Personal Development

5 Techniques to Clarify Your Dreams and Goals


I often quote Henry David Thoreau’s famous words: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” But there’s an assumption inherent there: that you know the direction of your dreams, and that you’ve clearly imagined a life different from your current one.

clarify_dreamsPerhaps you already know what you dream of and how to get there. But if not, here are some ways to clarify your dreams and goals and start to put yourself on track to their fulfillment.

1. The Huck and Tom Technique: Imagine yourself hiding at your own funeral and listening in (like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer).

What would you want people to say?

What do you think they would actually say?

Your goal: to reduce the difference between the two.

2. Desert Island Everything: In the famous and very long-running BBC programme Desert Island Discs, celebrities are asked what 8 pieces of music, one book and one luxury they would take with them to a desert island. This technique is an expansion of that.

Imagine that some powerful alien or angel has confronted you with a choice. Everything you have, everything you are, everything you do is in question, all your relationships, all your possessions, your occupation, even key things about your character. You only get to keep a certain number – let’s say 10.

First write down the things about yourself that you think define you now, that you could start talking about in a sentence beginning “I have…”. Give yourself 20 minutes and write down as many as you can think of.

Now you have another 20 minutes to get the list down to the 10 things that mean the most to you.

Finally, take a third 20 minutes (for an hour in total) to reflect on:

  • what your long list says about your dreams and goals,
  • what your short list says about your dreams and goals,
  • what you have now that you can do without,
  • what you will spend more time and effort on, and
  • what might be missing.

3. The Perfect Day: There’s a post right here on Change Your Thoughts (What is Your Perfect Day) that can help you with this one. Imagine the best day of your life. Who do you spend time with? What are you doing? What enables you to do this? This exercise gives you great insight into your dreams and goals.

4. The Awesome List: Catherine Caine at Be Awesome Online came up with this one. Write out a no-holds-barred list of what your life would look like if it was completely awesome.

Now think about which of the things on that list are within your reach right now.

5. The Wise Advisor: This one requires cultivating a trance state, and isn’t for those who find it hard to shut off their critical thinking.

First, get yourself thoroughly relaxed. You can do this by a number of methods. Here’s an especially simple one:

Take three deep breaths, and with each breath out, allow your body and mind to relax more and more.

Now imagine you’re at the top of a set of 10 stairs. As you walk slowly down the stairs, you become more and more deeply relaxed, and your thoughts start to drift.

Your attention narrows down and focuses just on one question: What is my best advice to myself?

Now allow your inner advisor, the part of yourself that knows yourself best, to speak to you. It sounds spooky, but it needn’t be. Some people find that their inner advisor comes with an image of a wise older person or even an animal, others just hear a voice.

Hear the advisor out, without criticising or judging. Then bring yourself back to your usual level of alert consciousness, and write down what the advisor said.

Try one or more of those techniques, and you’ll be much clearer on what changes you most want to make in life. The next step, of course, is to get started on the changes, removing any obstacles between yourself and your dreams and goals and pursuing them persistently until you achieve them.

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Mike Reeves-McMillan

Mike Reeves-McMillan is an amazingness trainer. He's working on a book on how not to change your life.