1) Define Your Dream – Be Specific
What is your dream? Have you taken the chance to step back and think about where you want to be in five, ten, twenty five years? Day-to-day, what are you doing to stay busy? Many people rarely take the time to plan for the future and when they do, they often times make the mistake of creating a New Year’s Resolution Plan. You know the one. You make a resolution with absolute certainty you will achieve it this year (as opposed to the prior five years). Of course, by July, the resolution is forgotten, thrown into the recycle bin of life only to resurrect itself around the end of December.
How does one get past this endless cycle? In order to create a path to your dream future, you have to be realistic about what your dream really is and have a clear idea on how to get there.
Be specific. Many times people will define their goals too vague or base their goals on things that are not priorities. “I want to simplify my life” is too vague. What does a “simple life” look like? Setting a priority such as “I want a job that allows me to pick up my kids after school” then turning down a job offer because it would require a 25% pay cut shows one’s priorities have not been thoroughly thought out.
So, what is your dream?
2) Create a Model and a Plan
- RESEARCH – You have an idea of what you envision your dream life to be. The starting point for creating the model of your dream is to Research, Research, Research. Clearly understand what is needed in order to realize your goal. What skills are required? What education is needed? What are the financial requirements? What does my family, partner, kids, etc, think about my “dream”? Be as detailed as possible.
- ID GAPS, TASKS and COST – Once you have defined your dream and done your research, you need to identify where you have gaps or areas that you currently do not have or possess. This would include things such skills, education, finances, physical abilities, etc. Next, define what steps are needed in order to fill these gaps. As you identify tasks, make a realistic estimate of how much it will cost. These items and their cost become a check list of steps that you need to accomplish in order to complete your goal.
- CREATE TIMELINE – Now look at the task list and, using what you learned in your research, put down the approximate length of time that it would require to complete that task and/or when you think you will need to have that task accomplished. Next, write down what you do on a daily basis. Make a realistic estimate of how much time you will be able to spend on realizing your goal. What is the timeframe for making your dream become a reality?
- REVIEW and REASSESS – After running the numbers, you may realize the dream is impractical. It may be too expensive or take too much time. In that case, you’ll need to consider compromises. Downsize the dream, extend the timeline, identify less expensive or time consuming ways to achieve the goal, etc. Continue to rework the plan until you are comfortable with the timeline and budget.
- DEVELOP BACKUP PLAN – Finally, what’s the backup plan? A good plan is created after having done extensive research. However, not all contingencies can be planned for during the process. Let’s face it, family dynamics change, jobs can unexpectedly end, financial markets can crash, bankers can become fickle and tighten lending standards. If things do not work out, develop a good back-up plan to provide a safety net for you and the ones you love.
3) Take a Test Run
One way to decide if your “dream” really is your “dream” is to take a test run of your idea. Having done your homework, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your dream looks like. Scale it back and look at the individual steps you can test instead of waiting until you thing you are ready to start up a full scale operation. For example, if you have planned on living on a budget, try doing it before you give up your old budget (aka, your current job). If your dream is starting a new business, keep your day job and start up your “dream” job as a sideline business.
4) Visualize and Work to Attain the Dream
Many people have set goals only to see them forgotten (i.e. think New Year’s resolution). They have a developed a notion that goals are things to be defined for the future but to never be realized. Although it may take several years to complete all the tasks, you will be much more likely to not only be successful in achieving your dreams but also feel the satisfaction of having taken all the required steps to ensure a smooth transition.