Dreamlining is a technique anybody can employ to achieve his or her assumingly unachievable personal goals, objectives or dreams. It is a way of quantifying your wants and desires from ambiguous hopes and thoughts into a written plan of action with steps and milestones. A famous Albert Einstein quote is “insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results” and the takeaway from this is that if you really want to achieve something new and thrilling then your approach needs to be distinctively different. By dreamlining you can map out a path to achieve what you want whilst understanding what you need to do differently to get there.
Dreamlining will be an ongoing exercise in which you shoot for the stars and therefore these goals need to be seemingly unrealistic to get the most benefit from this task. Your dreams can be both personal and professional but ensure you take the time to determine whether you truly want them or if they are something you think you should achieve or if it just sounds cool and exciting.
“Don’t fool yourself, if you really want a Ferrari, don’t put down solving world hunger out of guilt.” — Tim Ferris
The first time I heard the concept of dreamlining was when reading Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Workweek and as part of this post I will also be completing the initial steps personally so that you can see first-hand exactly how to complete the exercise. One of the biggest points I quickly realised is that fear will cloud your mind and it can be incredibly difficult to think big and extravagant enough. The reasoning for this was because I knew the next step would be to take direct action on the dreams I recorded here; difficult when I cannot see how to jump from a dream to achieving said dream. The first time I failed completely with ‘dreams’ like post one article a week or 1 German lesson a week. Kind of pathetic dreams… but achievable. After this attempt, I went back to the drawing board, brainstormed again and ended up with this:
Before giving my reaction and feedback to my own choices I will go through and explain exactly how to complete the above exercise and the meaning of each step/section.
- Step 1: Having – Here you should list the things you dream of owning whether physical or not. If you’ve always had a poster of a Ferrari F40 on your wall then maybe this should be listed here. Or you may wish to own a business that employs over 100 people; write it down.
- Step 2: Being – How would you like others to refer to you when talking about you. Do you want them to say ‘He’s an athlete’, ‘She’s so attractive’, ‘He’s so kind’. Think of how you would describe someone who inspires you and use this as inspiration for your list.
- Step 3: Doing – Similar to Step 1: Having, however this time you need to list experiences that you dream of being involved in or achieving instead. It could be for fun (a holiday), a challenge (sailing an ocean), or an act (starting a new career).
- Step 4: Doing – Different from step 3 this step directly relates to your ‘being’ objectives as here your need to turn your answers into something actionable. The example given by Tim Ferris is that ‘Being an excellent cook’ turns into ‘cooking thanksgiving dinner for 6 people without help’. This is actionable and can be achieved. Examples from bullet point Step 2 might be ‘run a marathon’, ‘see abs’ and ‘volunteer weekly’.
- Step 5: Costs – Before calculating costs you need to determine which are your 4 most important goals as these will be the ones you will focus on for the next X months. From here on you will only focus on achieving these 4 goals. To calculate your costs, determine the monthly price of each dream. If it is a one time thing then divide by the number of months (in my case 12).
- Total Monthly Income – Add the total monthly costs of your 4 dreams to your normal monthly expenses x 1.3 (30% buffer for safety or savings)
- Total Daily Income – Divide your required monthly income by 30. It can be easier to visualise the costs per day
- Steps Now – Each one of your 4 goals needs to have a step now – complete this now or as soon as possible.
- Tomorrow – Like Step now but this should be the second step for each
- Day After – Each goal needs to have a next small achievable step.
Hopefully now you understand how to complete your own list you can read on either for inspiration… or because you’re nosy and want to know why I listed what I did.
Step 1: Having
Something that I very quickly realised when completing this task is that none of my wants and desires revolve around material things as I really struggled to complete Step 1. Sure, I could have lied to myself and written down things like owning a yacht or a Lamborghini but truthfully neither of those things are my dream. Would I like to own them? Sure. Does it make it into my list? Not even close.
The next natural consideration for this is why this is the case and I’ve narrowed it down to 2 possible reasons:
- My desire is to be able to start a nomadic life and more stuff just ties me down to a life I don’t necessarily want
- Due to the Covid pandemic and my pursuit of Financial Independence, have I stopped treating myself to material objects that may bring me joy?
I spent a little while just being honest with myself regarding the second bullet point and whether it should be something I need to concern myself with before ultimately coming up with the following points:
- I’m in an incredibly fortunate position and I already own too many things
- There’s no need to force myself and pretend to need new things if they don’t bring me value
- I realised I now value experiences over material items
- I’ve gotten old enough that I don’t really care about fashion… damn (although I think most people I know will say I never did).
- There are things I want but owning none of these are a dream
Overall, it was the final point which convinced me that it really is not an issue to have very little or nothing physical to put in this step and that every single persons dreamline will be different. What it did do though is serve as a reminder to treat myself and celebrate when I get the opportunity.
Now that we’ve discussed what I didn’t want it’s easy enough to realise that my wants serve one direct purpose which is to allow me to become nomadic and give me the power to choose the life I want to live. Do I really expect my blog to take off and become a money earner for me? Not really but the whole point of the exercise is to set unrealistic goals. If it doesn’t happen then no problem, I started this blog with the intention of helping people and the expectation of making zero money.
Step 2 & 4: Being & Doing
The being task is where I really began to focus on my personal development outside of my work and blog life. All the dreams here would directly add large amounts of value to my life for the following reasons:
- Fluent in German – My girlfriend is German and it is incredibly frustrating to know none of her language and struggle to interact with her friends and family. At a later date I would love to begin to learn Spanish to aid future travel to South/Central America.
- Yoga – This may seem small as my only real goal is to be able to touch my toes but unfortunately I come from an extremely inflexible family and have an issue with my spine that makes this much more difficult.
- Fit and Strong – Over the last number of years I have worked hard to trim down and get into shape and this has been a catalyst for many of the biggest points of note in the last few years.
To expand more on the fit and strong point I should point out that growing up I had usually been a little bit chubby. Not fat but enough that I was not hugely confident going to a beach or swimming pool. To combat this I educated myself regarding nutrition and started to exercise a lot more to great effect. I ended up dropping from around 87kg to 70kg in around 1 ½ years which not only greatly improved my health but also gave me so much more confidence at home and work. Without this I’m still unsure whether I would have solo travelled or even spoken to my now girlfriend and genuinely believe that becoming comfortable in your own skin is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself.
Step 3: Doing
This step was by far the easiest for me as I have a huge amount of experiences I want to take part in and places that I am dying to visit. To help me in my quest to explore the world I’ve just begun to curate a bucket list and all three of the listed experiences that involve travel are present on that list. Personally I am most looking forward to living the good life on a fancy yacht partying and making friends but feel it’s more important to complete the cycle. Mont Ventoux is often part of the Tour de France and consistently one of the most difficult climbs due to the steep inclines and incessant winds. Unfortunately 2020 has been a year for me in which I have not really completed a significant physical challenge and I am looking for this to change next year. Time to start training and stop making excuses.
Step 4 & 5: Costs
Before I could begin to calculate the costs of my dreamline I needed to trim the fat from the list and determine which 4 dreams I would be focusing my efforts on entirely. I found this extremely difficult but finally settled on the following:
- Blog with 10,000 views a month
- Defined 6 pack and bench 100kg
- Submit resignation letter
- Yacht Life
There are 2 reasons i chose these 4 dreams which are:
- The most challenging – I had to keep reminding myself that the more unrealistic the better
- Varied – All 4 are completely different and do not overlap at all. Variety is the spice of life after all.
Due to my dreamline having no physical items and no long term trips it is unsurprising that the costs are reasonably affordable. The four dreams I have recorded is by no means an exhaustive list of what I plan on doing within the next 12 months but are instead the waystones I plan on building my year around.
Although monetary costs are low and affordable, it will be very expensive in terms of my time if I am able to achieve the goals I have recorded. I currently work full time and therefore a dream like ‘having a blog that records 10,000 views a month’ will be incredibly taxing for me. At the moment I spend a number of hours each week ensuring I have a post ready every Friday and if I want to achieve the above and still have a life then I need to begin working a lot smarter.
The idea behind this is simple but as with many things the execution can be more difficult. The reasons for my choices were:
- Contact another blogger for advice and offer to help – By offering to help it is much more likely that I will get a response and begin to form a relationship in which I can ask for advice from someone who’s path I am following
- Go to gym and complete exercise – You can’t improve until you start
- Determine the date at which I will submit my resignation letter – Once a date is decided it will become much more real for me
- Contact tour operator – need to know details of yacht trip
- Contact second blogger – My plan is to continue to contact different bloggers until I get a positive response
- Train bench press twice a week (I do a push/pull/legs split) – Keep practicing
- Determine date I will resign – Choose the date I will resign at. I am happy to give a large amount of notice to allow a replacement to be found and trained
- Ask friends about yacht trip (if not I will go alone) – Need to know other people interests before choosing tour
- Contact a third blogger….
- Review diet and calories – Diet is as important as exercise if i’m serious about improving
- Draft resignation letter – Outline reasons for decision as well as ensuring it is positive in case i need to return
- Choose dates – So I can put into calendar and plan around
Finally I have now completed all of the steps required and now comes the difficult part – taking action. Without this then the whole exercise really becomes a waste of time so it’s critical the first thing you do after completing the table is one of the ‘steps now’. For me I immediately messaged a tour guide friend who I knew might be involved in yacht trips in Croatia.
Drawing a Blank?
It’s pretty likely that initially you will suck at this exercise as your choices will either be too reserved or not even related to your personal desires. When starting some of the ‘dreams’ that crossed my mind were:
- Own a yacht – I’m not interested in this at all although I want to holiday on one
- Have a million pounds – irrelevant for me as the money isn’t the dream but what it would allow me to experience
- Never work again – I like work and get a lot of satisfaction from challenges (what I would like is the flexibility to work I job I enjoy when I choose to).
- Release a blog post each week – I already do this and it’s not much of a dream
- Run a marathon – I don’t like running but lots of people do it
The easiest way I found to deal with this and actually record what you want is to:
- Imagine you already have millions of pounds and don’t let costs affect your choices
- If you have a bucket list then review it for inspiration
- Fill out steps 1, 2 and 3 as best you can initially – don’t worry if you can’t think of 5 for each
- Review each dream individually as to whether you have done it for yourself
- Review each dream individually as to whether you have gone big enough. If not use it as your basis and up the difficulty. Start Spanish lessons à become fluent in Spanish
- Take a break – have a tea or coffee and then go for a walk alone and be honest with yourself and what you want
- Come back and redo the list (and in my case take out the ones that now seem ridiculous or downright tedious)
- Come back the following day and repeat the process
One of my favourite quotes is “done is better than perfect” and like in pretty much all cases it applies here. Your dreamlining list is never going to be perfect and if this is what you are aiming for then expect to never complete it. At the end of the day what is better:
- 3 months spent on an inaccurate dreamline which is forever 1 or 2 dreams away from being perfect
- 3 months spend taking actionable steps towards 3 of your original 4 dreams and one cast aside into the proverbial bin where you quickly decided in belongs.
The easiest way to find out whether you like something is to start doing it so worry less and take the first ‘step now.
Do your dreams and your job coexist?
One huge challenge you are likely going to come across rather abruptly is that your current job does not align with your dreamline and it is going to scare you. It’s okay if they are not symbiotic and from here there are 4 real pillars of choice that lay before you:
- Give up with the dreamline exercise as something that’s not possible for you and complain that your lot in life is too difficult
- Find a new job that aligns with your dreams
- Try to modify your current working arrangements to suit
- Create a job/business for yourself that helps you to achieve your goals
For all of these I highly recommend the book that this post is based on which is ‘the 4 Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris. Read it.
Remember this is only for the next x number of months
It was October 2021 when I initially completed my personal dreamline and it was important to me that I remembered this dreamline was only relevant to the next 12 months and not my entire life. Unfortunately we are still living in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and although restrictions have eased there is clear worry about the upcoming winter.
In mind of this some of my ‘doing’ goals are a little closer to home than they may have otherwise been – I understand that a dreamline shouldn’t be compromised but I also do not want to take a large number of actionable steps and then have my hopes crushed by another outbreak.
My plan is to revisit this in 12 months and create a new dreamline which this time would be based on my plans of moving to a nomadic lifestyle.
This post is possibly the one that made me think and consider my future the most and I believe that regardless of whether i achieve these dreams or not it has been well worth the time I have spent. The biggest thoughts will leave with are:
- My job is holding me back from the life I want to live
- I have less of a yearning for material things than before
- I’ve got 12 months to think of some wilder dreams for post pandemic life
If you’ve made it this far then I’m seriously impressed and would love it if you could comment one of your dreams below.
Thank you 🙂