You probably know, roughly at least, what you want your future to look like. College, job, marriage, family, start a business, travel, grandkids, retirement, write a book, etc. You may even have a few dreams you think about all the time. Things you want to have, do, or become.
What many of us lack is a process to describe our vision of the future, list and prioritize our dreams, and create a detailed plan–including what we will do today–to make progress toward our most important goals. The result is that 10 years from now you may have checked off a few dreams but many others won’t have moved. Fast forward to the end of your life and you’ll be saying “There are so many things I wanted to do but somehow I never got around to them. There just wasn’t enough time or money, and now it’s too late.”
There is enough time and money for you to do what you want.
What’s missing is the system that makes it happen, and a key part of that system is your Dream Funnel.
The Dream Funnel is the tool that creates order out of chaos. As you use it, your vision of the future will become clear, you will create and prioritize goals, and at the end you will know what you need to get done, today, to make your dreams come true.
Every Influential Person Has A Dream Funnel
The basic Dream Funnel looks like this:
There is no one right dream funnel. Different people use different versions of the Dream Funnel and the important thing is that you find the one that works best for you.
Blogger and best selling author of Girl, Stop Apologizing Rachel Hollis created the 10-10-1 plan which looks like this:
- First, you imagine an ideal version of yourself, 10 years from now.
- Then you write down 10 dreams that would need to come true for you to become the person you imagined. These are written down in the past tense, as though they have already happened. Rather than writing down “I will write a best selling book,” you say “I wrote a best selling book.”
- Finally, you pick one specific goal that will move you towards your dreams. Perhaps paying off debt will help you achieve other dreams, so paying off all your debt becomes the first goal you focus on, the one big thing.
10 years from now, 10 dreams, 1 action–that’s the Hollis dream funnel.
In Free to Focus, author Michael Hyatt describes his Daily Big 3 method. Each day, he lists three outcomes he will achieve, and he works on those three things, and only those three things, until they’re done.
“Listing only three tasks for an entire workday may seem like a cop-out,” Hyatt says, “But it requires more discipline and effort than you realize. Writing out a dozen different tasks is a form of laziness, even though the list will keep you busy all day. It takes much more effort to look at the twelve things you could do and zero in on the three that really matter.”
Hyatt’s Daily Big 3 are the bottom of the funnel. One step up, he has his Weekly Big 3, or “the three outcomes you must achieve for the week if you’re going to make progress on your goals and projects.” And prior to that? You work on your vision, the big picture.
Big picture > Weekly Big 3 > Daily Big 3
That’s Hyatt’s dream funnel.
Hollis and Hyatt focus on simplicity, which I appreciate, but if you want to take things in a more rigorous direction, consider Benjamin Franklin’s system for personal perfection. At the dream stage, Franklin created 13 personal virtues he wanted to strive for:
- “TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
- “SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
- “ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
- “RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
- “FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
- “INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
- “SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
- “JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
- “MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
- “CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
- “TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
- “CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
- “HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
Franklin then tracked his progress in a workbook that had 13 charts, one for each virtue. He left a mark each time he violated a virtue, and the idea was that over time there would be fewer and fewer marks until he reached perfection.
Franklin never achieved perfection, but he did assist in the founding of the United States as well as being a prolific scientist and inventor, so he wasn’t exactly the least productive member of his society, either. Plus he said that even though he never quite attained the perfection he was seeking, he was happier for the pursuit of it.
Tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.
There are more plans, methods, and books out there to help you envision your future and create plans than you could read in a lifetime. Some I might recommend include:
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- Goals! by Brian Tracy
My Dream Funnel
I continue to modify my own dream funnel. Right now, I’m using a version that borrows heavily from Hollis’ 10-10-1 plan, with some variations.
Step #1 —Envision your life 10 years from now
Imagine you’re 10 years in the future, looking back on what you’ve accomplished during the past decade. Who are you? What have you accomplished? What does your life look like?
In a moment you’re going to write that vision down. Because it’s in the past, you don’t need to be overwhelmed by it all–you’ve already done it! Before you begin, create the following three lists to help you make sure you don’t leave anything out of the “past” 10 years.
It may help to make a list of roles you fill or want to have. Perhaps today you are single, but 10 years from now you want to be married and have children, and so “mother” or “father,” should be on your list of roles, as well as “husband” or “wife.” Other roles might include:
- Daughter or son
- Sister or brother
- Aunt or uncle
- Employee or employer
- Thought leader
And so on. Since our dreams are often closely tied to the roles we occupy, having a list of roles to reference will help you as you write down your dreams. If you were starting with the role of a parent, for example, you would then include details about what kind of parent you are and the relationship you have with your children.
Similarly, create a list of achievements you wish for your future self. Since this is being written from your perspective 10 years in the future, you might write “I have…” at the top of your sheet of paper or online document and then create a bulleted list that includes things like:
- Spoken at a TED event…
- Published a New York Times bestselling book
- Been featured in 20 high profile magazines
- Built up $200,000 in my savings account
- Established a collection of 10 rental properties generating monthly recurring income
- Bought the house of my dreams
- Reconnected with my father
- Built three close friendships
- Married a wonderful man or woman
- Run the Boston marathon
States of being
The third list to create before writing down all your dreams is a list of ideal states of being. You might start these with “I am…” and complete them like this:
- Exceptionally healthy and fit
- Cool, calm, and collected at all times
These three lists will make it easier to make sure you’re covering everything you want to include in your vision of the future. If you want to add to these lists as you create your vision, that’s fine. In fact, this is a process you should repeat frequently, editing your lists and your vision as your life changes or new insights come to you.
- Write down your vision in as much detail as possible.
- Don’t worry what people will think about your crazy dreams. Nobody else ever needs to see this.
- These are your dreams for every aspect of your life, whether personal or professional, so don’t limit yourself.
You could take weeks to work on this, but I recommend you do a quick version right now, even if it’s not perfect, and refine it later.
Now, write it down. What’s your vision of the future 10 years from now? Write it as though it has already happened during the past 10 years.
[take a break, write it down]
There, wasn’t that kind of fun?
As you progress through the Dream Funnel, it will get narrower and squeeze you. It may be painful to go through the process, but most changes worth making involve at least a small amount of discomfort.
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. — C.S. Lewis
Step #2–List the dreams from your vision of the future
As you review the vision of the future you’ve created, what specific dreams do you see? Continue to think in the past tense, and create a list of your ideal roles, achievements, and states of being, as though they had already happened. For example, if you expect to be married 10 years from now, you might say “I am an exceptional wife,” or “I am a great husband.” You may have included more details in your vision about what that means, but simplify it for this exercise.
- I am an exceptional husband or wife.
- I am an exceptional father or mother.
- I ran the Boston marathon.
- I completed a full Ironman race.
- I weigh 170 lbs and am healthy.
- We own a house on a large property that is ideal for family reunions and get togethers with neighbors and friends.
- We are debt free.
- I completed my PhD.
- I am a NYT best selling author.
- I sold 2M copies of my book.
- I spoke at TED.
- And so forth…
You may have more than 10 dreams. I have 12 big ones. Note: There are big dreams I do not have on my list because I don’t feel like they need to be written down. They’re going to get done anyway. For example, I don’t need to write down “I have read 1,000 books in the past 10 years,” because that’s going to happen on its own. I’m reading all the time and you couldn’t stop me if you tried. The dreams I’m focused on are those I believe will not happen unless I focus on them.
Step #3–List your top 10 dreams
If you have 30 dreams, you may need to cull your list. Don’t throw those dreams away, but put them somewhere you can find them later, once you’ve checked off your top 10.
Step #4–Prioritize your dreams
Put your dreams in order. Are there any dreams that depend on other dreams? Is there a logical order? I found that when I created my list 2/3 of my dreams depended on one other dream in order to come true, so that one dream because my top one.
Step #5–Turn your top dream into goals
For your top dream, what goal, if accomplished, would move you the most towards making it reality? For example, if your top dream were to get out of debt, goals relevant to that dream might be:
- Be living on a budget by the end of this week
- Make a list of everywhere we can cut
- Brainstorm ways to earn more
Step #6–Create plans
As they say, a goal is a dream with a deadline. Next, choose one goal and create a plan for it that involves a date by which you’ll have it done.
Step #7–What is the top action for today?
What’s one thing you can do today to make progress toward your top goal for your top dream?
In order to make your dreams reality you will need to influence someone. It may be a spouse, partner, child, friend, co-worker, or a group of people. Often the main person you need to influence is yourself.
As you make your plans, ask yourself:
- Who do I need to influence for this to happen?
- What motivation do they have to assist me with my plans?
- What message will they respond to?
- What medium would they prefer I use to communicate with them?
- What’s the best channel to deliver my message?
Again, there is no one right version of the Dream Funnel for everyone. Once you find a version that works for you, you may find it works now, but in a few years circumstances have changed and you need a different version. Or you may find you need a different version for different dreams in your life. What matters most is that you find a system, a method that works for you, and allows you to move from dream, to goal, to action. With that system in place, you’ll be amazed at the change you see during the next year, let alone the next 10.
What’s your dream? What’s getting in the way? Tell me in the comments.Liked it? Share it!