or do better, what would it be?
- What do I value in life? (politically, economically, financially, relationally, emotionally, etc)
- What am I talented at? (If you can’t come up with anything, ask someone close to you. We often can’t see our own best attributes!)
- When I die one day, how do I want others to remember me? (Your legacy)
Now that you may kind of have an idea of the direction you want to go, or the end result you want to achieve, you have to learn everything you can to keep your momentum strong.
You should do lots of research.
You can research online, read books, read testimonials of people in the niche you’re thinking about, find videos or tutorials online, or look up autobiographies of your favorite people who do what you’re potentially interested in.
This will help you see what others have used to fuel them for long periods of time, from getting inspiration from a key person in their life to having a dream like Steve Jobs.
Take Online Classes
Another great option once you have a good idea of your desired result is finding online classes to take.
For example, if you, like Steve Jobs, have a passion for tech innovation and changing the world, you might find computer or coding classes to take to propel you forward in that direction.
Gaining the tools to give you momentum is very important. It’s part of the reason why education can be priceless—You get to decide how you use your knowledge.
Take Your Past Experiences into Account
This one is huge. No one can take your story from you, and if that’s your inspiration for your dream or your goals, no one can stop you from doing that.
When I was in college, I studied psychology, and my passion (and focus) was in domestic violence.
I had a friend who grew up in an extremely abusive household, and I also had an abusive boyfriend for a short period of time in my life.
These things gave me drive to work with other domestic violence victims because I had been through it and knew that no one deserved what abusers often put their victims through.
I worked in shelters and wrote many papers on the topic. I learned as much about it as I could.
Because I didn’t finish my degree (Hint: I didn’t finish my degree because I let something distract me from my dream.), I did not continue to pursue a path in helping victims of domestic violence.
However, it’s still a powerful example of how your past experiences both shape who you are and the direction you decide to take your life.
I have always loved animals. When I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. As a result of this, I started volunteering everywhere that I could with animals. I volunteered at vet’s offices, zoos, and wildlife sanctuaries.
I discovered from volunteering that while I love my own animals, I did not want to work with them unless I was doing animal behavior.
If you have something in your mind that you think you’d love to do, go try it out! You may be surprised what you learn about yourself!
Another great way to specify your dream is to interview others who have already walked the beaten path.
Find people who enjoy what they do… Don’t find some miserly old teacher who sticks around for the tenure if you think your passion may be to teach children.
Ask lots of questions!
- Ask them why they originally decided to do what they are doing.
- Ask them if there was ever a time where they felt like they had made a wrong decision.
- How did they get out of that mindset?
- Did they grow through that experience?
- Are they just as happy now as when they started? If not, why?
Try to come up with some of your own! These questions can give you valuable insight and room for growth for your own dream.
Network With Others
If you have a passion already, but need a dream to keep you in it for the long haul, try to find groups or gatherings that cater to it.
A great website for this is www.meetup.com.
Being around other people who love what you love can be a great tool for you.
There are groups for almost everything under the sun, from hiking to reading to computer geeking to movie buffs to yoga enthusiasts! I would be surprised if you couldn’t find what you were looking for on there!
Bouncing ideas off other people, collaborating with others in your ventures, and staying passionate because you’re around likeminded people are all extremely important—especially in these early stages.
If your dream requires big investing, for example, who you know becomes increasingly important. Put yourself out there and let the results come to you!
Be cautious here.
It’s usually obvious when someone DOESN’T have a dream. They are often negative, self-depreciating, give up very easily, and talk down about other’s dreams…
Do you know why you can put crabs in a bucket with no lid and you’ll keep most of them inside?
Because they don’t want one guy having what the rest of them don’t or seemingly can’t… So they pull each other down.
People put others down because they would rather pull others down to their level than work hard and rise up.
They want to make themselves feel better about being lazy or their lack of progress or success in life, so they’ll make fun of YOUR dream.
This is why It’s SO important to hang around with people on the same level as you, because you ARE who you hang around.
If you hang around other dreamers, you’ll become a dreamer too. If you hang around people with no dream, you will either never have one, or lose yours rather quickly.
I encourage you to connect with others, just be careful who you are connecting with.
Create a Vision Board
If you’ve never created a vision board before, it is a very powerful tool to keep you both motivated and dreaming over long periods of time.
Not only is it great for dreaming, but it’s great as a visual reminder and progress tracker of where you are with your finances!
For example, if you’re paying off debt, coloring in a tracking sheet can help you see the progress you’re making towards paying it off!
Or, if you’re saving up for something big, keeping track of how much money you’ve saved and looking at it every day can help keep you motivated to keep socking those pennies away!
I encourage you to keep a journal of your journey of creating or discovering your dream! It will be fun for you looking back to see where you were and how far you’ve come.
You’ll see this come into play when I talk about SMART goals!
Remember that your dream will also change and evolve over time to mold to your changing worldview or opinions, life circumstances, or even just a change in preferences.
4. Next Steps
Now that this post has given you some insight into how to build your dream…
The dream is the destination on the map, now you have to determine the path that will get you there!
This path will be your goals.
There is a relatively well-known concept called SMART goals. They were created by Peter Drucker.
They can be used in almost any facet of life, for almost any aspect you’d like to change!
Each of the categories is put in place to help every desired goal be achieved.
Let’s dissect each one.
Make sure your goal is not too vague.
“I’m going to exercise sometime this week.”
This leaves you with too much room for procrastination or simply not doing it altogether.
“I’m going to go for a run tomorrow at 6am.”
This statement is better because tomorrow when 6am comes, you remember the specific goal you set for yourself to get up and run at that specific time.
There is nothing worse than not being able to tell if you’ve made any progress! (Hint: this is why I hate treadmills :P)
Let’s say you want to lose weight. You start exercising and cutting back on what you eat. It just doesn’t seem to be working.
Did you weigh yourself before you started? Did you use a tape measure to take your measurements? Do you only wear sweatpants?
These things all help you see the progress you are making towards your weight loss goal. If you don’t know where you started, you can’t see how far you’ve come.
This is important because oftentimes it is what will keep you motivated during the process or keep you working hard at another goal even after you’ve completed the first one! (“If I could do that, why can’t I achieve something else?”)
Be careful not to craft goals for yourself that are not possible.
In moments of excitement about something it’s easy to think some things are possible, before you even start working on them!
Saying you want to lose 30 pounds within a year is reasonable.
Wanting to lose 30 pounds in a month just isn’t possible! (At least not in a healthy way!)
Don’t have goals that are way out in left-field.
Waking up one day and saying you want to become a great tennis player is one thing.
Saying you want to be Serena Williams is just not realistic!
The last aspect is creating goals that are bound by time constraints.
“I’m going to run 5 miles one day,” will probably not happen in the amount of time that it could.
Mapping out a plan to get you to 5 miles a day will help you see how long it will take you.
For example, if you already run 1 mile a day, and add a quarter mile every day, you will be at 5 miles a day within 2.5 weeks.
Then you could say, “I’m going to run 5 miles a day within 3 weeks.”
That is the perfect example of a SMART goal! It is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive!
That wraps up creating a BIG dream!
We talked about:
- Why a dream is important
- What not to do when pinpointing your dream
- How to define your dream
- Ways to create successful goals for your dream
What was most helpful to you? I want to hear from you!
“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”(There is some confusion on who this quote belongs to. Most likely either Winston Churchhill or Benjamin Franklin.)
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!
I look forward to hearing from you, and happy dreaming!
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