I have agency over my life. I cannot predict the future, I can only influence it. I control the inputs to my life and affect the outputs.
A Dream Map is a mental model that helps me to orient my daily life in the direction of my dreams. It is a heuristic that informs my day-to-day decision making, clearly linking how my actions today influence me towards my dreams.
Building out and executing a Dream Map takes work. I have to figure out what my dreams are, I have to define strategies to get there and the tactics that go along with them. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I want to design this process to be slow and methodical (more on that later). Let’s ease into. If I break the exercise down logically, it consists of three phases.
The Three Phases
- Drawing the map 🗺️
- Telegraphing my route 📍
- Making the trip 🚘
And, at the conclusion of the exercise I’ll have it all figured out 😉.
Phase 1: Drawing the Map 🗺️
The desired outcome for this exercise is a map of what I want my life to look like. Think of this as the destination. This is the fun part where I can let my imagination kick into gear. The future is the wilderness and I have the ability to influence the terrain. I’m going to put a lot of thought into this part. If my map changes too much, it makes it hard to know where I’m going and unclear how far yet I have to go. As a general rule, I don’t want to have to change the terrain unless the changes are seismic.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.Henry David Thoreau
Phase 2: Telegraphing My Route 📍
Figuring out what my dreams are and where they are on the map is all well and good. But, like any road trip I must figure out which route I want to take. This isn’t a walk to the 7-11 around the corner. The road is long and has no Siri to help with turn-by-turn navigation. There are infinite paths to my destination. What I want to do is take the information available to me and map out the best route. The route is expected to change as I get new information.
Phase 3: Making the Trip 🚘
All that’s left is to make the trip. Nothing from the previous phases matters without the execution. And likewise, the execution stumbles without the map. The particulars of the execution are encouraged to change and adapt along the way. There’s some information I can’t know ahead of time. I will only find out as I am making the journey.
Some Ground Rules
Just like drawing any map, there are certain constraints of cartography that I must consider. I don’t have an unlimited amount of time and resources available to me. These principles were derived with that in mind.
- Principle No. 1 – I can have anything I want out of life, but I can’t have everything. If I choose everything, I choose nothing (observed by William Deresiewicz in Excellent Sheep). Previously with my vaguely defined goals I neglected to make choices and as a result I made negligible progress towards my dreams. I must make choices if I am to make progress.
- Principle No. 2 – I need to be able to focus on the road. “Solving” my life is a tall task. Life is a complex system. I can’t possibly consider all the ins-and-outs, much less do so at any given time in my working memory. Because I am limited by my memory, it must be something that is simple in its day-to-day execution.
- Principle No. 3 – I have agency over my life. I cannot predict the future, I can only influence it. I control the inputs to my life and affect the outputs.
- Principle No. 4 – Sustained consistency is more valuable on this trip than sustained intensity. I’m not interested in hustle culture. I’m not interested in brute forcing my life. I believe I live on a continuum between my present self and a version of my self where I’ve achieved some of my dreams and a version of myself where I have achieved all my dreams. I just need to take specific, deliberate steps to move along the continuum.
- Principle No. 5 – It must be forgiving. I am not a robot person. I will miss steps along the way. To the extent that I can avoid it, I will set it up to reduce the penalty of missed days (or even to benefit from missed days!)
- Principle No. 6 – Life changes. It must be amenable to change.
If it sounds complex, that’s because it’s my whole life I’m talking about here.
Just as when I move to a new city I’m very reliant on a map, so too do I expect to be reliant on this map as a I start. Before I even step foot out the door, I will put a LOT of work in to establish the map & my route. After that I’ll spend time with the map to reinforce the details and make it muscle memory. And, with time, as it becomes muscle memory, I’ll have a series of habits as familiar to me as brushing my teeth every day. The only difference is that these habits will be moving me closer to my dreams, ushering them into reality.
Let’s go 🔰!
This is part of my Drawing My Dream Map series. For more, follow along here as I work towards my dreams publicly and in real-time.