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Dream Backwards

A Man lies on a medow

Having goals in life is important. Probably you know this, otherwise you would not be here to read this article. Can it help to daydream about your goals? And how can you then come from dreaming to actually living your dream?

Big Goals

How do you achieve a big goal, a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal)? These goals tend to be scary and overwhelming.

First of all, if you already have a big goal this is good news. Now you just need to come up with a step-by-step plan, do the first step and keep going into the right direction. This is easier said than done of course. It is – by definition – hard to achieve big goals.

More often than not, for big goals or life goals there is no master plan you can use. Also, big goals often are moving targets. The goal you ultimately achieve might look quite different from what you have imagined in the first place.

Christopher Columbus’ goal was to discover a new route to India. Instead he discovered America. So, technically, he did not reach his goal.

Or let’s take Johann Friedrich Böttger, a German alchemist who, while trying to produce gold, discovered how to create porcelain.

So, having a big goal can lead to a success even if you do not achieve the original goal. If you do not have a big goal you have no direction at all and you might end up working for other people’s goals.

Take Some Time to Daydream

It is summer time (depending on when you read this) and maybe you have some days off. How are you going to spend those days? You can work on your goals – which is a good idea of course. However, you can also meet friends do some new activities of just do nothing.


If you actively do nothing (if this makes sense at all) your mind starts wandering. Try to find a nice place outside in the nature with not too much going on. Just sit there, relax and watch the trees, clouds or maybe a lake. Take a notebook – a paper notebook – with you. If an idea comes to mind, write it down. Do not care about structure too much. You can also draw or doodle something. Try not actively to solve a problem or to create a plan. You can work on solutions or on a plan afterwards.

Just relax, watch the nature and daydream.

The Pyramid

If you have a big goal, you can visualize it, feel it and experience it with all your senses. However, at the end, of course, you do not just want to  “dream” your dream, you want to live it.

This is when your plan kicks in. If does not have to be a sophisticated plan. In fact simple, brief and flexible plans work much better. Ideally your goal plan fits on one sheet of paper.

An essential part of the plan are the milestones. These are smaller goals, like sub-goals that are much less scary and much easier to achieve. You can divide the milestones into even smaller pieces until you are confident enough that you can easily achieve them.

You can go ahead if you have your goal and define the milestones one after the other in order of appearance. For example, if you plan to move into a house your first action item might be to get an appointment with your banker to talk about a loan. Please note that the first step is not to actually get the loan because this challenge might be too big already. You always want to make sure you have a next action scheduled that is easily achievable.

Planning in chronological order has some advantages. You always know your next step. The ancient Egyptians also did not start with the peak of the pyramid but they build the ground layer first. A possible downside of this approach it that you might lose your path.

Plan Backwards

For big goals you might want to try planning them backwards. You have your dream, now what comes right before that, and then before that, and so on.

Let’s say you would like to become a famous soccer player. First of all you should phrase this as a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound) goal statement. Then it might look like this:

In five years I would like to be a professional soccer player, playing in the top league of my country.

Now you can plan forward, like, the first milestone is to apply to a local soccer club to get some training.

Or, you can plan backwards. What comes right before my goal? Most likely I have to play successfuly in the second league. Anything else? What comes before that, and then, before that, and so on.

You can draw your pyramid with your goal on the top and with all the necessary steps and milestones underneath.

Need an App

Yes, we suggested a paper notebook when you are daydreaming in nature. However, if you like an app more please feel free to use our free VidaGoals app for planning and tracking your goals.Get it on Google Play

You can find more information about goal setting in our free goal-setting eBook (download as PDF or ePub).

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