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Losing Track of Our Dreams?

Mar 29, 2021 8:54:34 PM / by Tim McCarthy

About 20 times this year, I will conduct a 3-hour program called “Dream Sketch”. In a highly interactive setting, I help CEOs and business owners define more clearly what they want out of life. We use templates that I have used to plan my own dreams for more than 20 years.

Dreams are elephants and therefore can only be consumed one bite at a time. So, first we write down our overall goal, then our desired accomplishments then break into a couple of immediate actions.

Silhouette of businessman against black wall. Idea concept

Step 1 is to name your elephant, that is, what is the most important thing in the world to you? Most participants quickly write down “family”, but other frequent answers include “find peace, leave the world a better place, be healthy and profess our faith”.

Step 2 of our opening exercise is tougher. I ask, “What three things would you like to look back later in your life and say, ‘I did that’”?  I then hear about bucket list items, financial goals, personal health targets, academic degrees, legacies and spiritual goals. It’s all very personal.  

Imagining is inspiring because we start with the end in mind: successful children, early retirement, a parachute jump, financial independence, a graduate degree, a healthy 90th birthday or eternal salvation.

Then comes Step 3, the hardest part of our opening exercise: we must write two specific steps we will take by the coming Sunday night toward achieving our stated “dream” accomplishment. “It must be specific and fairly easy to accomplish”, I tell my groups.

For example, if you want a graduate degree, don’t promise to take the GMAT (it’s likely you’ll postpone it) but promise to inquire at your alma mater. If someone says, “I will start a date night with my spouse”, I require that they name the time and place of the first date. If their goal was financial independence, I only ask that they set a date with a financial planner or two in the next few days.

Every person I’ve ever known has a dream. But the difference in each of us, each one from the other is in how we pursue those dreams. The better I plan and write my dreams, and the more I track my progress, the more likely it is that I might achieve them. The templates and methods I use are what I share with these groups, filling out ten year, five year and 12 month plans the rest of the morning.

What is it that you set out to do in your life that you’ve forgotten about?

I believe the underlying discontent in most of us is due to losing track of our dreams. We vaguely have our dreams in mind but we fear planning, then keep track of our progress because we may fail.  

The truth is that we're likely to fail, and will typically fail on many goals. Life is hard, and  it's daily challenges distract us and cause uncertainty. I have definitely missed more goals than I’ve achieved. But, by saying them, writing them, sharing them with others and tracking them on a regular basis, we exponentially increase our chances to more fully live the only life we’re given.

Someday I’ll get the inevitable final diagnosis. When I do, I don’t expect that I’ll have achieved my dreams. But I do plan on saying I never stopped planning, doing and striving to achieve them.



Tim McCarthy


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Tim McCarthy

Written by Tim McCarthy

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