How to dream
Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, but underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade.
I would like to share an amazingly powerful and simple way you can achieve your dreams. Spend an hour or two simply writing an essay about your life 10 years from now. Describe everything about your day, from the moment you wake up until you go to bed. Describe your room, your house, the place where you work. Describe how many children you have. Allow yourself to dream by following just one rule: there are no limits. Write as though there are no financial, geographic, or any other kinds of constraints. Think only about what you want, what makes you excited, what would be fun, what would make you feel good. What would your life look like if you could be completely you?
For this exercise, there are no externally-imposed restrictions or restraints preventing you from everything you truly, madly, deeply want. Write about that. You don't have to show it to anyone (unless your partner is extremely like-minded and open-minded). Just write it, save it, and put it away. Now, go on living your life and see what happens in 10 years.
Debbie Millman talks about this on a recent Tim Ferriss Podcast. I have also experienced this in my life.
Back around 1995, when I was still in college, I had a wild, unrealistic fantasy about my life in the future. I was visiting Slovakia, where my wife was from and where her family lives. I loved spending time in Europe and dreamed of living there. I remember one moment, strolling in the city center of Kosice. I pointed at a beautiful building in the old town and said to my wife, "Someday we could live right here. The Internet will be faster, so we could move here and work at home for American companies. All we need is a fast connection and a US phone number. Nobody would even know where we are located."
Here's the spot in Kosice, Slovakia
This wild dream of living in Slovakia was now vivid. I imagined that, in my spare time, I would read in cafes. I would write books. I would play guitar. Maybe I would even start a band, record music, go on tour. All this would be possible if I could find a way to earn a good living while living in Slovakia. I also needed enough spare time, which I figured would be no problem if I could work from home. Back in the days of dial-up Internet, this dream was laughable. We went for ice cream and did not discuss this further.
10 years later, by 2005, my idea was not so crazy anymore. Broadband and VoIP technology had made it possible to do exactly as I had dreamed. That year, we moved to Kosice and took our American income with us. Remarkably, we lived in the exact building I pointed at in 1995.
In the years that followed, my life became exactly as I had imagined. I wrote books. I started a band. I recorded albums. I traveled Europe. I don't remember striving toward any of this. I did not exactly plan it, and I certainly did not force it through any kind of will-power. It was enough only to imagine it vividly and then go on with life.
Here's how it works: when you have a clear vision that excites you, then you make little decisions every day which are compatible with the vision. If you fall in love with a dream, then you avoid making life decisions which may prevent you from living the dream. Slowly, these small decisions start to reveal a realistic path. What was once distant and impossible begins to look sane and likely. It isn't so much about taking a leap; rather, taking tiny steps each day. A decade is a long time. You don't have to strain yourself. Just paint a picture of your future and go on living. But be careful what you wish for, though, because it probably will happen!
No matter where you are in life or how old you are, just start writing. Today, I wrote about my life again, 10 years from now. Thank you Tim Ferriss and Debbie Millman for the encouragement.