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Everyone has a list they want to accomplish before they kick the bucket. (Sorry––it's why it's called a bucket list!) Personally, I prefer to call it a dream list. Whether it's to meet the pope, swim with sharks, or simply to skip having to attend a second Passover seder (hi, Dad!)––there is something beautiful about having a serious, before-I-die list because it reveals the full-on truth about what you want most for yourself in your life.
When I first start working with a client, I have them take stock of all areas of their life. They write a dream for each area in order to fully connect to and get inspired by what they're creating in their life. In 20-plus years of working with clients, I've found that the area where people tend to be most complacent about their dreams is career. How do you think you stack up?
Thing is, it's easy to get stuck in your career, especially if you're already in the field you want to be in. It may sound surprising, but it's easy to get comfortable doing what you always planned on doing and not really challenging yourself to go for more. Dissatisfaction and boredom can quickly find you. Worse, after they find you, they deflate your confidence to design your next career move.
In order to stay inspired about what's next, you need a bigger dream to focus on.
A few years ago, I reconnected with a friend of mine from childhood. When we were kids, we attended summer camp together and his dream was to change the world with his music. When we reconnected in our mid-30s, he was doing really well in his career. He had been the lead singer of a popular indie band in his 20s and had become an accomplished TV and movie composer. All very impressive, right? Despite doing "what he always wanted to do," now at 35 he hadn't continued to extend, rewrite, and recreate the next phase of his dream. In other words, he lost sight of the very impetus for his dream in the first place. Not simply to find success and affect people––which he had achieved to an extent––but to affect the world in an even deeper way. Like many of us, the big dream got less important than supporting his family.
As if the two were mutually exclusive.
The art of knowing what you want is critical to getting it.
To get my childhood friend back to dreaming, the first thing I had him do was write down everything he really wanted in his career. Most people hit a point in their lives where they stop dreaming entirely or relegate their lists to the back of their minds. You need to put your dream down on paper so that you can define exactly what it is you want. And I mean EXACTLY. Not only so you can see it and feel it but so you leave no weasel-out-of-it room. I asked him if there was anything on his list that he would be heartbroken if he didn't achieve. He told me he wanted to tell an epic story through his music and was thinking of doing a rock opera. As a film composer, he had been writing music to fit with other people's images, but what he really wanted to do now was create visuals to fit the music he'd written.
Often people avoid following a specific dream, not only because admitting it means they have to be accountable for it but also because it may truly take years to achieve ALL that they want.
With every client, I make sure they come to terms with how long it will take for their dreams to happen. If you want to be a great skier, it won't happen in a month; it may take five years or longer to master it. It's important that you understand and accept the amount of time it will take to achieve your dreams. This particular client wasn't sure how long this project would take, but he really wanted it and was willing to spend years to make it happen.
To turn a dream into a reality, you have to put in the time.
Once a client makes the decision to follow a dream, we immediately design an action plan. Since this client was a working composer, he wasn't able to spend all his time working on his rock opera. After carefully considering his schedule, I had him commit to working a certain number of hours a week on it. Even if you give only one day a month to a dream, because you're finally aligning yourself with your highest ideal and giving it a push while being realistic, this commitment will change how you think and improve your entire life.
Once he had his plan in place, I had him create consequences to help him honor his work promises and keep him focused on his dream. I like to find something that will really motivate a client. In my client's case, it was coffee. He really loved his espresso, so if he didn't clock his daily hours on his rock opera, he had to forgo his shots of espresso the following day. He was also accountable to me with his progress and had to email me details of his work on his opera every week. When going after a dream, it's important to have someone other than you hold you accountable to your dream.
Your dreams can become reality with your strong commitment, integrity, and a smart plan. For my client, working on his dream project daily forced him to have it on his mind all the time, leading him to creatively pioneer a new, interactive, 360-degree visual style for his project. This regular energy and attention to your dreams can produce amazing and unexpected results, just as it did for him.
When I started working with my friend four years ago, his rock opera was just an idea in his head. Through coaching and a solid commitment and plan, he discovered what he really wanted to accomplish and was able to figure out how to go for it. He finished his rock opera and it was nominated for MTV's O Music Award for Most Innovative Video. If he had never written his dream and seen what he really wanted, his rock opera would never have become a reality.
I promise you, you have a dream. If you want to realize your dream, you have to get brave enough not only to admit it but to deal with everything that's currently in its way (i.e., YOU).