If you’re not running after your dream, then what are you chasing?

Dreams get a bad rap, yet they represent a useful form of information that can be effectively translated into a better life. That is, if you’re willing to resourcefully engage with them. We are all busy, but if you’re not chasing down your dream then what are you filling your time with?

Ten months ago I left my corporate management consulting job to pursue a dream. The first step on that journey is now complete with the publication of The Good Life Book this week. This afternoon The Good Life Book had made it into the Top 10 sellers on Amazon.com in the Work Life Balance category (at least for a microsecond!). An idea from more than 30 years ago has somehow finally become my day job.

Let me share my lessons from the road to a dream, and what’s next. There might be something in this article that will help turn your daydreams into your day.

A Dream: from idea to day job.

It is all too easy to discount a dream. One reason is that a dream looks and feels different depending on how it arrives, how long it has been around, and what stage of life you’re at. It might look like an idea, thought or simple observation. It might seem like a fantasy or just idle escapism. Yet, no matter how far fetched your dream might seem from where you sit right now, don’t make the mistake of losing touch with your dreams.

Here are 3 reasons why you should work on your dreams:

  1. Dreams are a source of hope, and hope is a source of change
  2. Dreams represent valuable personal information
  3. A dream is clue on how to allocate your time and energy wisely

1. Hope.

Life can be tough. Sometimes our day-to-day experience of life doesn’t stack up against what we might wish for or expect. One option is to give up — to resign yourself that things can’t get better. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy since we close ourselves off to new possibilities. Dreams provide hope, and with that, an expectation that something will happen to turn our life around in future.

This dream could be as simple as wishing for a vacation after a tough week. Or it could be a hope for a better life. I loved 90% of my career in consulting. Of course there were also many times when I was ready for a break. At other, later, times I began to dream in my waking hours of working more authentically and making a larger contribution. I became what T. E. Lawrence would describe as a “dreamer of the day”

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” T. E. Lawrence.

By fixing an earnest expectation of a positive result in your conscious and sub-conscious minds your dream can become a catalyst for change. You will try to “solve” your dream.

2. Personal Information

If you analyse your dreams they can provide a valuable source of personal information around your values and who you are as a person. The trick is to distil the personal from the generic in dreams. I think that most of us dream of living a healthier and more comfortable life in nice surroundings. This is what I’d call a generic dream. Others might dream of tackling a social cause or some other form of contribution. You might dream of publishing a cookbook or running a marathon. These types of dreams are personal since they deeply felt. You can ask yourself “Why?” you have really have these specific dreams and the answer will reveal something personal about what motivates you.

For as long as I could remember my dream was to help people live happier, better lives. This was perhaps what drove my university-years work in tutoring other students, or even when I DJ’ed and ran social events. More tenuously I believed that my consulting career was about making things better through performance improvement at large companies.

Even before that career started I’d had an idea that to start a business that would help people have fun, meet others, learn and grow. A decade and half later I did the three circles exercise that I describe in The Good Life Book. It allowed me to break my dream into three passions, and then to understand what values linked to those passions and to explore the intersection of all three passions.

The idea of starting a small business seemed almost “whimsical” when compared with my long-ish career at a massive consulting organisation. Yet this whimsical idea had stuck around for years and I began to realise that it meant more to me than further accolades and pay rises in my job. What’s more I calculated that I could always return to my job, but with the imminent birth of a second child on the horizon the degree of difficulty in executing on the dream would go up (though not be impossible).

Make your dreams work a little hard. Don’t let them be relegated to just a short term hit of hope or escapism. Learn “why you dream what you dream” and you’ll be a step closer to achieving what your dreams represent.

Oh, and remember to DO at least a small part of your dreams today (or this week). That brings me to the next point.

3. A clue to action.

Often we frame our dream as an all-or-nothing endeavour. The risks and complexities involved in such a big-bang type endeavour are often significant enough to stop us from acting at all. As a result what we want to achieve remains in the realm of a dream. Not only do we not follow our dream, but often we don’t do anything at all, in the arena that the dream represents. We don’t even enjoy our dream in hobby mode, or as one or more smaller scale experiences.

Instead we should treat our dream like the vision of a cherished future state. Our dream provides us with clues about where to go, but not a detailed roadmap of how to get there.

Instead of thinking about the destination that your dream represents again and again, use that time and energy to think about and act on exploring directions to that dream.

The thought of quitting my job to start a business seemed like a bridge too far. Too risky. Yet, it also seemed risky to write an article on LinkedIn about my thoughts on the good life. The latter risk was one that I was eventually willing to take, emboldened by the writer’s group I’d begun to attend.

Attending that first writer’s group was a risk. I feared that I’d embarrass myself or that the group of would reject a grey corporate land-lubber from their creative seas. Luckily neither of those things happened. Doing something uncommon (for me) in attending the writer’s group spurred me to write an article and then eventually to quit my job to write a book. That put me in a better place to work on the real dream of doing more to help others. Part of my dream, as of last week, became part of my history, something already done.

Of course there are lots of other things I could have been doing instead with the thousands of hours spent writing the book, some positive, some probably that I’d have already have forgotten by now. So that brings me to the final point. Working on your dreams feels good and it is a productive use of time… it beats all of those other urgent but unimportant time wasters that could fill your time. Take that from someone who has certainly wasted a lot of time chasing the wrong things, but finally tried the alternative.

Treat your dreams like a puzzle to be solved. Keep a playful air of experimentation that allows you to take uncommon small steps that begin to snowball.

Conclusion

Today I feel so grateful for making the jump and for your support. With the book under my belt the world looks different than it did barely 12 months ago. For a microsecond this afternoon my book got into the Top 10 sellers on Amazon.com in the work life balance category.

That happened since I was able to direct what I focused on in a different way for a period of time and, importantly, connect with enough of you to help you believe in what I’m trying to achieve and to take that extra step to buy the book. Of course my dream is a marathon of sprints. The first sprint is done but the race is still being run.

Along the way I managed to pilot the business idea and show how that can also do some good for charity. More about that in future posts, along with some of the key ideas from the book.

A final word. Drēam in Old English means joy or music. Perhaps that is the most personal lesson about following your dreams. Following a dream is about finding your joy and music, what lights you up and makes you feel alive.

Thanks for reading and wishing you all the best on the road to your dreams.

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The Good Life Book is now available on Amazon.com internationally in Paperback and Kindle formats.