I’m sure you have plenty of dreams for your life. They might bubble away at the back of your mind. They might loom in your thoughts all day. They might even keep you awake at night.
Dreams can be powerful, encouraging and even a bit scary. A dream alone, though, isn’t going to get you far.
What you need is a plan.
And if that sounds too boring, think of it this way: if you want to actually have that dream, a plan is the map that gets you there.
Here are five steps for turning that vague dream into a concrete plan:
Step #1: Write Down Your Dream
How many of your dreams have you actually written down?
Perhaps the idea of committing your dreams to writing is a little frightening. Don’t resist doing it. The act of putting something into words on paper (or in a computer document) suggests that you’re committing to it – and this can be very powerful in helping you eventually achieve that dream.
Even better, when you write something down, you’re forced to think it through. That vague dream of “have lots of money” has to become something firmer – perhaps “make $100,000/year” or “have $200,000 in the bank”.
Step #2: Brainstorm Some Possibilities
Whatever your dream, there’s more than one way to reach it. For instance, if you want to make lots of money, you could:
- Change careers to something more lucrative
- Work harder in your current job to get a promotion
- Go back to college and study for a degree
- Start up your own business as an entrepreneur
- Save up money and put it into a high-interest account
- Marry someone rich
- Buy a winning lottery ticket
There are lots of possibilities (and I hope you can see that some of those ones are a bit more realistic than others!) When you’re brainstorming, include all the ideas that come to mind – even ones which seem silly or impractical. You might find that a “stupid” idea leads you on to a really good one.
Step #3: Pick One Clear Goal
Once you’ve figured out some possibilities, come up with one clear goal. You might decide, for instance, that your goal is to change to a particular career which will give you a $80,000/year paycheck.
Look for a goal which is perhaps challenging, but achievable. There’s no point in picking a goal which you’re convinced you can’t really manage – that’s just going to put you back in the world of dreams, where you constantly think about a better future without taking any action towards getting there.
Step #4: Give Yourself a Deadline
It’s much easier to hit your goals when you’re working towards a deadline.
Again, you want to be realistic here – but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself a little. If you’ve got a really big goal, you might want to look two – five years ahead. With smaller goals, you can probably achieve them within a year.
With the example of changing career, you might decide that three years is a realistic timeframe. It’s often helpful to tie your deadline to a particular event – perhaps your 40th birthday or Christmas 2014.
Step #5: Write Down the Steps to Get You There
And now we’re onto the plan itself. This is where you really get into the nitty-gritty and start turning that dream into something real.
With big goals, it’s often helpful to work backwards. So:
- What are the job requirements of that new career?
- How can you achieve them (e.g. take night classes)?
- Are there any pre-requisites for that (e.g. you need some money to pay for the classes)?
- How can you do that?
You should be able to get to a clear step which lets you move forwards from where you are, such as “save $20/week for six months”.
If you have any steps which you don’t know how to complete, try breaking them down further. Figure out exactly what you need to do to achieve your dream – and you’ve got a plan which really can change your life.
So – what’s your dream? And what’s the first step on your plan? Let us know in the comments.