How To Work Out What Your Dream Is

So you don’t know what your dream is?

First don’t beat yourself up if you’re not sure what your path to passion is. Probably, the sad truth is that you did know but well-meaning people (teachers, parents, friends, lovers) have beaten it out of you. Don’t worry, they probably did it to protect you from failure. But personally, I’d rather fail at my dream vocation than never try it because my well-meaning entourage mentioned that it would be too hard. I might be sensitive but I’m also determined. I believe that if I want something I’ll get it and so far, in 41 years, nothing has happened to disprove this theory. I’m sure you can get what you want too.

I’d love this to be read by an 18 year old so that they could nail their dream and get on with it without wasting any time. But in all likelihood it will be read by more mature individuals who are still hoping to achieve their dreams and looking for permission to do so. Well, I here by grant you permission to follow your dream and live the life that you most desire, now you just need to allow yourself permission to do it too.

By the way, I read somewhere that most people will have three distinct careers in their lifetime and I think there’s a reason for this. Maybe the first two are just practice and vital experience for your ultimate vocation. I certainly enjoyed my previous careers as a teacher and an Internet designer and one of the things I liked most in those jobs was the planning and writing element, so it’s not much of a suprise that writing is my ultimate dream career.

Trust Your Instincts

Don’t expect to be able to work out what your dream is overnight but you’ll get there. In fact, you probably know what your dream is already, you just need to get back in touch with your natural instincts on this one. That’s right, now’s the time to trust your instincts, an old and vital skill that some of us have lost touch with. I know it sounds like hippy shit or corny new age wisdom but our instincts are usually right. So why don’t they work anymore? Because other people have confused us and told us not to trust them. As a child, did your parents, teachers or friends ever ask you if you were sure about a decision and cause you to doubt it? If that happened a lot your instinctive knowledge may have got scrambled.

By the way, if you’re a parent beware of doing this with your own children. Do you ever find yourself saying:
“Are you sure you don’t want a sandwich/to ride your bike/to go swimming?”
If the kid’s made a decision don’t confuse them, let them stick to it. Most of the time they’ll have made the right one.

So What Is Your Dream?

In order to work this out you’ll have to do a bit of inner soul-searching and ask yourself a lot of questions. Don’t forget to write all the answers down so that you can reread them later. At this point I need to give a big plug to a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It really helped me work out what my dream was and make me determined to live it. The Artist’s Way is a 12 week course to help people ‘discover and recover their creative selves’ and I’m sure that some of the ideas I’m recommending come from the book.

I said it wouldn’t happen overnight but I’m sure that if you put a weekend aside and made a conscious decision to devote 48 hours to working out what your dream is you’d be closing in on it. Here’s what you need to do.

Seven Steps To Find Out What Your Dream Is

All you need is a pen, a notebook and some time to yourself. Try to spend a lot of time thinking and brainstorming as many ideas as possible. The more time you spend thinking and writing, the more you’ll get out of it.

1. Cast your mind back to your childhood.
What did you enjoy doing? Think about your favourite toy, game, book and place.
What made you totally happy?
What were you best at at school and at home?
Jot the answers to these questions down.

2. Now look at your present life.
Really spend time noticing how things made you feel. For example, recently I realised the smell of oranges makes me feel happy so next time I’m feeling down all I need to do is peel an orange and I’ll feel much happier.
What makes you happy now? Think of as many things, places and activities as you can.
Write it all down.

3. Now imagine you’ve got a death sentence on your head. Only one year to live.
Sorry, but what would you do in that final year? Where do your priorities lie?

4. Now think back to your childhood again and think about any negative comments or reactions to you doing the thing or things that you enjoyed. Write them down and ask yourself if they’re still holding you back from achieving your dream.

5. Is there an excuse you use for not following your dream? Then think about what you’d do if you weren’t so old/hard up/fearful etc. Just insert your excuses here. Write down the answers.

6. Now think about the things that you loved doing or that make you happy and seek them out. Treat yourself to a walk in the countryside, a visit to an art gallery, a day at home reading, wear your best clothes and enjoy your own company. Write a list of all the things that make you happy and all the things that you’d like to do more often and do them. Spend time by yourself and do some of these fun activities. Have fun.

7. Now take some time to reread your answers and think about what you’ve learnt. Is there any common thread or idea coming out of these?

Take Time To Work Out What Your Dream Is

Whether you do these over a weekend or spend an hour on it each night for three or four weeks, at the end of it you’ll be much closer to knowing what your dream is. Maybe you’ve worked it out already, but if not I hope this helps. I spend a lot of time thinking about my dreams and planning how to realise them and you should too, because we all need a dream that we can make come true.

Need more help?

Check out The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

I also recommend coach Barrie Davenport’s course Path to Passion. I met Barrie at Blogworld in 2010 – she’s highly trained with years of experience and utterly passionate about helping other people discover what their passion is. Find out more about Barrie and How to Discover Your Passion here.

Thanks for reading, I hope this helps. Feel free to add your comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe by email now or to the RSS Feed, if you haven’t already, so you don’t miss out.

Good luck with all your plans!

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  1. Joinstick June 9, 2009 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    ?Hello Buddy, you have got a nice blog. Can you tell me the name of the theme? I like it.?

  2. Teresa June 10, 2009 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    Wow I didn’t realise just how much I loved receiving your blogs until I thought I had missed one…. I was very happy to receive notification of the newest addition…
    I love your themes… and they always seem to be just what I need to hear :)
    Love you…Love your bloggyness

  3. Vicky Gray June 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Annabel – this blog seemed to be just what I needed to read this week!

    I have been asked to do a ‘literacy’ talk in front of 60 people next week…. these 60 people happen to 60 YEAR ONE children!!

    So I am aiming to inspire these young little minds into having fun with words and believing in their dreams… wow, they are like little sponges, so the pressure is really on, huh?!

    Feel free to give me any tips!

    Vicky xx

  4. Nancy June 12, 2009 at 4:44 am - Reply

    Hey Annabel,
    We all need reminders like this to keep us on track in following our own dreams, instead of spending so much time on other people’s visions of who we should be. BTW, you are welcome for lending you Julia Cameron!
    Love ya!

  5. simpledaisy June 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    Hello there…
    Just stumbled upon your blog!
    What a fabulous post!!

  6. J.D. Meier June 18, 2009 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    Some dreams I test and they aren’t what I imagined them to be (the grass isn’t always greener deal.)

    Other dreams that are more pragmatic, I just act on and make happen (using my project management skills.)

    For my non-practical dreams, I get by with day dreams. For example, I would love a magic carpet ride ;)

  7. snow white June 20, 2009 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Ok, this is how hard it is. I started off reading this and have had to stop twice to go and speak to children tell them to behave, tidy up, stop fighting, the usual. Makes me realise if I don’t get the time to spend 5 mins reading anything to myself how am I going to get a weekend to work out what it is I want and how to achieve it?
    It was inspiring though so fingers crossed it will now stay lodged in my brain and will nag me into finding time.

  8. Jillian September 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    E whai atu koe to moemoea – or, follow your dreams – was what my friend wrote to me when I revealed that I am thinking of training to be a zoo keeper next year! Why? To fulfill a life long dream of working with animals…………………..
    Will I get a job? Does it matter at this stage?

  9. Susan November 12, 2009 at 4:38 am - Reply

    Thanks for pulling me out of the day’s busywork of really doing nothing and getting my head back to focusing on doing what I really want to be doing. You motivated me to walk the dogs, which motivated my husband to walk with us, which is something we’ve not done in months (fenced yard). Then he and I discussed our dreams and some steps we need to be taking now. Never forget that your blog actually does inspire real people to change. Maybe someone saw us walking our dogs and was motivated to visit their own “backyard” dog for a few minutes. Never underestimate the ripple effect.

    • Annabel Candy November 12, 2009 at 6:24 am - Reply

      Susan – What a lovely comment and beautiful thought too. You’ve definitely inspired me to keep writing and I appreciate that. I fully agree that it’s the little things like walking the dog that are the place to start. It’s silly how many people don’t know what their dream is. I think many of us think we should have a big dream like being CEO of a bluechip company or becoming a self-sufficient farmer living off the land. The truth is that small dreams are fine too. Sometimes freeing ourselves up so we have more time to walk the dog and hang out with our family is all it takes. I look forward to following your journey.

  10. Stefane March 5, 2010 at 4:39 am - Reply

    Hi :) I’m a 19 years old and this definitely benefited me. :)
    The only thing keeping me from my dream of becoming an interpreter… is that I’m at the wrong university. They don’t offer a linguistics major. And I’m also lazy, but I’ll work on that. Thank you for this great post :)

  11. Magic Tricks Revealed March 15, 2010 at 12:30 am - Reply

    Thanks for the info buddy. Im going to bookmark your webpage in Facebook if thats okay…

  12. Three Keys To Living Our Dreams May 14, 2010 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    […] 101 Ways To Feel Happy >> How To Work Out What Your Dream Is >> Changing Crappiness Into […]

  13. Cori M December 3, 2010 at 11:44 am - Reply

    I’m an 18 year old trying to find my dreams. Thanks for reminding me to remember what my true passions are.

  14. Alper April 5, 2011 at 9:06 am - Reply

    I encountered this post at a much needed time. It never ceases to amaze me how universe brings you exactly what you need to hear/read at exactly the most required moment.

    Thank you Annabel.

  15. charlotte October 31, 2011 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    You did reach an 18 year old… Well, 17 year ago in a mid-life crisis lol. I’m feeling lots of pressure from parents and university and exams and relationships and gap years and jobs and money and career choosing and this has really helped me try to decide what to do next. Life is never about enjoying it anymore, all about money and living… I know essentially that it is but I want more than that and you’ve given me a starting point. Thank you!

  16. kelly January 24, 2012 at 5:25 am - Reply

    hey really enjoyed reading it and glad i found it,
    but to be honest i only found it because i was having one of those down moments because all my family are nagging at me all the time that i need to find what i want to do with life.
    I went to college but i didnt find photography was the one for me so i dropped out, as i had to go through media and at the time it really didnt appeal to me at all, now im out of college i could do it with my eyes closed and all the questions they asked then which i couldnt answer i can see now, i cant watch a film without seeing all the mistakes :\ but i still dont want to go back to college and do media because i know its something i really dont want to do with my life, but it could always be an option. to me media more on the film side ro photography kind if like like im interesting in Horse riding but i definately wouldnt want to ride horses all day
    I think im going to do the steps do a few if i did this what could with it, where would it lead me.. and so on. really dont want to go to uni though, dont know why it just really doesnt interest me, loads of debt :\ plus your not promised a job at the other end which my step sister was and a few other people i know but it didnt happen, i find at the moment with everyone doing photography, it, etc.. all the jobs maybe gone as i came out of uni and then i’d feel like i just wasted my time with the whole uni thing.
    I feel like you’ve really inspired me to actually look for something i want to do with my life and i will be happy with it, not one of those jobs people just have to get money which i was doing until about a week ago.
    I just wish i had seen this 3 years ago just as i was leaving school and hadnt wasted my time with college
    Im a nineteen and i would like to thank you for opening my eyes, going to do some brainstorming tomorrow :)

  17. Maddie Jones March 14, 2012 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    RE: your wish that an 18-year-old would read this and make something of their dream, I’m afraid I can’t grant you that. But I can give you one very happy 20-year-old who now feels much better about doing what she wants to in life. :)

  18. Guy April 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Thanks, you’re a lifesaver! :)

    Peace and love!

  19. Kristina L. May 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    This is really beautiful. It’s always been my passion to write scripts and stories that inspire people. The only thing holding me back is that I’m financially supporting a brother in his studies now. I can’t risk to follow my dream because I need a stable income at the moment. He’ll be done in a year so I hope I could work on my dream after that. More power to you. Keep on inspiring :)

  20. Ash June 3, 2012 at 4:43 am - Reply

    A very nice post! Writing down stuff really helps and makes you realize a lot of things. Thank you :-)

  21. M. July 1, 2012 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Hey, I’m a 17 year old who just discovered this article. I always wanted to have something where I can lay my passion in, because good things happened when ever I did. Holidays just started, so I have much time to think about my dream and I am confident that I can work out my dream with the tips you gave in the article above. I would like to thank you for the article, and please keep writing, because you are good at it!

    (sorry for my not that great english, I am from a non-english speaking country)

  22. Melanie April 10, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Thank you for this article. It made me feel a lot better about things!

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