Who Told You to Stop Dreaming?

In Business and Leadership by Will DukeLeave a Comment


Over the past several months, I have been more intentional about asking the people I care about what their top three goals were for the upcoming year. What I discovered along the way was really interesting. I found some of the folks I asked had thought through their goals and others had not, and only a small percentage had them written those goals down. When I started thinking about why some people write their goals down and others don’t, it made me wonder. Was I asking the right question in the first place? Should I have started by asking people what they are dreaming about first? Did the people who didn’t have their goals written down know they could write their dreams down, too?

Why Dreaming is Important

Dreaming? Why in the world am I thinking about dreaming? Well, here’s the thing about dreaming—it has probably helped most of us be who we are today, and dreaming definitely plays a part in not only our collective health and wellness, but also in our career success. Dreaming can be associated with personal desires and goals, and it can also be associated with business desires and goals. In fact, for most of us, dreaming is probably a combination of the two.

In case you’ve not thought about dreaming in a while, here’s how the word is defined:


See that part? The “daydreams or fantasies about something that is greatly desired” … to my way of thinking, dreaming is one part of the path to success, both personal and business success, and I’m thinking that far too few of us dream on a regular basis. I want to fix that!

My Question Today: Have You Stopped Dreaming?

So this time around I decided to phrase my question differently. This time around, my ask is simple: Have you stopped dreaming? If so, why? Did someone tell you to stop dreaming, or that it was a waste of time, or do something else to quash your ability and/or desire to dream? Was it a friend, a family member, a business partner, or maybe just society in general? Or maybe it was you. Did you tell yourself to stop dreaming?

One thing I know to be true is that dreaming is important, for all of us. If we don’t make a conscious effort to focus on a bigger and brighter future, and yearn for and actively work for that, it is kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Chances are good that if and when we stop dreaming and yearning for more, that we’ll get stuck in the past. And that? Not good. Getting stuck in the past is super dangerous because when we are dwelling on the past, most often the focus is on the things that didn’t go well. Side note: Getting stuck in the past and learning from it and from our past experiences and/or mistakes are two different things.

Why You Need to DREAM BIG Every Day

The good news is that our past doesn’t have to equal our future, but there’s one caveat—and that’s that dreaming plays a role in everything we do. I’m a big believer in dreaming, and in fact, I’m pretty confident that the path to happiness and success is directly related to dreaming—and that’s especially true if you’re an entrepreneur or passionate about business building. Why do you need to dream big every day? Dreaming leads us to so many things. Dreaming about the person we’re becoming, the life we’re building, for ourselves, our families, and our companies, dreaming about the life we aspire to, the value we are adding to the world, and all the amazing things we’re going to do with our family and friends (and businesses we’re building and growing) in the future—these dreams are how we propel ourselves forward.

What to Do With Those Dreams

Then the fun part, beyond the dreaming about what we’d like our future to be, is mapping out a plan on how to get there. I talk about dreaming, and entrepreneurship, a lot, and the question that I get most often is: “I didn’t know you could dream on purpose, I thought it just happened when you sleep. How do you dream?”

My response is simple. Dreaming can absolutely be purposeful. Sit down, maybe it’s once a day, or maybe it’s once a week, and devote some time exclusively to you and to your dreams. Try your best to stay committed to that. It doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of time — even 20 or 30 minutes will do if that’s what you’ve got. Clear your mind of all the things on your to do list, and shut the door, literally and figuratively, so that you can be alone with your thoughts and with your dreams. Think about what you yearn for the most, both personally and professionally. What inspires you? What are you most passionate about? What would you like to accomplish? What would you do if there were no obstacles in your way? What are your biggest obstacles? What crazy ideas do you have about surmounting those obstacles? What would you like for your legacy to be? How would you like people to think of you?

Those things? Those are your dreams. There are more, of course. The things I’ve listed are just ideas to get you started. And you know how you capture those dreams and differentiate them from the ephemeral dreams you have while sleeping? You commit to it. Commit to a dedicated time or schedule to think about your dreams, and then you write those dreams down in a journal. Before you know it, you’ll have more dreams committed to paper than you ever thought possible. Even better? I predict that you’ll be on your way to mapping out a way to accomplish those dreams in no time.

Be Prepared: Success is Rarely an Overnight Thing

Here’s the thing about dreaming, and about writing down your dreams, envisioning them, envisioning your success and planning the future—it’s rarely an overnight thing. It takes patience, determination, optimism, and a fair amount of faith. Rachel Hollis, author of the New York Times Best Seller, Girl Wash Your Face, wrote the following dream down in her journal every day:

“I am a New York Times Best Seller.”

The most interesting thing about the format Rachel used is that it’s written in the present tense, as though she has already accomplished her dream. What you likely don’t know is that Rachel wrote this dream down over and over and over again—for a period of ten years.

Although her first five books yielded decent sales, none of them made the best seller list. It was only with book number six that Rachel hit what any aspiring author would call the “literary lotto.” Girl Wash Your Face made the New York Times Best Seller list and was the number two most purchased book in 2018, with more than 2.5 million sales and counting. Rachel was determined. She used her dream, written down daily to propel her toward the future perfect state she wanted, and she didn’t allow herself to get stuck in the past. It took patience, and belief in herself, and determination—all those things—and it without question paid off.

Let’s Do This

Bottom line, there is only one person keeping you from reaching greatness, and it’s not your family, your friends, or the people with whom you work—it’s you. Dan Sullivan, my friend and the founder of an incredibly successful executive coaching business, Strategic Coach, said something in our workshop the other day that resonated with me. He said, “The only clear way of knowing what you want is to take 100% responsibility for your life in all areas.” He’s right. And the great thing about this statement is that it eliminates all excuses.

What might happen if instead of the “why me” and the “not again” conversations you might be having with your mind, or instead of the lack of planning you’re engaging in, that you dig in and take charge. Start writing down your dreams, and the things you want in life, and then go after them?

One of the things that David Goggins says over and over throughout his fantastic book, Can’t Hurt Me is, “the most important conversation you will ever have is the one you have with your mind.” Dreams and the goals that can come as a result of a concerted effort to dream and envision the future you want send fantastic thoughts into your subconscious and help point you to what you want in life.

So let’s do this! Grab a journal and dedicate one hour to yourself to start. Think ahead, stretch your mind, and think 10 years into the future. Just about anything can happen in 10 years, so don’t worry if it sounds unrealistic or crazy right now. In the beginning, you will write things down and instantly judge yourself. Don’t worry, don’t listen to that judgey voice – just keep writing. The most important thing here is to take action.

Here is one method I use to go out 10 years. Use the questions below as primers to get your thinking into the future.

  • In 10 years, I will be ______ years old
  • In 10 years, I want to feel ________
  • In 10 years, I want to be able to contribute by_______
  • In 10 years, my achievements include ____
  • In 10 years, I have experienced_______
  • In 10 years, I love _______
  • In 10 years, I’m surrounded by______
  • In 10 years, I’m a point of inspiration and influence for____

Once you’ve answered those questions, that will help you frame the beginning of a 10-year vision. Take some of the statements you’ve written and turn them into a story written out as though you already have achieved it. Some examples of things I’ve written are:

In 10 years, I am grateful for all of our team members who helped us build a world class company, built on the foundation of inspiring greatness in everyone we come in contact with.

In 10 years, we have built programs, technology solutions, and software that the entire security industry operates on throughout the world.

In 10 years, I have experienced life from a different perspective by traveling to over 10 countries around the world with my friends and family.

Those are my dreams, what’s rattling around in your head?

What about you? Have you stopped dreaming, or is it a part of your regular practice? If you’ve stopped dreaming, I challenge you to get started again. Make a commitment to yourself to set aside time to start dreaming again, and to write those dreams down. Then, once you’ve established some dreams, revisit them regularly. Write them down, just as Rachel did, every day in the present tense as though they have already happened.

Once you get started, invite others who are important to you to do the same. Share your dreams with them and invite them to share their dreams with you. These people are easy to spot—they are the ones who are happy, humble, and hitting it hard every day. Ask them what their goals and dreams are and encourage them to keep dreaming. And this advice comes with a fair warning—this isn’t for everyone. You’ll notice that if you share your big dreams and goals with people who don’t have any of their own, they might look at you as though you have lost your mind and knock you back into the past with them. Move post those people and focus instead on the people who do, and the conversations you will have with them will be motivating and inspiring, which will give you momentum.

Although you sure as hell don’t need my permission to dream again, I’m giving it to you. Or perhaps reminding you how important dreaming is, in case you’ve momentarily forgotten. More importantly, give yourself permission to dream big every day—you’ll be amazed at the good it will do you. Want to share your big dreams? Bring it. I’m always ready to hear what others are dreaming about!

As for me and my dreams, writing is one of them. I’m going to be writing a lot more about leadership, and how creating great culture leads to great companies, and about my own dreams. You’ll be able to find me over our corporate blog over at 3Sixty Integrated, and you’ll also find me over LinkedIn at: Will Duke on LinkedIn. Let’s get connected and let’s stay in touch.

The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.

Will Duke is the CEO of 3Sixty Integrated, a security integration company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas and co-founder of Site Owl, a cloud-based security management platform designed to make the lives of security and IT professionals better in every way. Will and his team operate on the principle of SOLID, developed to capture their most deeply-rooted core values. What does SOLID stand for? To Serve others, with an Outstanding attitude, to commit to constantly Learn and grow, to bring innovative Initiative to every situation, and to always Dream big.

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