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How to Achieve Your Dreams

Photo by Tammy Strobel

Making dreams a reality doesn’t have to be difficult. It only requires a few things:

  • Believing in yourself.
  • Mapping your dreams.
  • And taking small action steps everyday.

In this post, I’ll talk about tools you can use to achieve your dreams. Some of the topics covered include: creating a life list, vision map, and how to start loving life now.

You only get one life. So your choices matter. Pursue what brings you happiness and joy.

1. Create a Life List

“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…” —Thoreau

Have you ever wanted to take a sabbatical? Work from any location in the world? Or remove yourself from the work-watch-spend treadmill?

Then I would encourage you to start a life list. Write down everything you’ve dreamed of doing in your life. Your life list is a place to record your dreams; a place where you can be accountable to yourself.

Once I created my life list, something magical happened. I started to make my dreams a reality by completing once small task everyday. There is something powerful about the act of writing down your dreams on paper. They feel more tangible and real.

Micro-action: Write down your dreams. Don’t stifle your voice, let all of your dreams flow onto a piece of paper. Once you have your life list in place, start taking a small step everyday to accomplish your dreams.

Think about what you want to do with the short life you’ve been given?

2. Turn Dreams into Reality

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” —W.H. Murray

By writing down my dreams, I’ve taken a number of steps towards making them a reality. For instance, since I wrote my life list last year I left my day job, started my own business, moved to Portland, and wrote my first e-book.

Let’s use leaving my day job and starting my own small business as an example. Making such a big moved required getting out of debt and saving more. So I slowly began paying off my debt every month and saved a little bit of extra money too. Re-evaluating my finances was a key part of making that dream a reality.

Anything is possible, you just have to make it a priority.

Micro-action: As you write your life list, think about small steps you can take everyday to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to leave your day job start saving more and spending less. Or if you want to bike across the country, take small weekend trips and see how they go.

3. Make A Vision Map

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” — Eckhart Tolle

A vision map is one way to help define and visualize what you want your future to look like. It’s one way to make your dreams and goals tangible.

Image from Shift It Coach

Creating a vision map is fun and simple. You’ll need:

  • Crayons or colorful pens
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Poster board

Set aside one to two hours to create your vision map. Start going through the magazines you’ve gathered and look for images that resonate with you. Once you find the images, cut them out and glue them onto the poster board. The options are endless.

Think about your vision map and consider creating a time-line for the future you see. For example, when I made my vision map last year I knew we would move to Portland. By taking small steps everyday and constantly reflecting on my vision, I was able to accomplish this goal.

Micro-action: Create a vision map!

4. Focus on Daily Intentions

Gwen Bell inspired me to start writing down a list of daily intentions. My intentions include three items that I can accomplish everyday. Last year, my to-do lists were super long and a lot of the tasks were not completed.

By narrowing down your to-do list (or killing it all together) you can accomplish a lot. This is a simple and easy way to increase your productivity and embrace your creative genius. By focusing on a few small steps everyday, you’ll get closer to accomplishing the tasks on your life list. Remember to focus on activities that make you happy.

Micro-action: Begin writing down your daily intentions.

5. Start Loving Life Now

Working on your life list, vision map and daily intentions is a lot of fun. Setting goals and making plans is a positive activity. However it’s essential to live mindfully.

Sometimes goals won’t be accomplished and that’s okay. I think we all have a tendency to get wrapped up in future plans. It’s easy to forget how amazing life is.

Micro-action: Be mindful of the beauty in your everyday life.

6. Take Action

We must, if we care about our lives, and if we care about the life of the planet begin to remember how to think critically, how to think for ourselves. —Derrick Jensen

It’s my hope the tools in this post will inspire you to take action. Go out into the world and make your dreams a reality. It’s scary to think about making big life changes, but worth it in the long-run.

If you lost everything today, who would you be? If you couldn’t do the work you love, what would you be known for? Are you happy with what you have and the life you are leading? Or are you looking to make a change?

Be happy. Pursue your dreams. And question everything.


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Thank you!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bill Gerlach May 25, 2010, 7:32 am

    OUTSTANDING! I’m in-process on most of these but have yet to make that vision map. Now that I think about it — that might be a fun thing to get the kids to help with… The focus on a short list of daily intentions is spot on. It’s about the quality of the actions, not the quantity. Thanks for the inspiration and be well!

  • Vivien May 25, 2010, 8:05 am

    Hi! Thanks for writing this post, Tammy. It gives me ideas…
    I especially like the last paragraph.

  • Mohamed Shedou May 25, 2010, 8:50 am

    Very good post. I need to go back and re-read it and use the good info! 🙂 The only thing I have doubts about is the vision map. We are increasingly moving away from paper and into digital. Can’t we create a digital vision map instead? Or may be a vision “folder” with images we collect online? I did that for awhile but didn’t realy go back to it. Also a vision map is mostly about materialistic achievemnts: houses, cars, places, I don’t know how motivating is that on the long term? But good advice overall.

    • Adrienne December 4, 2011, 5:55 pm

      My vision map had material things on it, but also pictures of me meditating, having healthier food and exercise habits. I included photos of me having happy relationships with my children, parents and boyfriend. Pictures can be great visual symbols of non material things. I noticed as well sometimes that if I meditate on a picture of something I want, an emotion, that if I am having a hard time, I can remember what the picture looked like and it brings up that happy emotion with it.

  • Lisa May 25, 2010, 9:35 am

    Excellent post Tammy! While all the steps are important, I find numbers 5 and 6 especially so. And since we’re all in a constant state of change, I think it’s important to review and revise our life lists whenever the urge hits.

  • Dawn May 25, 2010, 11:27 am

    Thank you. I definately feel like envisioning my future and creating a visual of it now, maybe posting it to the inside of my closet so that it is a bit secretive (cause I find that when I tell people what I want to do then the naysayers get to me, and I have a lot fo those in my life) but still available to see everyday. Also, are the first two photos of Maltunoma (sp?) Falls and The Gorge/Columbia River? Beautiful photos! 🙂

  • Dan Goodwin May 25, 2010, 11:27 am

    Tammy, this post is an example of why I read all of your posts – you state things simply, and in such an inspiring way. You make so much seem achievable, because you’re out there doing it yourself.

    I love the almost-so-obvious-we-completely-forget-it wisdom of lines like: “Remember to focus on activities that make you happy.”

    You’re never afraid to ask the big questions that cut to the heart of who we are, how we choose to spend our time and what we’re here for.

    Thanks for the ongoing inspiration!


  • Dawn May 25, 2010, 12:30 pm

    @ Mohamed: I was thinking about your comments and I think that they are valid. In a digital age what use do we have for a paper vision map and what use is it to get pictures of material things when happiness whould not be in those things? I guess I just wanted to say that you answered your own concern about the paper aspect of the vision map when you mentioned that you tried a digital one but never seemed to go back to it. A paper one can be put on a wall and changed as needed but then it is something you see consciously or subconsciously every day and therefor your mind is slowly working towards it. If it is digital you may not ever see it again! As per the material aspect that could be inherent in a vision map of this type I am thinking about a way to off-set this. First you could look to pictures of surfing and such like in the picture that Tammy posted. And in order to remind myself why I chose the pic I am going to try to write a one word phrase in a creative way over the pictures on my own map. These are just my thoughts on what you proposed. You are free to agree or disagree. Good luck in your own quest!!

    • Mohamed Shedou May 25, 2010, 6:25 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts Dawn. I did think of what you just mentioned about how I don’t get back to the digital as I was writing it! I wasn’t sure it’s because the paper is better though. I think the most important turn off for me is the materlialistic part of it which isn’t what makes us really happy. However you gave me another idea which is to give the pictures another meaning of our own that could represent non material things. Something to think about!

      • Dan Goodwin May 25, 2010, 9:31 pm

        Last year I created a Mind Movie, which is a digital version of Tammy’s Vision Map. You can see it here if you’re interested:


        To be totally honest, I don’t watch it all that often now, and the version I wrote out longhand first to base this movie on, is just as inspiring for me, if not more so, because when I write, I have my own very vivid images in my head, not the images found in a magazine or on the internet, and it helps me to connect with them more strongly. I think for most people a combination of images and words would be most powerful and motivating.

        I imagine the digital equivalent of having your vision map pinned up on your wall would be to have it as your desktop wallpaper and/or screensaver. 🙂

        • Mohamed Shedou May 26, 2010, 7:53 am

          Dan, the movie is a very good digital alternative. However you need to know how to make it 🙂 I’m sure it’s not hard but I just need to learn. I think if I make one I won;t watch it oftern neither.

        • Sedef August 27, 2010, 6:43 pm

          Thank You, I just watched your video and found myself smiling and relaxing and full of gratitude for all that is within our reach. Thanks again for reminding me…

      • Kristen June 19, 2010, 6:49 am

        @Mohamed– One way you could create a digital vision map is through a website I discovered a few months ago called the Happiness Project Toolbox. It’s called an Inspiration Board there, but it’s the same idea. :>)

  • Sal May 25, 2010, 1:09 pm

    I love the concept of micro-actions. Micro is an aspect of minimalism. I’m using this idea for one of my writings – hope that’s ok.

    • Tammy May 25, 2010, 3:53 pm

      @Bill and Vivien – Thank you! I’m glad you liked the post.

      @Mohamed – Good points. I like your idea of creating a digital vision map. My tumblr blog resembles that idea. I post what inspires me and it’s easy to reference information down the road. However, I really enjoyed creating my own vision map. For a long time I had it posted near my books and it helped me reflect on what was most important in my life. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it. 🙂

      @Lisa – thanks! Taking action is one of the biggest keys to fulfilling dreams.

      @Dawn – Don’t listen to the naysayers! They mean well but remember to do what brings you happiness. And yes, the photos are from the gorge. My mom visited last week and we took a day trip to the gorge. The views were incredible; the pictures don’t do the place justice. It is pure magic.

      @Dan – You are too kind. Thanks so much for reading and your support. Life is too short to be unhappy. 🙂

      @Sal – Awesome! And yes, feel free to use the ideas in your writing. Micro-actions rock.

      • Mohamed Shedou May 25, 2010, 6:26 pm

        Tammy, I like the tmblr blog idea! I might just do that 🙂

  • Brett May 25, 2010, 4:14 pm

    Great post Tammy. They are all very inspiring steps to take and I personally have found great benefit from creating a “life list” somewhere I can reference easily to keep my focus and attention on what truly matters to me.

    • Tammy May 29, 2010, 6:39 pm

      Thanks Brett. I love my little life list. I need to update it again. I thought of a few more items to add this weekend. 🙂

  • Andrew May 25, 2010, 6:21 pm

    I just picked up Eckhart Tolle’s book (The Power of Now) for the first time in about 2 years, and I noticed that I had highlighted that exact quote you used at the beginning of #3.

    It’s one of the simplest, most profound ideas in the book. And it’s probably the most difficult to execute.

    And great list. Keep up the excellent work.

    • Tammy May 29, 2010, 6:41 pm

      Thanks Andrew. I loved reading The Power of Now. Although, it’s been a few years since I read the book. I need to re-read it. 🙂

  • Martina May 26, 2010, 10:54 pm

    Thank you for this excellent post. As usual, it’s full of inspiration for me. Right now, I am in the process of turning my dreams into reality, so it was good to read your encouraging words. I also like the idea of three daily intentions – three is really enough, and I want to live a purposeful, organized life which leaves me enough relaxed time for playing with the cats and having tea in the garden. I sure will come back to this wonderful post! (And I sure will comment again because I liked your cute “thank you”-note yesterday so much! Lovely idea!)

    • Tammy May 29, 2010, 6:37 pm

      Ahhh thanks Martina! 🙂 I appreciate the support. Thanks for stopping by…

      • Martina May 30, 2010, 10:08 pm

        Thank you, Tammy! I discovered your site only recently and am totally overwhelmed by the great content. What I like especially: in every post and every comment, your sweet personality shines through. I don’t know you in person, but you seem to be extremely kind, friendly and encouraging, and the wonderful thing is, you are able to transport this to your writing. I think this is rare – your “superpower”?! I sure will come back often! Thank you for all the time you put in this site! Best to you from Germany, Martina

  • Simply DIYgal June 2, 2010, 4:52 am

    Tammy, thanks so much for this post! It’s exactly what has been on my mind lately, to not keep my dreams as only that but to put them into action. Now that I have a guideline on how to make that possible I won’t just sit here daydreaming any more!

    This is so great I’m going to be sharing this with all my friends!

  • Bill June 3, 2010, 7:18 am

    This is exactly what my wife and I are working on to accomplish our dream of living on a sailboat!
    We have a scrapbook with wonderful pictures of all the places we want to visit and all of the boats we like, similar to your vision map.
    When you set your mind to it, anything is possible!

    • Tammy June 3, 2010, 12:49 pm

      @Bill – I agree. And thank you for reading. I appreciate it. 🙂

  • sue June 7, 2010, 8:46 am

    I love this website! It’s great to connect with like-minded individuals. The micro-actions are wonderful. 🙂

  • Jia Xuan June 27, 2011, 3:32 am

    I have read your ‘How To Achieve Your Dream’ post and i really like it. It inspired me a lot. It reminds me that dreams are not just dreams, it can be achieved by actions.

    I am a 17 year old girl from Malaysia, and I’m entering a 3 page mini-magazine design competition held by Stars Newspaper called Maginc 2011,(you can check it online). My team decided on a topic — I Have a Dream.
    We need to have at least 4 features so we wanted to interview you online(by email).
    Could you write an article (about 200-300 words) of what you think about this:
    Q: Nowadays, a lot of Asian’s teenagers don’t dare to dream(this is what happening in my school). Most of them just followed what their parents wished them to become when they grow up. So what’s your advise to them? How can they find their passion back?
    P.S Can you email your article to me( if you accepted my quest 🙂 ) thnks alot.

  • tre2215 December 1, 2011, 2:24 am

    Good stuff, I completely agree with everything Tammy. Once you get the ball rolling, momentum is tough to stop.

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