Imagine I am your life coach, hired because you’ve come to the mortal realization that you have one life to live. It is a finite opportunity and (though you have 86,400 potential choices to make about how to spend each second of each day), you are stuck in a place/relationship/situation where you feel tolerated rather than celebrated. Or, conversely, you do feel loved, cherished and celebrated by others, and you have a good life by most accounts, but you are still missing something – and worry that you are growing older year by year in a life that is acceptable, given your present means, but not creatively ideal for you, given the tug in your soul.
As your coach, I’m interested in your true and authentic dreams, but any dream is, by definition, just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. Could your reality become a compilation of accomplished dreams? Here is how to get that nagging whisper of at least one “want” out of your head, onto paper, and into existence.
1. Read and complete the exercises in J.P. Hansen’s book “The Bliss List” [recently reprinted by Reader’s Digest]. It’s subtitled, “Discover what truly makes you happy, then land your dream job.” We’re only interested in the front of the book, the discovery process and exercises — not the back part on forging a career. My own copy of the book has an airline ticket bookmark to remind me that I once gave it no more significance than an on-flight diversion. After reading it and completing the exercises between Chicago and Denver, however, I adopted a new mindset that purposefully changed my entire future. How strange to think that a casual reading choice would have such an impact! Trust me: visit the library or invest $20.
2. Write down your formal bliss list: pare it down to three dreams and tuck it in your wallet. This is now your “to do” list instead of your wish list. Buck Joseph, Emeritus Professor of Management at the University of Wisconsin, shared three bliss goals taped to his bathroom mirror, the first thing he sees daily: “1) Maintain and appreciate a loving relationship with my wife; 2) Plan, cultivate and enjoy a master garden; 3) Be a man that my adult children will continue to admire and come to for advice.” Buck does something every single day toward each of these goals. Because of that, he’s living his dream life.
3.Break down dreams into plans with logical steps and deadlines. Surprise! This process tends to moderate goals, making them more do-able and immediate. I have long imagined living in a beautiful home in the country. I invited my husband to help me transform the dream into a goal with a plan and deadline. While putting a timetable to it, I realized I wasn’t yet ready to walk away from a thriving consultancy business. Also, I love to “borrow” our Chicago and Madison grandkids for occasional weekend adventures. Could we afford a primary residence between those two cities, given prime land prices? How would we maintain country property as we aged? And Madison, with its many bookstores, weird restaurants and area friends… were we ready to give all of that up? (No, hubby said. He is NOT!)
As my husband and I discussed emerging conflicts, he suggested a compromise — buying a second home in a very rural community, an aging-in-place ranch-style house near extended family four hours away, where property prices are very much lower. We could do online searches for older homes with lots of windows, mature trees and garden plots! Surely if we bought in that area, a contractor cousin could help convert a less expensive home into a true dream house! We broke this much clearer vision into steps (establish budget/find properties matching criteria/secure financing/check with realtors).
Suddenly it seemed almost… do-able. I got very excited at the thought of living/working in the rural setting for a week or so every month, returning to the city to host grandchildren’s visits, associate meetings, and to complete on-site work for regional clients. We would also have more time to acclimate to semi-retirement, mixing working and gardening and making new friends while keeping the old.
The dream became reality within weeks instead of years. That’s the power of making a bliss list and going through the discipline of analyzing dreams as action plans.
4.Trade in “future think” for “present action”. Change your internal dream forecast every day from “cloudy with a chance of sunshine” (or “showers” if you’re feeling pessimistic) to “the perfect day to do at least one thing toward my dream”. Start reeling in that big fish today; keep at it every day until you land it! What can you do TODAY toward the dreams on your bliss list? Set small goals inside larger ones! Save a dollar or 20. Enroll in a class to acquire a new skill. Network more purposefully. Acquire information!
I can’t coach you individually (though that remains a dream). See how I’m planting seeds today for tomorrow’s garden? What are you doing with your 86,400 seconds today?