09/06/2010 07:50 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Nurture a New Dream

My coaching client Allison had a dream to leave her job and start an innovative program working with teens. She often daydreamed about her vision. But her mind would become overridden by thoughts like these: "Where do I even start? It's so big. How could I ever support myself and my family financially? How would I raise money? How would I recruit the kids? How, how, how..." It only took a couple of minutes before Allison was too overwhelmed to take any productive action forward.

Every dream has a "what" and a "how." The "what" is about what you want to create. It's about the content of the goal, the aspiration. The "how" is about how you'll get there.

Here's what happens to many of us: the minute we start thinking about "the what" of our dreams, we get attacked by thoughts about "the how."

Early on, the "how" of our big dreams is opaque, confusing. The "how" is absolutely an unknown. That's okay, but it means we need to tread into how-territory carefully, in order to nurture and sustain our dreams.

Put the Hows on Hold

Let me reassure you: I know the how is important. I will not tell you to think of rainbows and tap your crystals three times in order to get what you want. I'm a devotee of planning, action and realistic execution. I have an MBA for goodness sake.

But for most of us, how-thinking, done too early, kills vision and inspiration. Baby dreams have a gestation period, and how-thinking is toxic to them.

Try putting the how-questions on hold for a while. Just spend time your vision.

Date Your Dream

Think of this period as "dating your dream," a courtship period. Take it out. Get to know your dream. Ask it questions and let it speak. Let it be exactly what it is. Compliment your dream. Court it.

Build a relationship, just as you would with another person. Let your dream or goal it be its own living thing, nested in you but not exactly you. Approach it as you would approach someone with whom you wanted to develop a close and loving relationship. Treat it with curiosity, respect and love.

This involves spending time with it. You might want to daydream, journal, doodle, brainstorm, write a story or make a piece of art about it. You might want to connect with it while listening to some of your favorite songs or while taking a walk.

This doesn't need to take a lot of time, or happen in some perfect way. (So don't make up an "if only I had the time or the spare room or the beautiful art journal" excuse!) What's important is that you pay attention to your goal and play in "the what" in a way that works in your schedule, in your life.

Set Aside Lurking How Thoughts

How thoughts will come up. Notice them and set them aside again and again, like a toddler who keeps getting up out of bed to come see what mommy or daddy is up to. Lovingly take that toddler by the hand, lead him to his bedroom, give a kiss, and return to what you were doing. Return your focus to the what of your dream, to building a relationship with it.

When Is It Time to Move on to the How?

You'll know. It's time to approach the hows when you feel really connected to the what. When you two have moved from first date to a meaningful, committed, delicious relationship and you are ready to start planning a life together. When the what of the dream feels strong enough to weather the ups and downs that come with tackling the hows.

Once you do introduce how-thinking, regularly ask yourself:

1. Am I inviting in how-thinking, or is it attacking me? If it's attacking you, you are back in fear territory. Notice who's in charge -- you or the stream of how-thoughts.
2. What's the tone of my how thinking? How-thinking can be done with fear and worry, or it can be done from a place of commitment and creativity. Go for the latter.

If you find you are getting attacked by fearful how thoughts, put the hows aside -- for three breaths, for five minutes, for an hour or for a day -- whatever you need to re-establish your connection to the what. Let it become vivid in your mind and alive in your heart again.

Tara Mohr is a writer, coach and creator of Wise Living, which offers coaching and courses for professional and personal fulfillment. You can receive her free goals guide, "Turning Your Goals Upside Down and Inside Out (To Get What You Really Want)" by clicking here.