From childhood to adulthood, we’re bombarded with encouraging sentiments like “follow the road less traveled” and “dream big” right alongside dream killers like “don’t quit your stable job” and “it’s really difficult to be successful in that industry.” Not surprisingly, many of us feel torn by these opposing messages.
Some people end up staying in well-paying jobs for the paycheck but feel unfulfilled day in and day out. Others pursue their passions but feel lonely and directionless, without support and unsure of how to turn their big dreams into reality.
Sound familiar? Then I’ve got some good news for you. No matter where you are in your career or life, my simple 10-80-10 system can get you unstuck and on the way to living your dreams in the real world.
Part 1 of the 10-80-10 System: 10% Dream
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Dreams get a bad rap. When people think of “dreamers,” they tend to think of idealists who live with their head in the clouds and not a care in the world. Really, that’s not true! Every one of us, even the most pragmatic and down-to-earth, has a dream that we want to accomplish in our lives. We’re all dreamers.
Ernest Hemingway wanted to be a great writer. Helen Keller wanted to help others including people with disabilities. They turned their dreams into success and so can you.
What’s your dream?
Don’t overanalyze it; just let your ideas flow and your desires percolate. You already know what you want—it’s the thing that creates a fire in your belly, the thing that you’d do if you won a million dollars. Go with your gut instinct and write it out.
- Build a company
- Become a doctor
- Have a family
- Teach children
The possibilities are endless.
Part 3: 10% Ideal Reality
“If you do not think about your future, you cannot have one.”
You might be wondering: did I miss part 2? Don’t worry, your eyesight is fine. We skipped part 3 for a minute and here’s why. Before you can make a plan of action, you need to imagine where that plan of action will take you—your ideal reality of what you’d like your life to look like in the future.
Think of it this way: if your 10% dream is “I want to go on the perfect vacation,” then your 10% ideal reality is envisioning your perfect vacation. Paris in the spring with your best friend, visiting the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, learning a few French phrases while eating crepes for breakfast every morning.
Sure, you could go from “I want to go on vacation” to instantly booking a ticket to a random overseas destination, without taking the time to imagine exactly where you’d like to go and what to do. But, there’s a good chance that you might end up wasting your holiday on a trip that’s not your “dream trip.” Same thing with your life; you need to know where you’d like to go in order to get there.
So now, imagine—what do you want your life to be like in the future?
- Where do you want to live?
- What do you want to be doing every day?
- Who do you want to be surrounded by?
- How will you feel?
- What will you have accomplished?
- How much money will you make?
Don’t feel pressured to answer every question; your ideal reality can be as simple or intricate as you want, and will be totally unique from anyone else’s. For example, mine looks something like this:
- I’m traveling around the world
- I’m speaking at events and universities, on stages and talk shows, inspiring small change and becoming a thought leader.
- I’m surrounded by loving friends and family and fellow thought leaders.
- I feel grateful to be able to give back more than I ever dreamed I could, and to do something I love for a living.
- I have been invited by Oprah to speak at Soul Sessions and landed on the cover of TIME Magazine. I’ve published an influential book.
- I’ll be making $100,000 a year and donating to charities that I’m passionate about
Sit down and imagine your 10% ideal reality for a few minutes and jot down your thoughts. Your vision doesn’t have to be perfectly phrased, it just has to travel from your brain to paper.
Part 2: 80% Action
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
—Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This is the fun part. Part 2 is 80% action, and it’s like the roadmap between your 10% dream (part 1) and your 10% ideal reality (part 3). 80% action encompasses actionable steps to move you down the road toward the life you want to live, so you know what you have to do every day, week, month, and year to inch yourself closer to that 10% end goal.
When outlining these steps, start big.
You already have your ideal reality written down. Work backwards from each step, breaking it down into smaller and smaller actions until eventually you have a day-to-day action guide. For example, I mentioned that in the future I want to publish an influential book. Let’s break that down into smaller steps:
Publish an influential book - Work with an agent - Find an agent - Finish a final draft of 70,000 words - Edit the rough draft - Write a rough draft of 80,000 words in 2 years - Write 40,000 words a year - Write 3,333 words a month - Write 111 words a day
Each sequence will be different based upon your particular ideal reality, the amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to them, your skills and resources, etc. The important thing is to end up with a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly action guide to follow in order to reach your end 10%.
It’s like each of your daily goals is a Lego brick. By stacking one upon the other higher and higher until every day, you’ll eventually build a full picture—a big goal. Once you reach that big goal and make that picture, celebrate the win and then start building the next picture. One day, you’ll have the masterpiece you envisioned.
Something to keep in mind along the way…
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.” In the 80% action stage, you’ll experience setbacks and trials, surprises and wins. One day you’ll want to scream with joy, the next you’ll want to run away.
Try not to let success go to your head or failure poison your heart. Find the strength and patience to keep going one small step at a time. Your ideal reality is worth it, and waiting for you.