What is Your Dream?

Excerpt from Put Your Dream to the Test
March 23, 2009

What is your dream? Will you achieve your dream in your lifetime? I'm certain that you desire to. I'm sure you hope you will.
But will you actually do it? What odds would you give yourself? One in five? One in a hundred? One in a million? How can you
tell whether your chances are good or whether your dream will always remain exactly that—a dream? And are you willing
to put it to the test?

Most people I know have a dream. In fact,
I’ve asked hundreds, if not thousands, of
people about their dream. Some willingly
describe it with great detail and enthusiasm.
Others are reluctant to talk about it. They
seem embarrassed to say it out loud. These
people have never tested their dream. They
don’t know if others will laugh at them.
They’re not sure if they’re aiming too high
or too low. They don’t know if their dream
is something they can really achieve or if
they’re destined to fail.

Most people have no idea how to achieve
their dreams. What they possess is a vague
notion that there is something they would
like to do someday or someone they would
like to become. But they don’t know how to
get from here to there. If that describes you,
then you’ll be glad to know that there really
is hope.

Know the Answers Before You Take
the Test

When you were a kid in school, do you
remember a teacher doing a review before
a test and saying something like, “Pay
attention now, because this is going to be
on the test”? I do. The encouraging teachers
who wanted to see their students succeed
said things like that all the time. They
wanted us to be prepared so we could do
well. They put us to the test, but they set us
up for success.

My desire is to be like one of those
encouraging teachers to you. I want to
prepare you to put your dream to the test so
you can actually achieve it. How? I believe
that if you know the right questions to
ask yourself, and if you can answer these
questions in an affirmative way, you will
have an excellent chance of being able to
achieve your dreams. The more questions
you can answer positively, the greater the
likelihood of success!

The Right and Wrong Picture of
a Dream

I’ve studied successful people for almost
40 years. I’ve known hundreds of high-profile people who achieved big dreams. And
I’ve achieved a few dreams of my own. What
I’ve discovered is that a lot of people have
misconceptions about dreams. Take a look
at many of the things that people pursue and
call dreams in their lives:
Daydreams—Distractions from
current work
Pie-in-the-Sky Dreams—Wild ideas
with no strategy or basis in reality
Bad Dreams—Worries that breed fear
and paralysis
Idealistic Dreams—The way the world
would be if you were in charge
Vicarious Dreams—Dreams lived
through others
Romantic Dreams—Belief that some
person will make you happy
Career Dreams—Belief that career
success will make you happy
Destination Dreams—Belief that
a position, title or award will make
you happy
Material Dreams—Belief that wealth or
possessions will make you happy
If these aren’t good dreams—valid ones
worthy of a person’s life—then what are?
Here is my definition of a dream that can be
put to the test and will pass: A dream is an
inspiring picture of the future that energizes
your mind, will and emotions, empowering
you to do everything you can to achieve it.

A dream worth pursuing is a picture and
blueprint of a person’s purpose and potential.
Or as my friend Sharon Hull says, “A dream
is the seed of possibility planted in the soul of
a human being, which calls him to pursue a
unique path to the realization of his purpose.”

What Do You Have in Mind
Dreams are valuable commodities. They
propel us forward. They give us energy.
They make us enthusiastic. Everyone ought
to have a dream. But what if you’re not sure
whether you have a dream you want to
pursue? Let’s face it. Many people were not
encouraged to dream. Others have dreams
but lose hope and set them aside.

I want you to know that there’s good
news. You can find or recapture your
dreams. And they can be big dreams, not
that all dreams have to be huge to be worth
pursuing. They just need to be bigger than
you are. As actress Josie Bisset remarked,
“Dreams come a size too big so we can
grow into them.”

If you’ve given up hope, lost sight of your
dream or never connected with something
that you think is worth dreaming and
working toward, perhaps it would help
you to learn about the five most common
reasons why people have trouble identifying
their dream:

1. Some People Have Been
Discouraged from Dreaming
by Others

Many people have had their dreams
knocked right out of them! The world is filled
with dream crushers and idea killers.

2. Some People Are Hindered by
Past Disappointments and Hurts

Disappointment is the gap that exists
between expectation and reality. All of us
have encountered that gap.
When something goes wrong, we say,
“I’ll never do that again!” What a mistake,
especially when it comes to our dreams!
Failure is the price we must pay to
achieve success.

3. Some People Get in the Habit of
Settling for Average

Columnist Maureen Dowd says, “The
minute you settle for less than you deserve,
you get even less than you settled for.”
Dreams require a person to stretch, to go
beyond average. You can’t reach for a dream
and remain safely mediocre at the same
time. The two are incompatible.

4. Some People Lack the Confidence
Needed to Pursue Their Dreams

Humor columnist Erma Bombeck
observed, “It takes a lot of courage to
show your dreams to someone else.” It
takes confidence to talk about a dream and
even more to pursue it. And sometimes
confidence separates the people who
dream and pursue those dreams from those
who don’t.

5. Some People Lack the
Imagination to Dream

How do people discover their dreams? By
dreaming! That may sound overly simplistic,
but that’s where it starts. Imagination is the
soil that brings a dream to life.

Are You Ready to Put Your Dream to
the Test?

OK, you may be saying to yourself, I’ve
got a dream. I think it’s worth pursuing. Now
what? How can I know that my odds are
good for achieving it? That brings us to these
The Ownership Question: Is my dream
really my dream?
The Clarity Question: Do I clearly see
my dream?
The Reality Question: Am I depending
on factors within my control to achieve
my dream?
The Passion Question: Does my dream
compel me to follow it?
The Pathway Question: Do I have a
strategy to reach my dream?
The People Question: Have I included
the people I need to realize my dream?
The Cost Question: Am I willing to pay
the price for my dream?
The Tenacity Question: Am I moving
closer to my dream?
The Fulfillment Question: Does working
toward my dream bring satisfaction?
The Significance Question: Does my
dream benefit others?
I believe that if you really explore each
question, examine yourself honestly and
answer yes to all of them, the odds of your
achieving your dream are very good. I truly
believe that everyone has the potential to
imagine a worthwhile dream, and most have
the ability to achieve it. And it doesn’t matter
how big or how seemingly outrageous your
dream appears to others if your answers are
yes to the Dream Test questions.

Speechwriter and comedy author Robert
Orben asserted, “Always remember there
are only two kinds of people in this world—
the realists and the dreamers. The realists
know where they’re going. The dreamers
have already been there.” If you have
defined your dream, then you’re ready to put
it to the test and start going after it.

Can You Answer Yes to the
Question: What Is My Dream?

If you are unsure of what your dream
might be—either because you are afraid to
dream or because you somehow lost your
dream along the way—then start preparing
yourself to receive your dream by exploring
the following:
Mental preparation. Read and study in
areas of your greatest interest.
Experiential preparation. Engage
in activities in areas related to
your interests.
Visual preparation. Put up pictures of
people and things that inspire you.
Hero preparation. Read about and try
to meet people you admire and who
inspire you.
Physical preparation. Get your body in
optimal shape to pursue your dream.
Spiritual preparation. Seek God’s help
for a bigger-than-self dream.
Once you do these six things to put
yourself in the best possible position to
receive a dream, focus on discovering your
dream. As you do, keep in mind the words of
my agent, Matt Yates, who says, “A dream
is what you desire if anything and everything
is possible.”

Excerpt from Put Your Dream to the Test:
10 Questions That Will Help You See It and
Seize It
(Thomas Nelson, 2008).

For additional resources and information on John Maxwell visit www.johnmaxwell.com.


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