How to Make Your Dreams a Reality: Forget About Them

dreams a reality

“You’ve got your passion, you’ve got your pride
but don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true” – Billy Joel, Vienna

All right, I know that title sounds massively depressing, but I wanted to get your attention. Because I’ve got something important to say, I promise.

If you’ve ever looked at the shelf of the self-help section in your bookstore, you’ve probably heard of a guy named Stephen Covey. He’s only slightly famous for writing The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People– voted #1 as one of the most influential books of the 20th Century.

So, in the book one of the habits is “Begin with the end in mind.” Good advice, no doubt. But there’s a slight problem — a simple misinterpretation really — when you take this advice too seriously.

When it comes to living your dreams, beginning with the end in mind is a great idea. It’s absolutely necessary as a motivational tool to keep you going, to remember why you’re working so hard on getting or that book proposal.

The problem is that working with the end in mind will drive you absolutely insane. No one ever told us “Begin with the end in mind, but once you’ve done that, completely focus on the step you’re on. Otherwise you’re liable to completely lose your mind and touch with reality.”

In other words, remember your dreams when you set out to work toward them. Reconnect with the ultimate goal you’re trying to accomplish before you set out on your task. But after that, completely forget about it. Be in the moment and focus on completely enjoying the scenery of the path you’re at. Find bliss not just in the realization of your dreams, but the movement in their direction.

Believe me, I’ve tried things the other way around. I’ve tried to always focus on the goal of being self-employed while working at a job that I less-than-love. It can absolutely drive you mad. Having co-workers talking, shuffling files, asking you how your weekend was (“Let me guess. Was it too short?!”). Keeping the end in mind here will do nothing more than cause you to completely loathe every day you take that dreaded walk to your cubicle.

Okay, so that was just part of it.

Here’s the real conundrum: We know that focusing on the step we’re at, instead of obsessing about how we’re not where we want to be, will help us reach our goal faster. We’ll produce more quality work through being present (instead of living in the future). We know that. But we can’t let go of obsessively thinking about where we wish we were, simply because we know it’s a good idea. You can’t force yourself to relax.

Without trying to go all Zen Koan on you, I’ll try to explain. In a certain sense, you’re got to stop caring about the end goal, but still care about it (to motivate you to take action) at the same time. Sound tricky? Good. If it doesn’t, then you don’t get it.

In this way, the best way to make your dreams a reality is to forget about them. It’s kind of like playing two different rhythms on the drums with two hands. You’ve got to remember what beat you want to do, then start the first hand. Then in order to play a completely different rhythm with the second hand, you forget what the first hand is doing.

I’ll be honest here, this is a skill that takes practice. Especially if you’re like me and you’re not the most patient person in the world. You want things to happen and you want it now.

I know, it’s hard. But if you want to keep your dreams alive, you’ve got to have a kind of recurring amnesia. Remember it, cherish it, then set it free and forget about it.

Then you can walk blissfully by your boss (that you can’t stand) and you won’t be overcome with frustration. Now you can actually start making progress toward your dreams, rather than freaking out that they’re not happening.

If you can master this simple art of remember the end, then forgetting about it and focusing on the movement toward your dreams, you will find success.

It’s that movement that matters anyway. Because bliss isn’t found by reaching the end of your journey, it’s found by walking the path.

Photo by Le Enfant Terrible

21 thoughts on “How to Make Your Dreams a Reality: Forget About Them”

  1. Great post, Jonathan! I believe “begin with the end in mind” can be best applied where “the end” is death. I know this is heavy but I also know you completely “get it.”

    I believe it is no mistake that people who have had “near death experiences” also have the healthiest outlook on (and appreciation for) life — they see that true meaning and purpose comes from the letting go of their desires for monetary, material and social status. While conventional “success” may still come to them, it is only as an unintended consequence of their meaningful pursuits…

    “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you will miss it. For success, like happiness, can not be pursued; and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.” ~ Viktor Frankl

      1. @jonathanfigaro,

        Yes. Not only should we envision the end result of any given task but also begin a big picture perspective of life with the end (death) in mind.

        More importantly, one should live as though they will die sooner than they may currently be expecting…

        “We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.” ~Marcel Proust

        1. @Kent @ The Financial Philosopher, What very profound words. Great quote!
          So are you saying i should envision all my daily goals as already completed and live my life like today is the last??

  2. Hi Jonathan,

    You have open a new angle for us to look at what Stephen R.Covey had said. What you had wrote make sense and focusing on the end in mind can cause us to dread the present so much. It is not easy to set our dream free and it is something that we need some amount of effort to achieve.


  3. Wow. This is a great post. Definitely got my attention right from the beginning! You make some really excellent points in here and you’ve summed it up so well in these words: “It’s that movement that matters anyway. Because bliss isn’t found by reaching the end of your journey, it’s found by walking the path.” That is so unbelievably true.

  4. I have to agree with you. Of course you need to look at your goals. But don’t live them, if they aren’t true yet. Enjoy this moment, right now, be happy with what you got and make the best out of it and work toward your goal, without really knowing it.

    I love the sentence with the co-workers asking how your weekend was. It is always the same, every monday. Hey Stefan, how was your weekend? The same stupid question always regarding to something else than the job, cause that is what they don’t like to do.

    Great post!


  5. Jonathan,

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the “quandaries” (or maybe they’re “conundrums”) that your semi-Koan unravels…

    Aspiration seems to ultimately rely on a sense of Contrast (of what is Lacking, what is Needed, Desired, as yet Unfulfilled).

    Aspirations don’t really get you to “happiness” — the happiness or peace or satisfaction in the Present (the-journey-as-destination).

    That peace in the Present is the energy that drives all the steps (the necessary Action in between).

    So, you’re absolutely right — what is required is to glance up and toward the future that you aspire to — enough to keep the orientation, the sense of direction… It’s a strange choreography of Eyes on the Goal and Watch Where You’re Stepping.

    Your explanation is very practical and accessible.

  6. I’ve been guilty of not being a patient man either. I can see and almost feel the results of my blog making me a full time living, but I’m not quite there yet. That’s why I like your idea of forgetting the end goal and just taking steps in the right direction.

    @Slade – I like your Koans. The present moment is the only moment we can enjoy, so that’s where our focus needs to be.

  7. Hey, cool post. I HAD to comment, because this topic is one I wrote about in my very first blog post, ever, a year or more ago. (BTW, I know it’s uber tacky to include links 2 one’s own blog, but I’m NOT just pimping my blog. In fact, I’m thinking very seriously of getting OUT of nutritional coaching TOTALLY…so I wouldn’t say that if I was pimping!) I honestly just love this paradoxical topic (taught students about it, & tried to fathom it myself, as a martial art teacher, too).

    Same topic here:

    Also, Robert Fritz has always had cool stuff to say about this stuff, too. Here’s a post where I touched on his work a little.

  8. Hi Jonathan .. good thoughts – we have to live and deal with the moment, even if we aspire to other goals – it’s dealing with the day to day stuff, while we quietly work forward doing what we can.

    If we have a better future ahead, we may well make our present lives and work easier to bear, and thus our work colleagues, friends and family will see us change as we progress.

    Thanks great post –
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters

  9. I was really on top of my game 2 years ago.

    I relish on my past success… but now im doing horrible, with this economy and all kinds of other problems. My personal growth stagnated really really badly. After enomrmous growth 2 years ago. I havn’t changed much.

    I am really disappointed because I focus on the ends instead of the means :(

    But now you give me the courage to do it.

    I have to stop dreaming, thinking about the past and the future. Today is today.

  10. Your right it can drive you crazy thinking about the future. I wonder when will I get my break. I’m tired of the same job and circumstances. It’s not easy being patient. God is in charge. It’s funny I was thinking today that when I don’t focus on certain goals everything falls into place whether it’s money, women or anything I desire.

  11. It is a paradox that when we are able be internally still, true inspiration rises, and true inspiration needs no motivation or end-goal or discipline. There is just natural action.

  12. I think there’s another important benefit to envisioning your dreams that’s being overlooked… having a clear vision for a future of your choosing can change the context of your PRESENT. Creating a shift in the future that people are living into brings about a change in your experience of life today, which shifts your lens of what’s possible, and in a self-reinforcing cycle, ultimately brings you closer to living your dream today. People tend to think about a reality that’s separate from their perception and experience of life, something that they’re just observing. When you try on the perspective that you CREATE reality, then it becomes more clear how important it is to get clear on your dreams, so you can create the reality that is aligned with who you truly are.

  13. Thank you so much for this post. I am also not a patient person but this make absolute sence. I am in a position right now always focused on the end result but not seeing the way to get there. Its important to remember where we are now too.

  14. I actually came to this realization recently as I was feeling overwhelmed looking at my long list of goals and tasks. I realized for me to get anywhere I would have to enjoy being in the present moment while being mindful of where I want to be.

    After this realization my days have been full of energy and happiness providing even more motivation to work towards the end result.

  15. Jonathan,

    This article resonates deeply with me.

    More than once in my life I have reached goals many years after having set them. As a matter of fact, I would write a 5 year or 10 year plan in a spiral notebook and truly forget about them. Then years later when cleaning off a shelf or a drawer, I would run across my old lists and was amazed that I had accomplished all those things. Some of these accomplishments were earn a Ph.D., travel to Europe, remodel my home, write a book.

    Writing down goals imprints them in the subconscious. As I moved about my life, I was drawn to activities and choices that lead to the completion of my goals.

    Thanks for sharing this key element in goal-setting. Forget the end and enjoy the day to day.

  16. I have purposely put subtle reminders around me to remind me of my goal. I don’t necessarily think about it everyday, but come across a picture of my dream car that I cut out and stuck in a drawer or a book and words like ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ written on the mirror, back of a book, or tissue box.

    All these messages appear in my daily activities and it motivates me to achieve my goal.

  17. This article took me back to my past. It reminded me of my old days when I used to plan out tasks and allot the time to each task. Dreams can’t be fulfilled until they are followed by passion and commitment. I hope I would achieve my dream of becoming a singer soon.

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