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Let's get you there!

A hospice nurse was once asked “What are the most common regrets you hear from your patients on their deathbed?”  The number one answer was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”  They regretted not following their dreams!

Is that you?  Do you have dreams that have fallen by the wayside that you want to achieve before it is too late?  If so, I might be able to help.  I've managed projects for more than 20 years, and know how to get things done.  Here are 5 steps you can use to achieve your dreams.

  1. Define it
  2. Break it Down
  3. Assign Tasks
  4. Execute
  5. Follow Up 

1.  Define It

The very first task you are faced with is possibly the hardest, yet most important step.  In order to achieve something, you need to know what it is you are trying to achieve!  Figure out what you are wanting to do.  Ask yourself precisely what you want to do, why you want to do it, and when you need to have it done by.  Write it down.

For simple purposes of this illustration I'm going to say one of my dreams is to take a trip to Disney with the family in the next few years.  This is actually one of things I'm doing currently, so while it may not be a really lofty dream, it is one thing I intend to make happen.  My oldest is 16 right now, so I'm limited on time if I plan to do this before she is out of the house.

Make sure to get buy in from any people that are involved!  You may discover things like they want to include a beach trip with your idea, that's something you'll need to negotiate to arrive at a clear picture of what needs to be done.  Maybe your spouse wants to take a two week vacation when you had a week vacation in mind.  In project planning terms this is called scope creep, and it can absolutely wreck your plans if you don't deal with it early on.

If you're married or in a relationship, try this exercise with your partner.  Each of you draw out your dream house on a separate sheet of paper – no peeking!  Now compare them.  Do they look exactly the same?  Unless you've done this specific exercise before, there are probably some major differences!  I'm sure each of you drew awesome houses, but if each of you picked up a hammer and started building without consulting each other, you aren't going to be pleased with the result.  Looking at your partner's drawing may also inspire ideas that you forgot in your own drawing, so be open to negotiation.  Define it!

2.  Break it Down 

Now that you have defined your dream, it is easier to figure out what you need to do.  Start breaking it down into more manageable chunks.  Start with the big things, and break it down into each smaller section, then start filling in the details on those sections.

Dream:  Take the kids to Disney in the next few years

Ask yourself who do I need to involve and what do I need to do?

In my example, I came up with Travel, Food, Lodging, Tickets, Time, $$$.  You may have things like specific skills you need to develop and people you need to convince on your list.

Obviously one of the biggest things in my example is money.  So let's think about that a little.

Travel – a check of google flights shows me flights are around $350 each, $350 * 7 people (yeah big family) = $2450.  Let's say $3k after taxes for travel, might be able to get that down by driving but then picking up hotel rooms.

Food/Lodging/Tickets – Disney's website shows $3,300 for a week inclusive family package, I need a little bigger package to fit 7 people.

You get the idea, I came up with around $9k after I added everything up.

Time is another big one.  Doing a little research I figured out that November will work for us, so I've picked November of next year to go.  We'll schedule vacations when it gets a little closer.  My wife is excited to go, so no convincing needed there.

3.   Assign Tasks

This is where you start assigning tasks along with deadlines.  I know that my biggest hurdle is going to be coming up with $9k.  If I have $500 already saved, that leaves me with $8500 to go.  I've got 19 months left, so $8500/19 = about $450/month that I need to save.

Here I've got to make a decision, is that feasible?  If not, I need to think about how to make it realistic.  In my example, I could compromise on things like shortening the length of the trip, pushing out when I want to take the trip, or cutting out a few things.  I managed to switch up a few things to get the bill down and then tightened our belt on a few other things in our monthly budget to keep the timeline.  Once I got the number, I scheduled a transfer to savings each month to happen automatically in the amount I need.

I also need to think through when other things need to happen.  I don't want to buy flights, rooms, and tickets at the last minute, so I need to think through when to do those things and put them down on the calendar.  It is important in any planning to decide what things need to be done, and when to do them.  Assign them to the appropriate people, make certain they are clear on what and when they need to do things, and then make sure they get done!  If they don't then you may need to adjust your plan to compensate and let everyone affected know what the new plan is.

4.  Execute

Execution is critical.  A plan without execution will forever remain a dream.  Make sure things are getting checked off of the plan as agreed upon.  The key for this step is to get moving!

5.  Follow Up

You should schedule regular checkups on your plan.  If your plan is particularly lengthy, make sure to define milestones that you can celebrate.  Maybe completing that course is a requirement, celebrate the milestone when you complete it!

I hold weekly project calls in my own company to make sure everyone is staying on track.  It is important to feel like you are making progress.  Checkups serve a dual purpose of making sure things don't get off track, and making everyone involved feel like the plan is working.  Celebrate the successes as tasks get checked off the list, and adjust the plan as necessary when it goes a little off track.

I hope this helps you in some small way.  If you have other ideas or if this helped, be sure to comment below and share so that your friends can get some benefit as well!

    Don Smith

    Don Smith is a business coach with decades of experience. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois. To work with Don, please click here.