If ever there was a time to stop procrastinating and start road-testing your dreams, it’s NOW. Heck, it was always NOW, wasn’t it, we just got a little sidetracked. Most people I know find so many different reasons not to seize the day and act, so their pipe dreams remain firmly in the pipeline, then they get older and more responsible, until eventually those precious pipes rust away and disintegrate amidst logic, cynicism and real-world problems. This is a depressing scenario I’m sure you’re familiar with. It’s just a fact of life, right? Wrong. In this post, I want to share a neat technique which helped me start to bring some of my pipe dreams to life.
Swap daydreaming for scheming
I’m an entrepreneur, so many of my dreams revolve around cool new business ideas that never see the light of day. ‘I could become a millionaire App Developer with this cool idea’, I tell myself, and then I proceed to do nothing about it.
For Weekly Challenge #19, I swapped daydreaming for scheming and hatched some of my business pipe dreams into reality, writing 5 business plans in just 7 days. You know what? It was an easy, step-by-step process which brought some of my dreams a step closer. Just through the process of allotting a little time and putting pen to paper, I took my ideas off the shelf and gave them a gentle road test. The net result was that, by the end of the week, each ‘dream’ felt tantalisingly real.
Pipe Dream Procrastination
For me, the pattern of pipe-dream-procrastination ended when My Year In Flux began in March 2013, at which point I called a halt to dream-dallying and hit the action button, and I haven’t looked back since.
My new routine finds me throwing lots of mud at the wall and seeing what sticks, experimenting with different techniques to redesign my lifestyle around the things that make me happy. After all, that’s the greatest dream of all, isn’t it? A way-of-life which accommodates the things we deem most important.
I hope this post will act as a practical aid to help you make some of your own dreams a reality.
Step 1: Action!
The first step is always the hardest. Deciding to act, then going with it can feel like sneaking a glance over the precipice before recklessly leaping into the unknown. It takes guts and commitment, and frankly it’s easier to never even sneak a look. Easier, lazier, less fulfilling. But I believe that chasing your dreams needn’t be a giant leap. In fact, just a baby step or 2 (okay 7) taken over a few spare hours will mean the difference between “I wish I could…” and “I’m going to…”. But first you must decide, commit and stick with it.
Despite what I said at the start of this step, for me, this first step was the easiest: I try something new every week through my Weekly Challenge program, so once I’d committed to 7 days thinking about how to start my dream businesses, I’d already made that step into the unknown.
Step 2: Draw up an outline Dreams List
You can’t bring your dreams to life if you haven’t named them, so spend some time over a week or so listing your ideas and aspirations. Don’t hurry them, let those dreams tumble out onto your list in whatever odd vague shapes and at whichever unexpected moments they come. Commitment, time and your subconscious will soon work their magic.
In the week preceding Weekly Challenge #19 I spent a little dead time each day formulating a list of my dream business ideas. Some of them were loco-over-the-rainbow-idiotic, others were simple, neat solutions to travel problems I’d spotted since donning a backpack and heading off around the Americas, but NONE of my ideas really existed until I wrote them down.
Step 3: Expand each dream until the bubble bursts
With a list in hand, you’re in a great position to begin bringing your dreams into the real world, turning them into a simple (and not necessarily practical at this stage) action plan which focuses on the what, where, when and how of your pipe dream. There’s nothing like reality to burst bubbles and unmask flaws, but knowing some dreams are impractical is a great way to refocus the mind on what’s important to you. During this process, don’t get hung up on one idea, just spend an hour or two expanding one item, then park it, take a break, and move on to the next.
During my Business Plan Challenge week I spent 1-2 hours per day looking at each of my new business ideas, drawing them up into one page business plan summaries which simply addressed the problem, my business solution, startup/upkeep costs, predicted income, marketing ideas, exit plan and new skills required. Simples. I didn’t get hung up on practicalities, nor hours of research, I just hammered away at filling in a paragraph or some numbers under each heading. Sure, I wasn’t writing business plans that the bank would like the look of, but I was continuing to road test my dreams, and that gave me an immense sense of excitement.
Step 4: Walk away
Perspective is as important as blood, sweat and tears. So, once your ideas have each taken on a neat, uniform standard, it’s time to give them a few weeks to breath. Do nothing, get back to life as normal, put your ideas on the shelf to ruminate.
This is exactly the stage I am currently at with my 5 business plans. I’m already sick of the sight of them after a week! I’m therefore giving the different ideas room to breath, safe in the knowledge that when I come back to them, the flaws, strengths and necessary action points will be clear to see.
Step 5: Return, rinse and repeat
Ah, perspective…you’re chomping at the bit to get started again on your dreams, right? I know I am!
You’ve been through the process once, so why not do it again? Pick 2 of your dreams from the list and for each dream, begin a list of action points, just like your first outline Dreams List.
Be they specific research, fleshing out the financial side of things or simply finding the recognised development path for your dream, the action points will be fairly obvious once you get started.
If you want to write a book, for example, it’s time to ask how authors get published these days. If you want to become a millionaire App developer, what kind of code do you need to learn? Or, if you’re starting a new business like me, you’ll be developing your business plan around those familiar pillars: market need, your solution, financials, marketing, end game.
Step 6: Talk them out
Your dreams are now reality, and they probably need some expert help…or at least a fresh pair of eyes in the form of a friend or loved one. So, with your fleshed-out ideas in hand, consult people who can help. It doesn’t really matter who, maybe you know the perfect expert, maybe you don’t. The chances are, even an 8 year old will give you fresh and useful perspective at this stage.
You’ll be surprised how many people in your circles are willing to offer a little time to a passionate person with an exciting plan, so don’t be scared of sharing and discussing your ideas, it strengthens them and gives them even more life.
Step 7: Embrace the flux and take the plunge!
What seemed like an impossible step at the start of this process should now seem like the most logical next move. As with step 1, it’s time for action. At least one of your dreams should now have an obvious path to follow. Go with it. The worst that can happen is that you’ll be making a brilliant mistake. Congratulations, that’s exactly how all the best ideas get off the ground.
Thanks to my industry during one week, a few dreams are now out of the pipe and into reality. They may be in pretty skinny one-page form, but they are alive, and I reckon it took me a combined total of 10-12 hours. It’s that simple.
There are already so many uncertainties in life which lie beyond our control, but happily, road testing our pipe dreams isn’t one of them. Fear of flux is natural, but the rewards for giving it a try are immense. This year I have learned, repeatedly, that trying something new and stepping out of the comfort zone are massive, tangible steps on the road to self-improvement and a happier, better-designed lifestyle. So come on people, put down the pipe and pick up your pen, because those hare-brained schemes for wealth, health and happiness won’t plan themselves. Pipe dreams begone, it’s time for action!