How to Realize Your Dreams

realize your dreams

We all have hopes and aspirations for our lives. Fulfilling or walking the path to fulfillment of just one of our dreams can infuse our lives with deep meaning and happiness.

The subject of this article is a strategy that is as powerful as it is simple. I call this strategy “compartmentalization” and it is something you can use daily for the achievement of your wildest dreams no matter their size or scope.

It was Thomas Carlyle who expressed the following wisdom:

Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.

Simple, isn’t it? How, though, can we each apply this wisdom in our daily lives with the view to achieving our greatest dreams?

Navigating the Seas of Life

I would like you to imagine your life as a ship, a great ocean liner navigating the stormy seas of life. Within this ship, which is your life, are three compartments. The first compartment at the rear is your past. It contains all your yesterdays, regrets, and could-have-been’s. The middle compartment is today. It is the endless right now of the present moment. The final compartment at the front of your life-ship is your future. It contains all your hopes, dreams, worries and paralyzing anxieties.

You will notice, as you picture your life-ship, that between each of these three compartments are enormously strong bulkheads. Right now those impenetrable steel doors between each compartment are open and cracks in your past compartment and your future compartment are causing your today compartment to flood. Because the bulkheads are open you are frantically working the pumps to keep your life-ship from sinking, to keep your head above the waters of the stormy seas of life.

Picture now, those impenetrable steel bulkheads closing and locking tight. Sealing off the torrent of worry and anxiety that was roaring into your today from the past and the future. You don’t have to worry about either of them any more. You’re safe and secure in the compartment of today. You no longer have to man the pumps. Instead, you can get down to the very pressing business of today. You can set to the things that you can do today that will bring you that one step closer to your dreams.

An Example: Blogging

When I first started my blog I set very ambitious monthly traffic goals. I did this because if I hit those targets it would show me that blogging was something worth pursuing further. Then I wrote down what methods I would use to bring in that traffic. I called this The How. Then I chunked down each point on The How list to daily activities. For example, each day I would write three helpful forum posts and make two insightful blog comments. At least every second day I would write a new blog post.  Every week I would write a guest article for another blog and every two weeks I would make blog carnival submissions. This way each day I knew what I had to do and I could just set about doing it, confident that what I was doing was taking me one more step closer to what I wanted.

By living in a day tight compartment I didn’t waste time and energy thinking about whether this would work out of not. There was no need to dwell on the price of failure such as whether starting a blog is going to be wasted time and effort. I didn’t think about the other things I could be doing instead of pouring my heart and soul into my blog. I didn’t dwell on how if I had gotten into blogging earlier I would be so much further ahead then I am now. All that represents water flooding in from the past and future compartments. Instead I closed the bulkheads and got down to the business of achieving my dreams. Otherwise I would have been stuck endlessly manning the pumps while my life-ship slowly sank, taking me with it.

Realize Your Dreams

You can see that I planned for the future. The difference between what I did and what so many of us do is I put down the burden of anxiety about tomorrow and regrets about yesterday. By living in day tight compartments you free yourself from slowly drowning in a paralyzing sea of anxiety and worry. Realizing your dreams will be impossible if you constantly live in such a state. Rather, take time to think, make a careful plan, then each day take the action that is a necessary step towards the fulfillment of that plan.

As Thomas Carlyle said, be concerned with and do what clearly lies at hand, each and every day.

Photo by Han S.

22 thoughts on “How to Realize Your Dreams”

  1. At least every second day I would write a new blog post. Every week I would write a guest article for another blog and every two weeks I would make blog carnival submissions. This way each day I knew what I had to do and I could just set about doing it, confident that what I was doing was taking me one more step closer to what I wanted.

    I think it’s a great strategy to have things set out like this. I have something similar in Google Docs that lists all my ways I want to drive traffic to the site. Sadly, I only get to spend a small amount of time working on my blog so I can’t keep up with things like guest posts as much as I would like.

    Glen Allsopps last blog post..The Path of Identity

    1. That paragraph caught my attention as well. It’s a very solid, and yet extremely simple, strategy for blogging. And what I find is that when you have things set clearly set out like this you avoid the guilt that sometimes comes from believing you are not doing enough of something (eg publishing articles).

  2. I like the focus on the present moment. I’m not a big fan of planning, but I do think one of the most valuable questions we can ask ourselves is “What can I do right now to be one step closer to my desired outcome?”

    Sometimes the “how” can overwhelm us if we think long-term, and trying to figure it out can stop us from ever getting started. Taking action in the present moment, on the other hand, is guaranteed to move us forward.


  3. Great post…I like your simple advice. The idea of compartmentalization is a great one because it prevents us from feeling overwhelmed. I know that when there are a million things to do, no matter what- I have to section things out and tackle each task one at a time- otherwise I’m pretty sure I would get nothing done. With regards to blogging, for example, instead of just cranking out blog post after blog post, I have found that simply joining a few social networking sites and linking to other bloggers that I really like have helped out tremendously. Building up this little “network” has been a great way to keep up with what is going on in my industry as well as to help build relationships with others who may know more about something than I would and might be able to offer advice, etc.

    janelles last blog post..It’s FINALLY Here!

  4. Thanks for the excellent article Stephen. It reminds me of a quote:

    “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. There is where they should be. Now put foundations under them” – Henry Thoreau

  5. Thank you everyone for the kind comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    It is interesting what Peter says about guilt that can sometimes come from believing you are not doing enough of something. Often I’ll fly through what I have set out to get achieved for the day and have to reassure myself that I have actually checked off each of the things I planed to do. The thing is, as I’ve found in training martial arts, consistent effort over time pays the dividends we all want. Huge but episodic efforts often do nothing but burn us out and end in frustration.

    Stephens last blog post..A Healthy Diet Means Eating What Your Body is Adapted To

  6. You are so right.

    I once created a small artisan business. I didn’t know much about creating the product. It was technically challenging. But everyday I just focused on learning how to do it. After I had the basics down, I then focused each day on making some improvement to the engineering and artistry. I did the same to build the marketing end of the business. I just zeroed in on the task at hand, and each day I got a bit better at it.

    It was manageable because I gave the piece of the business I was working on that day my total involvement. I didn’t try to work it all at once or worry about the future, or let my past inexperience take my energy or enthusiasm away.

    Before I knew it, I had a profitable business. I built it with chunks of present moment well-directed tasks. You can accomplish amazing things by intelligently orchestrating tasks that lead in the direction you want to move into — then doing them a chunk at a time.

    Cool analogy :-)

    John Rocheleau – Zen-Momentss last blog post..A Youthful Advantage

  7. I agree completely. By planning out my strategy in advance I am able to focus on what needs to be done right now without wondering what my next step should be. I can get too easily distracted by my racing brain so I try to take as much uncertainty out of my life as possible so if my brain wants to race it is heading in a creative direction rather than a multi-tasking direction.

    Melissas last blog post..Eating Right 4 My Blood Type

  8. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I currently work at a staffing company in Boston, Hollister Staffing, ( and find it helpful to read others insights on how they figured out what they wanted to do in terms of their career. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they were very helpful for me in guiding some of my candidates I have placed recently.

  9. i am very impressed with this article. I love your idea about not letting the past (regrets, what if, could, could, should, would, …) get in the way of doing well in the present. I also love your concrete example about blogging goals. Just out of interest, how did these goals work out? Did you find them easy? Useful? Are you still carrying on with these kinds of goals?

    Thanks once again for another excellent post.

    1. So far I’ve surpassed each target that I set. Which as you can imagine I’m quite happy with.

      I also found, in as short a time as one week of doing the daily things I set out in my “The How”, that I settled into a habit of just doing those things. It quickly became normal and as we know, from the law of attraction, what is normal to each of us tends to be what we get in our lives.

      I have some time yet before I really decide if blogging is going to be what I will do. So far though it feels right (it ticks many of the right boxes for me) and all the right indicators are there. It really is a case of spending some time nutting out a concrete plan then getting into the trenches and putting the necessary work in.

      I did much the same thing at one point with university studies. It helped me to complete 17 subjects in less then 15 months.

      Stephen – Balanced Existences last blog post..The Power of an Inner Smile and the Law of Entrainment

  10. What a wonderful article. Your words of inspiration really stick. I find that planning my dreams builds enthusiasm, and that visualization of my goals and aspirations really makes a reality of them. It’s not just intention manifestation, but the fact that they become part of my consciousness, and this makes them a reality. Thanks for the post!

    Ibrahim | ZenCollegeLife.coms last blog post..30-Day Self Mastery Challenge

  11. It is so important not to let the past and future interfere with today. So often, what happens is that we remember that we have done things in the past that have not worked out, and then project that idea into the future so that we think that things won’t work out in the future too. The truth is that the present is all that we really have to work with. The past and the future are just things our egos made up. The idea is that since we are making up a story about what will happen in the future, why not make up a good one. That would give us more motivation and confidence to do the things we need to do right now in order to create a future that will make us happy when we get there.

  12. hi
    great article
    but i cannot understand what Thomas Carlyle is saying…can you explain it to me???

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