Personal Development

Don’t Do These 15 Things If You Want To Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Think Head 16
Written by Daniel Wong

Ever feel like your dreams are never going to become a reality?

It’s not like you’ve completely given up on your dreams. You occasionally think about how awesome it would be if you achieved them, but there are so many other things in the way.

Your job. Your boss. Your kids. Your parents. Your finances. Your mortgage.

All of these problems… I mean, responsibilities.

So you’re afraid of taking the leap of faith.

Afraid of what people will think if you quit your job.

Afraid of going bankrupt.

Afraid of falling behind in the rat race.

Afraid of not being able to provide for your family.

Afraid of not living up to the expectations of others.

Afraid of not living up to your own expectations.

Afraid of failing.

No one wants to be irresponsible, and everyone feels afraid sometimes. But does that mean it’s impossible to realize your dreams?

Of course not. The Michael Jordans, Steve Jobs’, Oprah Winfreys and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world show us that dreams can come true.

“But those people are so much more talented, so much more charismatic, so much luckier than me… I could never be like them,” you might be thinking.

It’s true—you might never be like them. Your dream might not be as big or impressive as theirs.

Your dream might just be to own a house. It might be to start a flower shop. It might be to write a novel. It might be to send your kids to college.

It’s not the size of your dream that matters. It’s the pursuit of your dream that turns your life into a thrilling adventure, an exhilarating story. That’s what really matters.

In this post, I’m not going to tell you about the huge changes you need to make in your life in order to achieve your dreams.

Instead, I’m going to share with you what you ought to stop doing. These are things we all do on occasion—things that quietly sabotage our dreams, sap our energy, and make us less alive.

Don’t do these things:

  1. Say “I wish” or “I hope”: Whenever you do this, you put yourself in a mindset where the situation is beyond your control. What you can do as an alternative is turn your wishes and hopes into goals. For example, don’t say, “I wish my boss would give me flexible working hours.” Instead, set a goal that you’re going to have a conversation with your boss within the next three days about establishing flexible working hours. When you set goals, you choose to focus on what you can do to improve your circumstances, which is very empowering.
  2. Complain: This is a favorite pastime for many people. There are always things to complain about: the weather, the economy, the healthcare system, the guy who sat next to you on the bus and hummed a really annoying song… but when you complain, you’re not making your circumstances any better. Instead of complaining, think about the many things you have to be grateful for. I recommend wearing a rubber band around your wrist. Whenever you’re about to complain, snap the rubber band as a reminder not to.
  3. Blame others: If you want to achieve your dreams, you’re going to need to take full responsibility for your life. That means no blaming your parents, friends, relatives or bad luck for where you are in life. Recognize that some things are beyond your control, but take responsibility for the way every situation turns out.
  4. Think of reasons why you shouldn’t take action: There will always be plenty of them. Think of all the positive things that might happen if you take action today.
  5. Settle: Settling for second best is a sure way to prevent yourself from reaching your dreams. This applies to your relationships, finances, career and physical health. Decide that you’re going to create a masterpiece out of your life. Don’t give in to the allure of a comfortable but mediocre existence.
  6. Procrastinate: You can probably think of at least one thing you can do immediately that will bring you closer to your dream. There’s never a perfect time to take action, so do what you can right now.
  7. Hang out with toxic people: It’s been said that you’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Hang out with negative, critical and judgmental people, and you’ll become just like them in no time. Those aren’t traits you associate with people who make their dreams come true.
  8. Say “I should”: When you say you “should” learn a new language, start writing a book, or go for a public speaking course, it’s unlikely that you’ll actually do it. Say, “I choose to” instead. This makes you realize that everything in life is a choice. You really do have the power to choose, and to turn your dreams into reality.
  9. Compare yourself to others: There will always be people out there who are better looking, smarter and more capable than you. But you’re not trying to achieve their dreams; you’re trying to achieve yours. Think about the characteristics that make you special and unique, and about how you can use them to accomplish your dream.
  10. Watch so much TV: The same applies for going on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. If you’re not careful, these can become major time sucks. Most surveys show that the average American watches more than four hours of TV a day. I hope that statistic scares you. Imagine how much you closer you could get toward achieving your dream if you spent those four hours every day doing something more fruitful. I’m not suggesting that you go cold turkey, but set a daily limit for yourself and use a timer to make sure you stick to that limit.
  11. Say “I don’t have time”: Do you make time to watch your favorite TV show? Do you make time to update your Facebook status? Do you make time to eat? We all make time for the things that are important to us. If you find yourself saying you “don’t have time” to do something you know you ought to, you need to reorder your priorities.
  12. Say “yes” to everyone: Many people find it impossible to say “no” to requests and opportunities, even ones that aren’t in line with their values and goals. If you say “yes” to everyone, you’re effectively settling for good, when what you really want is great. The path of greatness is the path of intentional abandonment of everything good, in pursuit of only the best. Think carefully before agreeing to any request.
  13. Try to be perfect: I’m not perfect, and neither are you. Accept yourself fully—achievements, strengths, weaknesses, failures, flaws and all. You don’t have to be perfect to realize your dreams, but you do need to be committed to personal growth. You can only begin that journey when you accept yourself completely for who you are
  14. Try to please everyone: Like the saying goes, “You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Your dreams are personal. You’re not pursuing them to garner applause from the people around you or from society. Don’t make the mistake of trying to make everyone happy, because that’s impossible. So don’t even try.
  15. Deprive yourself of sleep: When you don’t feel your best, you’re more likely to make impulsive decisions that aren’t in your long-term interests. If you want to achieve your dreams, you’ll definitely have to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. If you’re sleep-deprived, you probably won’t have the willpower to make the right decision.

I haven’t achieved all of my dreams. Far from it, in fact.

I do know, however, that pursuing your dreams isn’t easy. Somewhere along the way, you’ll want to quit. You’ll want to run away. You’ll want to go back to your comfortable, familiar, boring life.

But I beg you not to. The world needs adventurers who are fully alive. Most people are barely surviving, barely making it through each day. Don’t be one of them.

Dream big. Start small. Act now—right now.

Some Amazing Comments


About the author

Daniel Wong

Daniel Wong is the author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success." He blogs about maximizing your education, career and life at He currently works as a project engineer.


  • amazing piece of motivation, “Dream Big and Start Small”, Reading your blog since morning.

  • How I chanced upon this is divine intervention! It helps to get back right on track specially when your world seems to spiral off into different directions!
    Thanks for the post. Truly appreciate this! can I copy that part that says “Dream big. Start small. Act now—right now,”
    just want to post it in my fb I’ll put your link and Steven Aitchison’s too!
    Big big THANKS! 😀

  • Thank you for this post Daniel. Although we are aware of these truths, we need to be reminded often so we do not fall back into old habits of negative thinking and actions. Keep up the good work!

  • Great post Daniel! I like what I call your “victor” self-talk replacing the all too commonplace “victim” language self-talk. Shifting from “shoulds,” I wish” and ” I have to” to “I choose,” “I want” and “I will” gives us so much power! Thanks for reminder.

  • Daniel,
    I envy your style of writing, how do you do that? It’s so neat and clean and to the point.

    I like it when you say ‘I choose to’ and not I should. I feel this is what had been my way of life, but thankfully, I have gotten rid of it.

    Thanks for reminding me some really important points. Great job!

    • Thanks for the compliment, Avdhessh. I’m glad to hear that you don’t say “I should” anymore– that’s a huge step you’ve taken! All the best as you achieve your dreams :)

  • I watch about 1 hour of TV per week. Most of what is on TV and in the news and in all media is not what I want in my head. Sometimes you need to know what is happening in the world – can’t just stick your head in the sand ALL the time, BUT most of it is just jawbon’in. I want to stay in a positive attitude so I really filter what comes on to my radar!

  • Great article Daniel! I completely agree with #9. I’ve done this in the past and it really is self-defeating. Everyone is unique and has something special to offer the world so spending time looking at what other people do or have will only prevent you from moving forward. Great blog :)

    • I agree with you, Jane! It certainly takes discipline to watch less TV, because it always seems like there must be something good on TV. I’m sure you’re a very productive person :)

  • Thanks for this bro, it sure applies to people in across all walks of life, even in different stages of their career.

      • Thanks so much, babicka! I appreciate your overflowing enthusiasm. Of course you can copy that last part about “Dream big. Start small. Act now– right now.” I’m honored!

  • that’s so true – don’t deprive myself of sleep. i had chronic fatigue for as long as i was working because i was pushing myself and didn’t have good quality sleep
    got sick. had to take time off
    now i’m re working my sleeping pattern…
    Noch Noch

    • Hey Noch Noch, yeah I know it’s really hard to force yourself to sleep more, because you always feel like there’s so much more that you can do!

      But I’m always reminded that a great life is NEVER one that’s characterized by excessive busyness or tiredness. All the best as you rework your sleeping pattern!

    • This is not just about sleep. We need to have good health to pursue our goals. So do not sacrifice our wellness – have balance diet, exercise and rest. Without being in great condition, we can’t achieve anything and dream will remain in our ‘dream’.

      • Great advice, Noel. It takes a deliberate effort to make wellness a priority, but you’re right– it’s essential if you want to achieve your dreams!

  • Hi Daniel

    I’d like to welcome you to CYT. I see you’ve already got settled in with the great comments from the CYT readers.

    You’ve written a great piece and a reminder of what not to do if we want to move in the direction of our dreams. I think no.7 is especially important as it’s easy to get into the company of toxic people, but more difficult to get out of their company.

    Thank you again Daniel and hopefully we’ll see more of your work on CYT, in the future.

    • Hey Steven,

      I’m very honored that you’ve allowed me to be a part of all the inspiring and life-changing work you’re up to. I definitely hope to write for you again. May you continue to help many people realize their dreams!

  • Thanks for putting together such a great list. It seems that you’ve covered just about everything that I have done. If I am not doing one of the things on your list, I am doing another. I would have to say that the ones at the forefront right now are complaining and saying “I should”. In 2011 it was about thinking of reasons to not take action; but I have since left that in last year as I declared 2012 a year of fearlessness.

  • Great! Very useful specially for me as I want to please everyone, can’t say No easily & say “I wish..”. I am sure this is certainly going to help me cause I choose to follow your advice sincerely.

  • Hi,
    I liked all the 15 things you told us not to do. These were really fantastic. In fact I’ve done 13 out of 15 things. My thinking about dreams is that first of all one should have a courage to declare his/her dreams. One can do this only when he/she has also the courage to fulfill his/her dreams. One should have all the thoughts in his mind 24 hours a day about his dreams. He/should have some motivational thoughts or should have all the things in mind that help him/her to reach his/her goals and all he/she can surround himself/herself with all the things that motivate him/her.As a consequence proper time management and a disciplined life is must. So please send me all that stuff that can help me to maintain a disciplined life.

    • Kanchan, thanks so much for sharing! I especially like your point about declaring your dreams. It’s definitely a good idea to declare your dreams to other people. An additional point I should have included is ‘don’t keep your dream to yourself’ :)

  • I’m with Paige (see above). To bring these down to one common theme, it’s about LOCUS OF CONTROL. Anytime you ask any outside force to be responsible for your own success, you surrender the power over your own life.

    And the funny part…when you decide to take control over your emotions and choices, those tools that can help actually do show up.

    Thanks for a great article, Daniel. :)

    • That is some great advice, Larry! I agree with you completely. I’d love to see you write an article about the locus of control. People would definitely benefit!

  • Very sensible advice on what NOT to do. Thanks for these Daniel. One which I’ve had some particular trouble with is “thinking of reasons not to take action.”

    • Thanks, Steven. Thinking of reasons not to take action is something we all do! But once we stop, it really becomes so much easier to take the next step that, deep down, we know we ought to.

  • It’s all about taking responsibility for our own lives because no one else will. Most of the items on this list are ways of avoiding responsibility which makes things easier but makes for a boring and not very happy life. When you give your control to others, you’re left with no power to make anything better. While taking personal responsibility can seem challenging, it actually leads to much greater freedom and happiness. I highly recommend it. Stopping these 15 bad habits will get you very far.

    • Thanks, Paige, for the encouraging comment. Taking personal responsibility truly is the path to freedom and happiness in the long run, but in the short run it can definitely make you feel pretty uncomfortable!

  • Hi Daniel,
    I’ve done all 15 things that you listed in your post and they don’t work. 2012 for me is going to be a paradigm shift in both my thinking and acting using the proverbial 80/20 rule.

    Getting more things done basically with less time and effort.

  • Truthfully, I’m guilty of a whole lot on that list. As I try to build my career, I watch so much tv and try to please everyone which doesn’t take me anywhere. Presently, I’m learning to reorder my priorities and this post is a good reality check.

    Most times, avoiding responsibility or pushing it forward only makes our dreams seem far away. Being sure of what we want with no compromise is our best bet.

  • I am so guilty of #8, saying, “I should”. I often talk myself out of doing things I should or want to do by leaning on how busy I am. I know better. Saying, “I choose to” introduces real intent and accountability. You’ve given me a swift kick to the backside. I choose to work on that. Thanks for the reality check.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jason. It definitely takes a very intentional effort to say “I choose to” instead of “I should”! I didn’t intend for my article to be a kick to your backside though. :)

      • The reason why “should” does not work, is that you are conferring your power to an outside authority. Who is saying “should”? The scolding parent within yourself, society’s conventions, your own procrastination? Those are not empowering images or influences. “I choose to…” is powerful, even stronger than altruism. It is about being centered in realism and practicality and realizing you ultimately must be you. This is a labor of love. This is experience confirmed by action. “This is the best part of me, my deepest dream. I shall honor my dream and manifest it, because I really love doing this stuff!” Thanks, Daniel, very good points to meditate upon. Effective means both developing constructive thoughts and strategies and eliminating the unconstructive ones.

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