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.
Related: 7 Steps to Achieve Your Dream
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:
5 Common Reasons Why People Have Trouble Identifying Their Dream
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 questions:
- 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.”
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2009 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.