How To Test Your Dream

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“Always remember there are only two kinds of people in this world–the realists and the dreamers.  The realists know where they’re going.  The dreamers have already been there.”  — Robert Frost

While I’m a fan of dreaming big and big, bold dreams, I’m also a fan of testing our dreams so that they really do help us in work and life.

I’ve been re-thinking the power of dreams and how to dream big.

I know all to well how the right dream can inspire us and lift us back up when we fall down.

I also know how dreams can fade with time, and how over our life-time, we can lose sight of our dreams, or we can even forget how to dream.

Aim Big and Bold

As I’ve been researching how to dream better, my journey brought me back to work I read long ago, by John Maxwell.

In the book, Put Your Dream to the Test, Maxwell has a very powerful way to both ground your dreams in reality, while making sure that you aim big and bold enough to inspire yourself daily and grow n the process

In other words, Maxwell helps us keep our head in the clouds, and feet on the ground.

Why Test Your Dream

You can put your dream to the test by asking some simple questions and exploring how your dream holds up.  By testing your dream, you can refine it, so that it is more effective, and so that it can really do its job.  Before you commit to pursuing your dream, you want to check and make sure that your dream is really serving you.

Via Put Your Dream to the Test:

“I believe that if you really explore each question, examine  yourself honestly, and answer yes to all of them, the odds of your achieving your dream are very good.  The more yeses you can answer, the more on target you are to fulfill your dreaming.  I truly believe that everyone has the potential to imagine a worthwhile dream, and most have the ability to achieve it.  And it doesn’t matter how big or how seemingly outrageous your dream appears to others if your answers are yes to the Dream Test questions.”

10 Questions to Test Your Dream

  1. The Ownership Question: Is my dream really my dream?
  2. The Clarity Question: Do I clearly see my dream?
  3. The Reality Question: Am I depending on factors within my control to achieve my dream?
  4. The Passion Question: Does my dream compel me to follow it?
  5. The Pathway Question: Do I have a strategy to reach my dream?
  6. The People Question: Have I included the people I need to realize my dream?
  7. The Cost Question: Am I willing to pay the price for my dream?
  8. The Tenacity Question: Am I moving closer to my dream?
  9. The Fulfillment Question: Does working toward my dream bring satisfaction?
  10. The Significance Question: Does my dream benefit others?

1. The Ownership Question

Is your dream even yours?   When you really poke at your dream, is it the dream that others have for you, or that you have for yourself?

The more your dream reflects what you really want, the more you will do what  makes you come alive.

According to John Maxwell, to test how much you really own your dream, you  should ask yourself the following questions:

Would you be the person in the world most pleased if you accomplished your dream, have you publicly shared your dreams with other people, including those you love, and do you still embrace your dream after it has been challenged by others?

2. The Clarity Question

When you think of your dream, do the scenes of the future look fuzzy, or can you see your dream in high-definition.

The more clearly you can see your dream, the more it will feel real, and the more you will be able to choose actions that move you toward your dream.

According to John Maxwell, to test the clarity of your dream, you should ask the following questions:

Can you explain the main idea of your dream in a single sentence, can you answer nearly any WHAT question of your dream, and have you written a clear description of your dream that includes its main features?

3. The Reality Question

At work, when something sounds too far out of the real of possibility, we say “unicorns and rainbows.”  It’s just a quick way to say, that something sounds too unrealistic or too make believe to be worth going after.

While we want to dream big, we want big dreams that believable and achievable.  For example, rather than focus on unicorns, we can focus on narwhals, that are fascinating creatures, and actually exist.

According to John Maxwell, to test how realistic your dream is, you should ask the following questions:

Does your dream rely heavily on your greatest talents, do your current habits and practices contribute to the potential success of your dream, and is your dream likely to come true if you are unlucky, if important people ignore or oppose you, or if you encounter serious obstacles?

4. The Passion Question

Does your dream actually help you get out of bed in the morning, even when you don’t want to?  The power of a big, bold dream is to create burning desire.

According to John Maxwell, to test how passionate you are about your dream, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Is there nothing you would rather do than fulfill your dream, do you think about your dreams every day and wake up or fall asleep thinking of it, and has your dream been consistently important to you for at least a year?

5. The Pathway Question

Are you able to see the path forward, along with the meaningful milestones?  If you can’t see a path to your dream, then it’s going to remain elusive.

Whether you want to become a doctor or a world-class violinist, or if you want to make you way up Mt. Everest, you need a roadmap or a plan so you know what the path looks life.  As soon as you can see the path, and it’s lit up before you, you can head in the right direction.

According to John Maxwell, to test whether you have the right strategy and are on the right path, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have a written plan for how you intent to accomplish your dream, have you shared your plan with three people you respect for feedback, and have you made significant changes to your priorities and work habits to put your plan into action?

6. The People Question

You set yourself up for success when you surround yourself with the people that can help move you toward your dreams.

While you don’t want to be surrounded by naysayers, you also don’t want to surround yourself with people that fill you with false hopes.  You want people who really know you and what you’re capable of, and have a genuine interest in helping you realize your potential, and achieve what you’re capable of.

According to John Maxwell, to test whether you are surrounding yourself with the right people, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Have you surrounded yourself with people who inspire you and are honest with you about your strengths and weaknesses, have you recruited people with complimentary skills to help you, and have you transferred the vision of your dream to others, and they share ownership of it?

7. The Cost Question

Are you willing to pay the price of your dream?  You need to really find out what exactly it will take in terms of your time, energy, and resources.

Once you know what success is really going to cost you, then you can ask yourself whether it’s really worth it, and whether you really are willing to pay the price at this time in your life.  Sometimes it’s the right dream, but the answer is not now.  At the same time, when you really step into this question, you can explore what price are you willing to pay, to get a better handle on what dreams are within the realm of possibility.

According to John Maxwell, to test whether you really know the cost of your dream and the price you need to pay, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Can you recount specific costs you have already paid toward achieving your dream, have you already considered what you are willing to trade to achieve your dream, and are you not compromising your values, ruining your health, or damaging your family to pursue your dream?

8. The Tenacity Question

How tightly do you hold on to your dream?  Some dreams are fun and entertaining.  But we aren’t really willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to achieve them.

We need to know if we really have the tenacity to hold on to our dream, even when it’s not easy to do so.

According to John Maxwell, to test whether you have the tenacity to stick with your dream through thick and through thin, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Can you identify obstacles you have already overcome in the pursuit of your dream, do you do something every day, even if it’s very small, to move closer to your dream, and are you willing to do extraordinarily difficult things to grow and change so you can accomplish your dream?

9. The Fulfillment Question

The journey has to be worth it.   As we pursue our dream, we need to find our fulfillment along the way.

According to John Maxwell, to test whether your dream will truly be fulfilling for you, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

The trails we blaze, the memories we make, and the experiences we create, along with our legacy, are all part of why we pursue our dreams.

Are you willing to give up your idealism in order to make your dream become reality, are you willing to work for years or even decades to achieve your dream because it is that important to you, and do you enjoy the pursuit of your dream so that that even if you fail, you will consider your life to have been well spent?

10. The Significance Question

Does it matter?   Does it matter along the way and will it matter in the future?  One of the most important aspects of our big, bold dream is that it helps us do work that matters.

Not only does it make us come alive, not only does it help us find our fulfillment, but it matters in some way, shape or form, in the grand scheme of your life, and the life of others.

According to John Maxwell, to test whether the dream has enough significance for you, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Can you name specific people other than yourself who will benefit if your dream is realized, are you working to build a team of like-minded people to accomplish your dream, and will what you are doing to achieve your dream matter in five, twenty, and one hundred years?

That’s a lot to process.   But that’s the point.  By taking the time to really explore your dreams, and put them to the test, you can shape dreams that are worth holding on to, and that will serve you well.

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Image by Eddy Van 3000.

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