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One of the hardest things about dreaming is figuring out how to make it happen. I mean, I can sit around all day coming up with dreams – what kind of house I want, leaps I want to make in my career, exotic 6-month-long vacations I want to take, the stunning garden I want in my backyard (complete with pergola)…
As you can see, I’ve been thinking about it.
Having those dreams is all fine and dandy. Unfortunately, however, that’s where, for most of us, it stops. We think “wouldn’t it be nice if someday…”, and we’re right. It would be nice. It would be incredible. But it seems so big, or so expensive, or so impossible, that it gets shrugged off and, ultimately, forgotten.
I sometimes think about dreams like the memory dump in the movie Inside Out. Over the cliffs edge, into the abyss, they go. Sad, dark, forgotten. A haunting tribute of what might have been.
Which is the last place I want my dreams to go.
Because I am one with many, many dreams, I have been spending a lot of time over the last year fixated on this idea of “how do I make these a reality.” While there is no quick snap of the fingers to make them happen, I have learned that there are real, tangible, steps that we can take to rescue our dreams from the memory dump. One of those steps is dreaming backwards. And so, today, I present Dreaming Backwards: A Simple Planning Guide to Achieving Your Dreams.
What Does It Mean to Dream Backwards?
As I mentioned earlier, coming up with a dream is often the easiest part. Figuring out how to get from where we currently are to that dream is what trips us up. We want there to be a straight line, an A+B=C formula, or wish granting genie to quickly make our dreams come true. Even when we are willing to do the work, the path is overshadowed by these mountains that we just don’t know how to climb.
One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received in achieving my dreams is to dream backward. When I dream backward I no longer start where I am and try to figure out the unknown steps that it will make my dream a reality (most likely giving up in the process because I can’t see the road ahead of me). Instead, I start at the end.
How Do You Dream Backwards?
In order to start at the end, I need to know what the end is. So I follow these steps.
Step 1: What is my dream? All the wonderful, glorious details. For this example, let’s imagine that I want to buy a round-the-world plane ticket.
Step 2: What would be the very last thing that would need to happen before I could buy that plane ticket? Well, for me, I would need to receive confirmation that my time off had been approved.
Step 3: Okay great. So what would need to happen before I could receive confirmation? Well, I would need to put in the request.
Step 4: And to put in the request? I would need to know that I had enough money to buy the ticket.
Step 5: And how will you get enough money? Well, I need to save $100 a month into my travel fund.
Step 6: And how do you know how much money you would need? I would need to research roundtrip flights and how much they cost.
And there we go. I now know the first thing I need to do to make that dream a reality. I need to do some research.
Small, Gentle Steps
The key here is, as Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way (a book I am currently loving and will write more about soon):
Set small, gentle goals. And meet them.
The idea of setting small goals is heralded by many self-help gurus, such as Cameron, Dave Ramsey, Tony Robbins, and so many more. There is something intoxicating about reaching a goal. It gives you a boost in motivation and a surge of energy to hit your next goal, and your next, and your next. If your first goal is so large and time consuming that it takes you forever to reach it, the chances are you will quit before you ever get there.
The best part of dreaming backward is that you can break it down into as many steps as you want. Often when I have a more big picture look at what it takes to achieve my dream, I’ll break the steps into smaller steps.
For instance, with the ticket example above, researching a round-the-world flight and learning how much it costs won’t take me long. Step 6? Check.
But wait, Step 5 is save $100 a month into my travel fund. If I don’t currently have an extra $100 a month to put aside, then my progress can come to a screeching halt.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the idea, I simply fill out a new worksheet where “An extra $100 a month” is my dream and then I work out the steps to have it. I work through those small, gentle steps until I reach that goal (hopefully picking up momentum on the way). Then, once I had that extra $100, I head back over to the other sheet and keep the ball rolling.
My dreams deserve to be reality. And so do yours. With a little backward planning, they can become more attainable then you ever thought possible. So try it out today and see what you find. And don’t forget to share your story in the comments section below!