I recently finished listening to Laura Vanderkam’s new book “I Know How She Does It”, and in it I was reminded of her “100 dreams” idea.
A little while back, I made a list of 100 dreams. It’s what it sounds like – basically a bucket list. But instead of putting on a bunch of arbitrary “shoulds” (I don’t need to skydive or see the coral reefs), it’s a list of 100 things that sound awesome to me, big and small. Things that I’ll actually make a point of doing, whether this year or in 30 years.
The last time I created such a list, I got stuck around number 60. It was frustrating, but then something wonderful happened – the frustration evolved into an existential crisis. What am I doing with my life? What’s it all for? The list pushed me to excavate to the truth. What do I really want? Not just what looks good to want on paper?
So I pushed for bigger ideas and ended up with 107 dreams by the end of it. It felt great and allowed me to re-examine my priorities. It gave me tremendous clarity in my day-to-day life and with my longer-term goals.
But the dust settles; the profundity of such an experience fades. That’s why, after listening to Laura’s book (excellent in the audio format), I decided to give the “100 dreams” list another go.
No existential crisis this time, but a surprising amount of my ideas changed in the year or so between lists. Things I wrote on the first list no longer mattered much to me (what do I care if I have a Stella McCartney handbag?). New ideas hopped on the page that I couldn’t have imagined the first time around (build an energy-efficient house on several acres of land).
If you’re interested in creating your own list, here’s how I did it:
1) Divide your list into categories. These are the ones I used:
-Health and food
Once you have your categories, start coming up with ideas! You might discover additional categories along the way – use whatever headers and themes matter to you.
2) Make a note beside each of your 100 dreams on where you’re at with it.
-In red, I wrote anything that I wasn’t actively pursuing.
-In yellow, I wrote things that were on my horizon or that I wanted to do, but wasn’t doing.
-In green, I wrote those things that I’m already doing.
3) Come up with a secondary list, “Dreams I’m actively pursuing”.
Put this list in a prominent spot and revisit it at least weekly, if not daily. Here’s where you put all your green ideas, and whichever yellow ones you’ve decided to take on and start integrating into your life.
When I created this secondary list, I also craved more clarity. Instead of writing, “Learn about gardening”, I drilled down and wrote, “read at least 5 books on permaculture and take notes” (I have a notebook dedicated just to this).
Here’s an example of how I condensed the “home life” dreams section:
- Purchase several books each month (use my Indigo card in Nov)
- Purchase land and build house (huge ongoing project; broken into next steps on Nozbe)
- Research at least 5 books on fruit and vegetable permaculture
4) Put your projects or habits into your daily task manager
I’ve talked about Nozbe before, which I’ve used and loved for years. It allows me to arrange some of my dreams/goals into projects, and also create recurring habits (such as “meditate every day”).
This means that, as long as I’m checking my to-do list on a daily basis, habits I’d like to incorporate pop up on my daily list – no mental energy required to remember to do something. I like to review the secondary list weekly, in order to look over some things that might not neatly fit into my to-do list, but this process takes away most of the ambiguity around my goals. I see them every day; I know if I’m moving toward them, or not.
I want to restate that this is not a bucket list – at least not in the conventional way bucket lists are used (and ignored). This is a list of things I really want to do, but things that I might not do without some long-term consideration and a little bit of planning.
For example, I want to meditate every day for an entire year. I find the idea of creating a 365-day streak inspiring (and intimidating). At the end of it, I’ll have a well-established habit of meditation, which is great, but I’ll also have the experience of having meditated every day for a year – also great. Or maybe after a year I’ll say, “that was fun but I’m done with this meditation thing”. That’s fine too – it’s all part of the learning experience.
A long-term goal that I wouldn’t be able to achieve without careful planning is getting a licentiate diploma in piano performance. I am a long, long ways away from that point. But I like to keep it on my radar, and take tiny steps in that direction in the meantime. Maybe I don’t get there for another 30 years – that’s fine. But I’d like to keep it in my head, and move toward it slowly but surely.
This process has been enormously helpful to me both times I’ve gone through it, and highly encourage you to do the same if you have a feeling of fuzziness, a feeling that you’re aimlessly drifting. It’s challenging, but it’s also quite fun – and what’s more important than that?