Ed. Note – This is the second in a series of posts in which I’ll deal with the main purpose of this site: Life Design. This will be an encapsulation of my thoughts on the subject, and the foundation for everything else that’s written here. You can find the entire series here.
In the first post in this series on personal development plans, we dealt with values. What values are, why they’re important, and how to discover yours. Your values are your priorities in life. Each decision you make should advance those values somehow. If you act in ways that are contrary to those values, you’ll find yourself frustrated and depressed. What we’re really talking about is being a person with integrity (this is slightly different from “honesty”, which is how a lot of people interpret “integrity” today). The way I’m using the word “integrity” means there is consistency between who you really are and the persona that you display to the world. If you do things that go against your values, you’re not acting with integrity, and you’re not going to be a complete person.
In this post, we’re going to deal with dreams. When we talk about dreams in this context, we’re discussing what we want to do with our lives. That could refer to an overarching scenario as to how we see our lives playing out, or it could be specific events or things within it. Since we know that acting according to our values is the only way we can achieve integrity in our lives, we need to ensure that our dreams flow from our values.
For instance, let’s say that one of your values is “time with family”. All of your dreams need to advance that value (or, at least not conflict with it). If one of your dreams is to have a Ferrari, you need to find a way to get that car without sacrificing your time with your family. If you can’t do that, you should probably reconsider which is more important to you, the Ferrari or your family.
The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the things/experiences/achievements that you view as a dream. These don’t necessarily have to be huge things, like “Climb Mt. Everest” or “make a million by the time I’m 35”. They can be, but they don’t have to be. The object during this exercise is to list as many of these dreams as you can possibly think of; big, small, or anywhere in between.
Once you’ve made this list, it’s time to evaluate those dreams against the values you’ve previously identified as part of your personal development plan. Remember, you really only have one or two values. Look at the first dream you’ve identified, and ask yourself, “How does this dream flow from my life’s priorities?” Write down the answer to that question for each dream. A few sentences will do. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be sufficient to really explain how the dream meshes with one or both of your values.
Keep progressing down the list, asking the same questions and writing down your answers. If you run into some dreams that you can’t justify, you’ll need to put them in a separate list for further consideration.
These dreams you’ve segregated out from the main list aren’t necessarily things you have to abandon. It may be that you just need more time to understand how it fits in with your priorities. It’s also possible that it’s a dream that’s worthwhile, but it doesn’t fit with your values right now. You may need to revisit it at some future point when it aligns more with your priorities at that time. However, since you can’t justify it right now, it’s not a dream you can pursue at this time.
This exercise ensures your integrity. If you say something is important to you, then you need to act like it. If you don’t, your mind and attitude will rebel against you. That lack of agreement between the value and the dream (and the actions needed to achieve the dream) will make you frustrated and will nag on your consciousness until you make some changes to bring the two into alignment. This feeling of being unsettled with how your life is progressing is what many people refer to as your conscience. You’ll know that you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, or not doing something you should.
In order to achieve your dreams, you’ll have to sacrifice time and effort, maybe money and pleasure. It won’t be easy. That’s why, if your dreams don’t align with your priorities, you’ll want to give up and quit. The combination of sacrifice and an unsettled spirit is too much for anyone to overcome. However, if you have the conviction inside of you that what you’re giving up is less important than the dream you’re striving for (and the value that dream represents), you’ll be able to continue on.
photo courtesy: francesco sgroi