How to Fulfill Dreams

Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” – Gail Devers

This past week (February 22) marked the one year anniversary of our e-book’s launch. Over the past year, Simplify. 7 Guiding Principles to Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life has sold over 2,600 copies and it continues to sell every single day. Its launch was truly a life-changing experience.

And it continues to be the evidence of a dream fulfilled.

For nearly 35 years of my life, I wanted to write a book… to be an author. Selfishly, I wanted the pride that I associated with having my name written on a book’s cover. Unselfishly, I wanted to provide valuable inspiration to others… in a form that could far outlive me.

And given the fact that I wanted to write a book that people actually read, Simplify has indeed become the tangible realization of a lifelong dream. Actually, this past year has been defined by the fulfillment of a number of lifelong dreams:

  • Dream: Spend more time with my family. Accomplished by finding minimalism.
  • Dream: Write a book. Accomplished in February, 2010. Again in August, 2010.
  • Dream: Run a marathon. Finished in May, 2010. Time: 4:31.
  • Dream: Save Financial Emergency Fund: Accomplished in November, 2010.

I’ve discovered over the past year that dreams come in all shapes and sizes. But their fulfillment is almost always found in the same 7 steps…

1. Select a dream to fulfill. Some of us have so many dreams swirling in our minds, we don’t know where to start… while others of us are unable to put our finger on even one. Whether the decision be to write a book, run a marathon, buy a home, or find true love, fulfillment always starts with the intentional identification of one single goal and the heartfelt conviction to accomplish it. Take some time. Pick one. And then, set out to accomplish it.

2. Believe it is achievable. Unfortunately, too many people will never accomplish their dreams because they simply refuse to believe in themselves. Optimism is absolutely required for dream fulfillment and life enjoyment. If you don’t have natural self-confidence, make finding it your first dream to accomplish. I suggest, “How to Believe in Yourself: A Four Step Plan.” If you do have self-confidence, begin to specifically direct it towards your chosen goal.

3. Ask for help. People have gone before you. Learn as much as you can from them. When I decided to run a marathon, I read How to Run Your First Marathon and talked to my co-worker Carole almost every single week. When I decided to write an ebook, I talked to Jeramiah (technology), Martha (editing), and Jana (title/outline). Each had information that I needed and played a significant role in helping me accomplish my dreams. Don’t let your pride be the one obstacle that keeps you from them. Instead, humble yourself and ask for help.

4. Adjust your life as necessary. By definition, if you have not accomplished your dream yet, you’ll need to adjust your lifestyle to accomplish it. And while some of the adjustments may be major, they always start small:

  • Running a marathon starts with running one mile.
  • Writing a book starts with deciding on a subject.
  • Clearing your home of clutter starts with cleaning one drawer, closet, or room.
  • Losing 50 pounds starts with changing one meal.
  • Buying a home starts with saving one dollar.

Fulfilling your dreams will require you to change your lifestyle – one small step at a time. And while there may be a large number of steps to take, the good news is that the first one is completely achievable… and so is the second…

5. Set a deadline. Deadlines force our hand and call us to action. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to pick a realistic timeline and get moving. Buy a home in the next 3 years. Fix your marriage in the next year. Lose 20 pounds in the next 6 months. Or start a blog in the next 30 days. Find a calendar, a red marker, and a day. Go ahead, circle it. After all, a dream without a deadline is just a wish.

6. Tell others. I have found limitless encouragement by sharing my dreams with others. The number of people cheering for me automatically doubles. Soon, it triples. Suddenly, I’m not just trying to let myself down, but I’m trying to not let my friends down as well. And the cost of failure has just increased.

7. Stay focused. By nature, dreams will require perseverance. There will be successes and failures along the way. Those who persevere through the failures will accomplish their dreams. Those who give up will return to step #1. And if you’ve gotten this far, why would you want to start over? Instead of allowing failures to kill your dreams, use them to refocus you and your resolve.

On a side note, I realize all too well that the circumstances of life ebb and flow. I humbly recognize that the positive circumstances of my life this past year have allowed these to dreams to be accomplished. One major illness, accident, or misstep could have derailed any of them listed above. If you currently find the circumstances of life derailing you from reaching your dreams, let me encourage you. Don’t lose hope. Just redirect your dreams.

In the comment section, I’d be interested to hear if you can specifically identify with any of these seven steps. Are their goals in your life that you are working to accomplish? If so, what are they? And which of the steps above are you currently working towards?

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Joshua, I can identify.
    This year I made my wedding photography business a reality, after a couple of years of “hesitation”…and bouncing between a number of your seven steps.
    I think you cannot possibly stress enough the need to set deadlines and to *tell* people when you are going to have “something” accomplished. Some people, like myself, have a hard time holding themselves accountable when there is no deadline. That was probably my biggest roadblock.
    Now its all “2,3,4,6” and always #7. I think it pays to keep revisiting some of the earlier steps to stay encouraged and focused.

  2. says

    Definitely resonate with this post. Thanks. I’ve been eyeballs-deep this last year in the pursuit of a wonderful dream that I share with you–writing a book. I’d been working on it the last 2 years, but in the last 6 months, had the opportunity to focus on its completion.

    I can validate each of the steps you list as essential to the fulfillment of this dream. Now, I’m in project management mode as I’m self-publishing but still applying these steps toward success!

    Great post! Thanks again for sharing!

  3. says

    May I add one? Define your dreams well.

    Sometimes people can get discouraged in the middle of writing a book – for example – because they realize they aren’t going to be famous; yet often the dream was about writing a book worthy to be read, not getting famous which can even get in the way of writing a worthy book :)

    • says

      This is all too true, Miguel! As I wrote my book, I thought it was about Joy and learning to live a life of joy. When I got to the end, I realized it was about finding a sense of significance and purpose.

      Great input!

  4. says

    My humble advice would be ‘just do it’ to coin a phrase! I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what I was going to do when I was younger then when I got my own family, I realised that the only way to beat inertia was to get started. I quit my day job, I started running, I chose to simplify my life and theirs.
    I’ll throw another phrase in as I love both Wham and Trainspotting
    ‘Choose Life’.

  5. says

    Hi Joshua,

    Congratulations on reaching the one-year anniversary of your eBook’s launch! What a fantastic dream realized.

    These are all great tips. The area I have the hardest time with is “setting a deadline.” I can plan, focus, and believe my dream is possible, but when it comes time to select a deadline for reaching my goals, I start to squirm a bit. Thanks for the reminder that without a deadline, there is no reachable destination in site.

  6. says

    I have a postcard taped to my wall. It says, “The secret to making your dreams come true is to wake up.” Well, how? Leading off with selecting a dream (step 1), each of these tips is a pull out of sleep. Personally, I’ve struggled with asking for help (step 3) and starting small (step 4). I find it both hard, and essential, to remember that people do like to help, and that most thousand-mile walks had a humble first hour.

  7. says

    Staying focused is the biggest hurdle for me right now. When I wrote my novel, it was because I spent a month with all my free time dedicated and focused on writing (it helped being NaNoWriMo.org month). But now with our twins its uber hard to find any free time, let alone the focus needed to finish my current project(s).

    • says

      Jonathan,

      I can certainly identify with your frustration (though my obstacles are not even close to something as life-changing as twins). I struggled with focus in getting projects done too.

      I just want to encourage you to keep writing (even if it’s 5 minutes at a time). And also give yourself the grace to be a dad. Ultimately, that will pay the biggest dividends. But it’s understandable that your time will now be disproportionately skewed toward caring for your children.

      In time, as they grow, you will hopefully be able to bring more balance to your time management of your schedule, but for now, cherish the interruption of their love! Best wishes as you continue to pursue your dreams!

      • says

        Thanks Steve! Yeah, my wife and boys are definitely 1st priority right now… then comes work, freelance work, my blog, my podcast…… ;-)

        But good point on the 5 minutes here and there. That’s what it took to finish my novel in a month. 5 minutes at lunch, 5 minutes on the bus, 20 minutes before work, etc. etc.

        Thanks for the reminder!

  8. says

    Well I enjoyed the whole thing but especially loved #4! It is SO easy to forget that the little tiny steps which we repeatedly give attention, at some point become large successful accomplishments! I like how concretely you spell this out with that list of examples.

    Seeing your list of recent achievements and dream fulfillments is really motivating and inspiring. I have been reading a great book (The Happiness Project) which inspired me to write down all the pesky little unfinished business weighing me down. I thought the list would go on and on for pages but it didn’t! The weight of the world fits into a few easy categories that need to be organized (in my world): music, books, computer files, regular files, family photos, and old family books/scrapbooks/notes&records. After making my list and reading your post, i am very motivated to tackle my unfinished business step by step until it is done. (And then i will maintain it!) Thanks!

  9. says

    This post resonates with me as well. While I have many dreams, I realize that I need to choose and define one at a time (#1). I need to just start! (#4). But the one sentence that snagged my total attention was “After all, a dream without a deadline is just a wish.”

    And congratulations on the one year anniversary of “Simplify”.

  10. says

    Congratulations on being an author and all your success! That is awesome!

    My biggest dream is to be able to support myself through my writing and quit my day job, so your story hits close to home for me! All seven steps are exactly what I’ve been doing. The biggest step for me was #3: I hired a coach to help me create a business around my blog. I usually have a hard time asking for help or spending money, but this was one of the best decisions I ever made. _Maybe_ I could have done it alone, but I’m not convinced, and even if I could, it would have taken at least 4x as long.

    Right now, #4 is the part I’m struggling with the most. I’ve got all the business-building stuff, plus my regular job, plus the writing I set out to do in the first place. I’m doing everything except get enough sleep! That’s not going to work in the long run, so I need to come up with a better approach.

    Thanks for this post! I think it’s really important for us regular people to see that you don’t have to be a superstar to achieve these things. Your blog is always refreshing–most people who have achieved your level of success get really stuck on themselves, but you seem to have skipped that step. :)

  11. says

    I couldn’t agree more with some of the things that you mentioned. I have to constantly remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that it will take time and effort to eventually reach my goals.

    Thank you for inspiring me to keep on going the extra mile. Your blog is amazing.

    -Ravi Gupta

  12. Leah says

    Awesome article and very helpful for me as I embark on some life changing adventures that have required me choose a solo life for a while. I feel more focused and it’s encouraging to know that there are people also where I am. Thank you. Leah

  13. says

    Really great to read these responses! Our team has built a site called Payoff.com to help people “fulfill their dreams” in the context of personal finance and we’re pushing a new version of the site live on June 27th. Part of our premise is, we think budgets suck! Budgets suck because they don’t usually work. There is nothing inherently wrong with keeping a budget and it can be useful for some people after understanding why they are budgeting. The main problem we at Payoff have with budgets is that they are not the panacea they are made to seem in the world of personal finance. A budget alone does not ensure success with your finances. A good handle on the big picture can accomplish far more than even the most carefully crafted of budgets. Budgets focus on the details, but if you’re off with the big picture, the details don’t matter. People need to start with their dreams and goals. Where do they want to go in life? What’s important to them? What do they want to accomplish? This is the context that makes caring about the details of money worthwhile. Context is everything. Once people clearly articulate their dreams and goals, they may better exhibit the restraint in their spending that budgets are meant to encourage more naturally without the drudgery of pie charts and spreadsheets. And if they do decide that a budget is necessary for them, they’ll be far more likely to live by it. Sometimes hard work pays off and sometimes people put a lot of hard work into things like budgets that don’t get them the outcome their after. Clearly articulating your dreams and goals pays off! Sharing your dreams and goals with a group of encouraging supporters pays off! Helping other people accomplish their dreams and goals pays off! Living within your means and having the money to fulfill your dreams pays off! At Payoff, we want individuals to get maximum impact for their effort–we want them to GET PAYOFF!

  14. Lemur says

    What do you do if you have no dreams? I feel like I used to have interests years ago, before university and multiple depressive episodes, but I’ve lost them. All that’s left is work (in a profession I am ill-suited for and will soon leave), cleaning and purging in preparation for an international move, and my husband. How do people develop interests and dreams? How do people identify their talents? I’ve come across many articles on fulfilling dreams recently, but none on developing a self from scratch. I would love to hear some ideas.

  15. Ian says

    Dream fulfilling

    The rotation of earth raises the sun,
    As night time hides-a new day’s begun.
    Each cycle each day we work and we play,
    We wait for the nighttime to take us away.
    We dream of all the things we may do,
    Then we hope that our dreams and our wishes come true.

    We prey for these things from day to day,
    Then prey for moor time to for fill what we say.

    But time it moves on relentlessly,
    Not waiting one second for you or for me.
    Space is this place on earth we’re living,
    The time is now for dream fulfilling.

    We dream of what we can do,
    Then hope some day our dreams will come true.

    Today is that brand new day-
    Do something small and forfill what you say…

    Remember that’s one less day you are here,
    Sooner than later that’s one less year,
    Do something positive,
    Do something right,
    Lead your dreams into the light…

    Ian copywright 2011

  16. pintu Kumar says

    What do you do if you have no dreams? I feel like I used to have interests years ago, before university and multiple depressive episodes, but I’ve lost them. All that’s left is work (in a profession I am ill-suited for and will soon leave), cleaning and purging in preparation for an international move, and my husband. How do people develop interests and dreams? How do people identify their talents? I’ve come across many articles on fulfilling dreams recently, but none on developing a self from scratch. I would love to hear some ideas.

    • Gary says

      Hi Pintu,

      You’ve been to university! Good for you! Do you know how many people WISH they went to university, but couldn’t (for many reasons)? That’s an achievement to just get there! Give yourself some credit :-)

      If you’ve lost your sense of dreams and aspirations, then you’re probably sharing the same problem as practically half the people on our planet.

      I was lucky to know what I wanted to do most when I was still at school. Three more lifetimes have passed and I have fulfilled most of my dreams that I had back then, but more dreams keep coming, and I doubt that will ever stop (and hope that too!)

      A dream is about imagining yourself having or achieving something that you want.. It’s about doing something that you believe will make you happy. It’s about imagining how you will feel when you have it. It’s about the struggle of getting there and the disappointments and setbacks when you so nearly achieved your goal. It’s about the persistence to get back up and have another go and not let past experience getting in the way, preventing you from winning your prize. Ultimately, it’s about the amazing sense of self-belief, self-confidence, euphoria, relief and sense of achievement at the end. You can then look back and wonder how you made it and probably cry as it all rolls into one. Savour it.#

      Once you’ve achieved your first goal once, there’s a reinforcement that you can do it again. You do it twice, and you believe in yourself.

      You can do it. Again. And again. And again.

      In short. Do what makes you happy. That’s the most important. If it’s not making you happy, stop doing it, if you have the choice. If you don’t have the choice, what steps will you take to make a change that will enable you to have a choice? Why give up before you’ve started? Would you prefer to resign yourself to defeat, or will you die trying, or will you be happier once you’ve achieved it? I’d go for the latter two options as I have control over those options.

      Remember, nothing happens overnight and don’t expect something to happen quickly, and don’t expect it to be just given to you. The world owes you nothing. This is the beginning of your long journey of learning. experience, highs and lows, hard work and an immense reward at the end, waiting just for you.

      I wish you the best of luck on your new physical, emotional and spiritual journeys. Wow! It’s gonna be great!

  17. PB says

    What do you do if you have no dreams?

    Find one!

    “The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.” Christopher McCandless (Into The Wild)

    No one was born knowing what he wanted to be. By being exposed to new experiences, we gradually find out what makes us happy, what makes us angry. When I was young, I got very angry when I saw trees being cut down in my neighbourhood, and it showed me that protecting the Earth was my passion.

    So don’t worry if you don’t have a dream. Travel, volunteer, change jobs, talk to new people, get a new hobby,… just search in new places and I’m sure you can find your dreams!

  18. Konstandina says

    Hi and congratulations!
    In a couple of months I will completely change my life moving abroad as I always dreamed of. I have a lot of fear though!
    What about when you share your dream with others, with friends they discourage you? What if there is noone to support you?

    • Gary says

      Hi Konstandina,

      Good for you in doing something for yourself! That’s such a character building thing. It will give you even more independence, build your confidence even more, and will help you learn what life throws at people.

      If your friends are discouraging you, it’s because they care for you, and will miss you. They are worried that something may happen to you. They are worried that they’ll lose you forever.

      Listen to them. Are their own fears speaking out at you? This is what holds them back from achieving their dreams. What should you listen to, fear, or hope?

      Expect success, but plan for failure, and you’ll very likely be fine!

      Make sure you can get home in an emergency!

      Good luck!

  19. Lizzie says

    I want to become a famous fashion designer or an actress, but what if my dreams are too big? I can definetly do something as simple as cleaning my apartment inside out, or becoming a teacher or something like that, but what if I’m not qualified to become famous? The chances are slim, but that’s my dream, and I don’t know if I can fulfill it or not.

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