The Dreamlining How-to

Coconut palms on the beach

Coconut palms on the beach

This article is a short Dreamlining how-to. I’ll explain step by step what and when to do.

Dreamlining is a technique for achieving one’s personal dreams based on writing them down and performing time and cost calculations.

The first thing to keep in mind: dreamlining is not the goal in itself. Dreamlining is a system to actualize your dreams and goals. That’s a bit like goal-setting, but there are some real differences:

  1. Dreamlining shifts your goals from the ambiguous “I’d like to …” to a systematic step by step process.
  2. Starting with unrealistic goals is the most effective.
  3. Dreamlining shifts your focus on living and filling your time when work for works sake (or money) is removed.

This how-to works best together with the dreamlining worksheet.

Without further ado, here are the steps:

Dreamlining #1: Start By Getting Rid of “Reasonable”

Use your imagination, scoop up ideas of your heroes and heroines, dream. What would you do if you were free? What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

The basic step is to create two timelines, one shorter term, the other longer term. For each timeline write down up to five things you dream of:

  • having
  • being
  • doing

Having is obviously about material wants like a house, a racing motorbike or a sailing yacht. Having can also be about having a great life partner. Being is what you want to be: a radio presenter, be fluent in Spanish, be fit like a boxer. Doing is about what you want to experience, like walking the Appalachian Trail, visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, rebuilding the relationship with your family, or helping with a cause.

Don’t worry if some your dreams and goals are unrealistic. That is actually a good sign. Having great dreams is the first step.

In order to start the process of realizing your dreams, attach a fixed time horizon to the timelines. For the shorter term one, choose between three and six months, and for the longer term one between six and twelve months. Longer time horizons tend to work not so well, because your dreams then seem to far away.

Dreamlining #2: Forced Choice of Dreamlines

The first step was an exercise for your idea muscles. This step forces you to choose between your dreamlines and select the four that would change it all. Selection your four most important dreamlines for the shorter as well as the longer term lists.

Dreamlining #3: Apply Lifestyle Costing to Your Dreamlines

What is the cost of your selected four dreamlines? If financing is important, specify the monthly (or daily) cost to fund each dream. It’s best to work in terms of cash flow (money in – money out) instead of concentrating on the grand totals.

For example, if your dream is to live in a house on the Mediterranean coast you could probably buy one for a couple of 100 K’s. Or you could hire one monthly for much less than a hundredths of this total. That makes this particular goal reachable in three months, instead of being forced to save for years. The thought behind this conversion from fixed costs (i.e. buying a house) to variable costs (hiring in this case) is that you start using an expensive resource (house, leased car, sailing yacht) immediately by paying a monthly contribution.  This also makes it easier to change your mind. Bored after staying for three months on the Mediterranean cost? Try AirBnB in Manhattan for some weeks. Another example is airline tickets. For most people it doesn’t make sense to buy a jet. But a ticket for getting you from A to B makes sense to me.

If you want to become fit like a boxer, you could start with running and rope jumping for nearly free, or hire a personal trainer for much more. Use your fantasy to keep cost low, but don’t skimp on what is necessary. If you have no fitness experience, joining a gym might be needed to give you the knowledge and instructions to get started. To be really fit like a boxer you probably need to train with a boxer.

If travel is a goal, budget for the daily cost, and include also the one-time costs like equipment and airline tickets.

Thereafter calculate your Target Monthly Income (TMI) to realize the four selected dreamlines. Use the following steps:

  1. Add up the cost of your four selected dreamlines. For some there are fixed costs, for other variable, and for the rest both types of cost. Dreamlines can be free (of financial cost), for example becoming a published author might even bring in money.
  2. Add your monthly expenses multiplied by 1.3. The 1.3 represents your expenses and an extra 30% safety margin. Only list the expenses you’ll have when you realize your dreamlines.

Add both together to get your TMI. Sometimes it works better to adjust the TMI to a TDI (Target Daily Income) by dividing TMI by 30.

For the calculation of your expenses, have a look at the Dreamlining Worksheet.

Dreamlining #4: Determine the First Three Steps and Start Now

For each of the four selected dreamlines, write down the first three steps you have to start with. Schedule the first step for today (or if it’s late for tomorrow morning), the second for tomorrow and the third for the day after. Don’t start with pushing the dreamlines into the future. These first steps are used to build momentum into the process. The steps must be simple, well defined actions to do in a few minutes. They might start with sending an email to inquire about hiring a house, booking a sailing lesson or scheduling a meeting with a mentor. If you don’t know how to proceed with a dreamline, get hold of someone who has done it before. Don’t spend to much time learning theory, get to know what it takes in practical steps. In the course of action, if you need to redo and iterate your dreamlines, that’s fine.

The dreamlines in the being section are a bit special You need to translate being into doing to make being actionable. Want to be a great cook? Start with doing some cooking lessons, working for a master chef or visiting a famous cooking school.

That’s it! In another post I’ll put more information about calculating the TMI, TDI and other costs.

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Image courtesy of <a href="">Tomas Sobek</a>