Updated: Mar 20
What is a Dream?
Everyone has the fundamental right to have a dream. It’s why we have the gifts of imagination and creativity. Children, who are hard wired to tap into their imaginative selves, dream all the time. But why do we place less emphasis on it as adults and why do we allow ourselves to crush our dreams with reality checks to the point where we just don’t bother with them?
If we allow it, a dream can set out out the framework for our lives... how we live, what we aspire to, what we strive for and what we have built for ourselves and our loved ones and this is why we should give it headspace.
However, all too often we don’t all get much further than just giving it headspace and that’s really sad isn’t it? Sometimes, even when we do take the next step of committing a dream to paper, it still doesn’t get realised and that’s even sadder.
In April 2020, I read a book called “Your Best Year Yet” by Jenny Ditzler. The irony of reading this during a year that for so many has come to be remembered as “your worst year ever” is not lost on me but in my defence, I had a lot of time on my hands and I needed a distraction. Anyway in the book, Jenny encourages us to dream big but also to consider some of our limiting behaviours that have so far prevented us from having this whole grail of the most awesome year. As it turned out, lockdown in 2020 was a good time to start digging into this topic because what we were all experiencing was a huge paradigm shift that would go on to change so many of our lives moving forwards.
I didn’t hold back when it came to my self-assessment and, looking back on my notes now, I can see that I wrote phrases like, “I don’t believe I can achieve great things so I don’t bother starting them”, “I often waste a day on a ‘mindful’ task, telling myself that it’s good for my mental health, when really I just can’t be arsed to confront what it is that I really want to get done” and “at work I just focus on easy, repetitive tasks because I feel too overwhelmed to start projects that would actually make a difference to the company and ultimately my career”.
Looking back at it now, it makes pretty depressing reading especially when I read my notes on what all of that negative thinking has cost me over the years, which I won't bore you with. But, on the flip side, if any of this resonates with you, the best news is that it doesn’t have to be like this forever. I changed things for myself and in very simplistic terms, the way I did it was firstly by encouraging myself to dream big and secondly, by putting in place some strategies for bridging the gap between a big dream and what is now my reality and it's this that I want to share with you in this post and hopefully give you some fresh ideas for making effective resolutions.
Why is a dream so important?
Seeing even a small part of a big dream come to fruition is one of the most rewarding things ever and will spur you on to even bigger and better things.
Dreaming increases your resilience because even if you fail on one aspect of your journey, you will learn from that and you will come back stronger.
Believing in your dreams increases positivity, it trains your brain to look for new opportunities and challenges and believing that you have what it takes to capitalise on those situations really boosts your confidence.
Your mindset becomes more focussed on growth because you are always engaged on the next tasks you need to accomplish to reach your milestones. Conversely if you are always looking for what could go wrong (like me in April 2020) then you’re actively seeking the negatives and it stunts your growth. Did you know by the way that our brains are hardwired to seek out risks and threats? It's evolutionary survival instinct kicking in and to work with it (I won't say defeat it because it's instinct) but to work with it requires you to train your brain which is a good thing.
Spending your time positively becomes so much more important to you (again, see my notes from 2 years ago). If you goal-focussed then you’re more likely to be engaged on meaningful activities. The only down side to this (and this is a biggie for me) is that if you spend a couple of days on shallow activities, which expands into a couple more days and then a couple of weeks, you can be really hard on yourself (big tick here – must try harder to be less hard on myself!)
How to dream
OK so now we’re onto the fun part and if you’re not familiar with day dreaming, here are a few pointers you could try to get you started.
Take a blank piece of paper and fill it with everything that you would love to do but can’t/won’t/don’t. For this, don’t hold back, really go for it – how does your ‘perfect life’ look to you?
Try writing down a ‘diary entry’ of your perfect day in your perfect new life. Start with when you wake up and end with when you retire to bed. In between those times, what happens? Where do you work and how do you get there? Where do you live and what’s your house like? What do you eat? Who are you with? How do you spend your leisure time? What is important to you in your new life and how much time do you devote to that? Believe me, I’ve done this exercise and it’s pretty insightful.
Get your family involved and write all of your dreams onto sticky notes and stick them around your house.
Speak about it and record yourself saying everything that you want for yourself.
These are just some ideas, go with what works best for you but what I will say is you need to record it in some way. There are a few good reasons for this: it sets out your intention and makes it more real in your mind i.e this is what you want to achieve and you are making a commitment to take steps towards it, you can also look back in a few years and track your progress, you can categories your dreams into different focus areas e.g. fitness, family, career, personal and see where there are overlaps and finally it makes it a lot easier to do the next step if you’ve got them written down.
What’s stopping you?
At this stage, you might want to delve into what might prevent you from progressing your dreams, especially if you have tried this before and found that it’s gone nowhere for you. You can do as I did and give yourself a thorough dressing down over some of your limiting behaviours, you can look into whether you need any further help to get you to the next level or you can simply skip this step entirely, I mean why focus on the negatives when we’re all about positive changes, right?
How to turn a dream into a reality
Now we’ve arrived at the most important stage, which you definitely can’t skip under any circumstances as it’s going to become your road map for realising your dreams, and it's all about goal setting. A dream without goals is just a dream, it’ll probably never happen and remain destined to gather dust in the bottom drawer. Goals are your road map for reaching your destination, although I prefer not to think of dreams as having an end point but other than that it’s a good enough analogy.
Once you have your goals, you will need to break them down further into targets or steps long the way and that’s super important because the targets are the things we can shoot for and ticking them off releases happy hormones in our brain which keeps us on track… one step closer to the dream and all that.
Here’s an example of what it looks like:
DREAM: one day I’m going on that Caribbean cruise
GOAL: save up enough money to make it happen
TARGETS: by the end of January, I will have saved £100. In February I will book the time off work. By Easter I will have saved £500…. Get the picture?
What have you noticed about those targets? They are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely – remember that from school? It’s so important though because that’s how they get ticked off and that’s how you get closer to your goals. If you set yourself something with no road map to achieve it then you've failed before you’ve even started and your motivation to make it happen will take a nosedive. And that is the reason why so many New Year's resolutions end up in the bin before the end of January!
So what if your dreams are so unrealistic that you can’t even generate immediate goals from them? Don’t allow this to be a limiting factor, just keep breaking them down until you have something you can work with. The goal might be to make a million so decide when you want to do that by and if it’s in 10 years then work on what you need to work on in the next 10 years to get closer to making that happen.
It’s also OK to put some dreams on the back burner for now while you focus on what’s immediately important to you. In fact, I would strongly suggest organising your dreams into order of priority and looking at them to see if there is any overlap or if any of them are dependent on others coming to fruition first. Don’t try and take on the world in one go, just have a play about with this and review it in a few months’ time – you might be doing so well that you can change the world by then, who knows?
This January, why not give this a go and see if you make something happen? And if you do, then I would truly love to hear about it.