How to create your own Dreams List

April 3, 2013

I frequently make reference to My Dreams List in this blog.  People often ask me about it.  You too can use this tool to begin the process of fulfilling your dreams today.  The first step that I recommend is to create your own Dreams List.  Doing so will only take 15 minutes, requires no special training or skills, and could be the first step towards making your dreams come true.

We each must dream for ourselves.  No one else can or will do it for us.

Your time is limited, so don’t let it be wasted living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. You’ve got to find what you love. Do what you believe is great work. If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle.
Steve Jobs

Why is the Dreams List such a powerful tool?

Because it allows us to get clear about what we want and then to remain conscious of it.  See Why Dream Big and My Dreams List for more information on this.

So, what is a Dreams List?

It is the list of things that I would love to happen if I had no constraints whatsoever.  The things that I wish I could accomplish or experience if I had unlimited resources.

How do you create your own dreams list?

Get a blank piece of paper, and write the following across the top — “If I had unlimited time, money, and ability, I would…”  Then find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted, and for the next 15 minutes, write down whatever you would love to accomplish or to experience in your life.

This is a brain-storming exercise.  Do not edit yourself.  Write down whatever comes to mind.  Do not limit yourself in any way.  Remember that you have unlimited resources and no constraints.  All obstacles will be eliminated.  Everything is possible.  Dream like a child would.  Let your dreams pour out onto the paper.  There are no wrong answers.  Have no concern for what others think, why you want something, or whether it is worthwhile.  If you need more time than 15 minutes, keep going.  On the other hand, your list doesn’t need to be long or even complete.  You can always add more dreams later.  Have fun with it.

Not sure what to write?  People often have dreams about their health, education, career, home, lifestyle, family, relationships, travel, etc., but your dreams are yours alone. Don’t feel obligated to write anything down, even about your spouse or your kids, unless it is something that you really want for yourself.

I’m too <fill in your own consideration(s) here> (e.g. old, busy, poor) to dream.

You’re never too <repeat your own consideration(s) here> to dream.  Everyone has dreams.  There is nothing, I repeat, NO-THING (e.g. young, stressed, sick, or afraid) that can or should prevent you from dreaming.

But why write down things that I’m unlikely to ever accomplish?

It doesn’t hurt to dream.  You never know what will happen.  Perhaps one or more of your dreams will come true.  Wouldn’t that be great?  Something is better than nothing.  What could it hurt to try?

“It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.”
— Bob Goddard 

OK, I did it.  Now what do I do with my list?

Keep it.  Put it some place where you’ll look at it periodically, at least once a month.  For example, on the inside cover of your journal or daybook, or on your bedside table.  Those who are more technically inclined might put in a spreadsheet, but print it out and don’t forget about it.  It’s important to review it periodically.

What else?  Shouldn’t I start taking action to achieve my dreams?

If you want to, then please do.  If you’re not ready yet, that’s OK too.  Just keep reviewing your list periodically.  Add additional items if you want, but don’t remove any.  If you see an opportunity to fulfill a dream (or take a step towards it) then go for it.  If you’re the planning type, consider your dreams when you plan your year or your month.

Final Thoughts

I believe that by creating my dreams list and remaining conscious of my dreams, that I am fulfilling more of those dreams than I would have otherwise (Dream Big).  I believe that the same thing can happen for you.  Please try it and let me know how it goes.  If you’ve already done it, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you.

The word 'DREAM' written in sand with a puple tinge


My Dreams List

January 17, 2012

"I have a dream" printed on sign on a bulletin board
I have a Dreams List. It is what has become known in recent years as a ‘bucket list’, a list of things to experience before I ‘kick the bucket’. Over the years, my list has become an important tool to help me achieve my dreams. More information about why I choose to Dream Big and Live Boldly is available in earlier posts.

My Dreams List is an evolving thing. I review it several times a year. I incorporate it into my annual planning, selecting some dreams to pursue each year. I add new dreams to the list from time to time. I change priorities. To guard against ever giving up on a dream, I never remove anything from the list. Lower priority items remain there to remind me of what I once thought was important. As a result, I will probably never fulfill all of the dreams on the list, which is fine with me.

I started my Dreams List in 1991. I was 25 years old, recently graduated from university and working at my first professional job. My first list was hand-written, done as an exercise at a personal finance seminar that I attended. When I started my list, it seemed like a purely mental exercise, a bit of fun that would put aside and soon forgotten like the notes from virtually every other seminar I’ve ever intended. I was not particularly invested in it. The downside risk of writing down my dreams and never achieving them seemed more likely and more intimidating than the chances of ever fulfilling them. But I wrote them down nonetheless. In the following years, my awareness of my dreams ebbed and flowed. I was focused on my career. I got married. We bought our first house. Interestingly, none of these things was specifically on my Dreams List, but they were important to me (results speak) and essential to achieving my other dreams.

It was 9 years before my first dream came true. Two years later, I completed 5 more. Encouraged by my positive results, I began to focus more on my dreams. I reviewed them more frequently. I began to target specific dreams to pursue. With greater awareness came even greater results. I have already fulfilled more of my dreams than I ever would have imagined when I began.

Over the years, my Dreams List has grown and changed dramatically. It currently has 162 items on it. Of these, 56 have been completed. I plan to fulfill 14 more dreams in 2012, although the actual number will probably be less (I tend to bite off more than I can chew). There is something very satisfying about returning to my list to check off a dream that I added 20 years earlier, but the list is just a tool, a means to my goal of living a greater life.

I believe that having dreams and remaining conscious of them will increase the likelihood that they will occur. Writing down my dreams helps me with both of these. It also helps me to believe that I’m capable of fulfilling my dreams. I choose to believe that I can do virtually anything that I set my mind to.

I do not believe in magic nor pseudoscience and am therefore skeptical of the notion that intention alone can manifest certain things in my life. I have difficulty buying into Law of Attraction ideas such as those postulated in the books The Secret (Ronda Byrne), Think and Grow Rich (Napolean Hill), and The Power of Positive Thinking (Normal Vincent Peale), although I have read all three. But it is my actual experience that if I get clear and remain conscious of the things that I want, they are more likely to happen. Although the mechanism is unclear, it makes sense to me that this should be the case.

The first step is daring to dream in the first place (Dream Big). The second is to remain focused on my vision and to deal with whatever comes up (Live Boldly).

“A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.” — Joyce A. Myers

The word "Dream" written in the sand with water


Why Live Boldly?

January 9, 2012

I chose the name Dream Big Live Boldly for this blog thoughtfully. In a previous post, I wrote about why I choose to Dream Big. This post is about the second part, living boldly.

Having dared to dream, some action is required. Clear intention is important but not sufficient.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. – Henry David Thoreau

Taking action is often the hardest step. It can be so frightening and confusing that many people never risk it. Their dreams are suppressed or forgotten or something that they try to pursue only when death is imminent, but by then it is often too late. There is nothing sadder than a life unlived.

Don’t put pressure on yourself. Pick one dream and take the first small step towards making it happen. Congratulate yourself. Then, take the next step.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. – Anonymous

Almost by definition, big dreams don’t come easily. Otherwise they wouldn’t be big dreams. We often start out with the best of intentions, but are inevitably met by challenges. The road is neither clear nor straight. Sometimes we don’t even know where to start. Life gets in the way. Faced with an obstacle, it is often easier to retreat, but what lays behind is only shadows. A pale reflection of what my life could be. It takes courage to continue to press forward (Live Boldly). Great things can and do happen if I find the courage to pursue them.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. – Walt Disney

Some common barriers on the road are a lack of money or shortage of time for which there will always be hundreds of competing interests. There will be people who don’t support me or who undermine me (consciously or otherwise). I will certainly meet my insecurities along the way, the belief that I’m too old, too young, not smart enough, not strong enough, under qualified, over qualified, etc. This list is almost endless. It’s important to know that all of these are mental barriers or things that can be overcome.

We create barriers for ourselves. We have our own mental barriers. And that keeps us from becoming all we can be, because we say “Well, I can’t do that”. But in the end… you can’t do it unless you can imagine it. And you can’t do it unless you can imagine yourself succeeding at it. – George Lucas

Any life endeavor worth pursuing involves some risk. We take risks every day when we drive a car, go to work, take a vacation, and fall in love. The correct response to life’s risks is not to run away from living, but to feel the fear and do it anyway. In the face of all the risks, I choose to live my life with courage (Live Boldly). Living a life of fear is no life at all.

A lot of people do not muster the courage to live their dreams because they are afraid to die.  – Les Brown

The key is to always keep moving forward. I hold the vision of the dream and deal with whatever is ahead of me. It helps me to focus on where I want to go, not where I’m frightened to go. We all face challenges. What defines us is how we respond to them. I find it useful to believe that things will work out in the end. In my experience, they generally do, and it helps me to get out of bed in the morning when things aren’t going well.

It’s very important that I always remember to enjoy the journey. What’s better than pursuing my dreams? I can’t wait until I have fulfilled my dreams to be happy. That day may never happen, but I can be happy right here, right now.

Note — If you haven’t seen it (or haven’t seen it recently), I highly recommend watching Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture.  Randy was a brilliant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who touched the lives of many, even when his own was ending.


Why Dream Big?

January 6, 2012

I chose the name for this blog Dream Big Live Boldly thoughtfully. What does it mean to me?

Life is short, way too short to sit back and wait for something good to happen. This is not a dress rehearsal. I want to live the best life that I can. I don’t want to settle for mediocrity.

Neon sign with the words "you only live once"

There are two essential components to experiencing my best life. The first is dreaming big, and the second, having the courage to continue to pursue those dreams despite all obstacles. This posting will address the first of these.

Why Dream?

When we were children, we all had dreams. Ask a child what they want when they grow up and they’ll quickly volunteer lots of ideas. But something happens on the way to adulthood. We put away our childhood dreams. We lower our expectations. We compromise. We give up. As adults many of us have forgotten how to dream or don’t dare to for risk of disappointment.

Everyone has a default script for our lives (parents, employer, spouse, kids, the government). Although they are generally well meaning, if I don’t have dreams of my own, these scripts will become mine. I’d rather be the master of my own destiny.

Dreaming is the essential first step to living a full life. To bring something into being, I need to first imagine it.

Before your dreams can come true, you have to have those dreams. — Joyce Brothers

Dreams have a tendency to morph into reality. Dreams envisioned are more likely to occur than those that are suppressed. There is no magic here. Although it is helpful to believe that one’s dreams will come true, what is necessary is only that one remain conscious of their dreams.

Despite what we’ve been taught, we don’t have to be rich, powerful, or unique to make our dreams come true.

If you can dream it, you can do it.  Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse. — Walt Disney

Why Dream Big?


Yoda looking up at The Hulk

Big dreams are inspirational. They can compete with all the other things demanding my attention. I seek a dream so compelling that I can’t help but achieve it. Something attractive and powerful.

Big dreams expand my abilities. They challenge me. Why limit myself?

Big dreams attract support.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. – W.H. Murray

Even if I fall short of my big dreams, I’ll still gain a lot. I doubt that I’ll achieve all of them, but it is better to fail spectacularly then to fade away without pursing them.

If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK. But you’ve got to shoot for something. A lot of people don’t even shoot. – Robert Townsend

The journey is the reward. I will live a greater life pursuing my dreams, even if I never achieve them.

Have you dared to dream? If so, are your dreams big enough for you?


My context shift

September 29, 2011

Have you ever experienced a change of perspective, paradigm, or context so significant that it literally transformed your life?  I have.

While trekking in the mountains of Nepal in the fall of 2009, I was walking with a friend and talking about a potential career change.  I was brainstorming all kinds of creative ideas (new jobs, business opportunities, writing a book, etc.) when he asked the question that changed my life, “Do you need to work?”  At first, I almost laughed at the simplicity and apparent naiveté of the question.  I didn’t know how to respond.  For some reason I wanted to say, “Of course I need to work”, but that wasn’t strictly true.  No one needs to work.  It is, like all things in life, a choice.  So I thought about it and then answered, “I assume so.  I don’t really know.  I’ve never really considered it”.  And so, I considered it.

Answering the question wasn’t easy nor quick.  It was six months before I emailed my friend to answer his question.  I replied that I could, with a reasonable probability, live a lifestyle that would be acceptable to my wife and I, without needing a job.  Notice all the caveats in that statement.  That’s because deciding to stop working is not a simple thing.  Despite what the advertisements for banks and investments imply, it is something closer to an educated guess than an exact science.   For many people, I suspect it is easier to just keep working than to even answer that question.

Although finding an answer took a while, the change of perspective was quick.  I needed only to open my mind to the most obvious scenario, the one that was staring me in the face.  In business cases, the status quo is almost always considered.  Potential alternatives are compared to one another, but also to continuing to do what we’re doing now.  But somehow, I was overlooking this.  Although I was not working at that time, my mind was so locked into the idea that I needed to work, that I failed to see the obvious.  I needed only to see things differently to realize a world of possibility.  Dream Big.

Have you ever experienced a context shift so significant that it changed your life?