How To Prioritize Your Dreams So You Can Finally Make REAL Progress On Them

Do you have so many dreams that the overwhelming immensity and diversity of those dreams makes it hard for you to make any real progress on them?

Are “too many dreams” getting in the way of you fulfilling that “one dream that matters”?

If this is a problem you are struggling with, then don’t worry. You’re not alone.

The One Dream That Matters

If you struggle with having “so many dreams” that you don’t know where to start, then you must know this:

Among all your many dreams, there is one dream that matters the most.

Many different people have called The One Dream That Matters many different things throughout the ages. Some have refered to The One Dream That Matters as your “purpose.” Others say it is your “calling.” The Bhagavad Gita calls it your “dharma.” The Tao Te Ching calls it your “true nature.”

Whatever you choose to call it, it doesn’t matter.

But what you do need to know is that the one dream that matters is what should take priority over all your other dreams.

The One Dream That Matters doesn’t need to “overshadow” or “nullify” your other dreams, it just needs to be your highest priority.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

I have TONS of ideas for novels and short stories. I want to realize my dream for all of them. I really do. But first I have to prioritize all these writing dreams or else I’ll never make progress on ANY of them.

So, I have chosen to focus on the novel I am currently working on because I realized that it was The One Dream That Mattered. It was my purpose, my calling, my true nature, my “dharma.”

The One Dream That Matters Exercise

Why don’t we try a little exercise, shall we?

Let’s imagine that you have limitless wealth and unconditional support from family, friends, and society. You have security, you have health insurance, you have everything that an average, modern-day person constantly worries about having. It’s all yours.

Now, in this ideal circumstance, imagine that you can pursue your dreams 24/7—you don’t need a day job to support yourself.

Now, as you imagine this alternate reality, list 10 things you would do in that situation. Please don’t think hard about it, just go with the first 10 things that come to your mind.

DO THAT RIGHT NOW.

Now, look at the list you’ve just created.

If you did this exercise right, #1 on the list should be the one dream that matters (this is your “purpose,” your “calling,” your “true nature,” your “dharma”).

This is your highest priority.

From now on, you can “table” all you other dreams and simply pursue the dream you listed as #1.

Hey, What About My Other Dreams? Don’t #2-10 Matter, Too?

Your other dreams may matter, but they don’t matter the most.

At least not right now.

You really need to understand the importance of prioritizing your dreams.

If you don’t prioritize your dreams, they will become a block to your progress. The sheer diversity and volume of your dreams will become so overwhelming that you won’t be able to make any real progress on any of them. You will feel that taking a step toward one dream means that you have to take a step towards all of your dreams.

If you don’t believe me, then take a good look at that list of dreams you created. Now, imagine having to make progress on all of them today.

Did you just become paralyzed with fear?

Yeah, that would be a natural reaction.

Asking yourself to make progress on 10 dreams all at once is a whole lot more stressful and terrifying than simply asking yourself to take a step toward a single dream.

So cut your list of 10 dreams down to 1—the one dream that matters—and see how much easier it is to make progress.

What If Number #1 Is The Wrong Choice For Me?

It wasn’t the wrong choice.

Usually, our first “gut response” to a question requiring our honest answer is the right response.

So, whatever came to your mind as soon as you were asked what dream you would pursue in an ideal situation is closer to your truth than anything else would be.

What I am trying to say is that the one dream that matters is in your very nature. You will naturally do it without any external prompt. It will come from an internal, organic place within you. In fact, you do not need to take a step towards this dream; you simply need to become aware of the natural impulse to fulfill that dream.

“I Uncovered My ‘One Dream That Matters,’ But I’m Still Paralyzed By Fear and Indecision! HELP!”

If you put into practice what I just taught you, and trust the results, then you will realize that the practice will work for you, too.

However, if you go on trying to deny or reject what I am trying to teach you, then you will only create new labyrinths of difficulty for your dreams—and this will stunt any progress.

You’ll only further entangle your One Dream That Matters with your other dreams, creating a sort of “dream pretzel.” That “dream pretzel” will continue to leave you with no clue as to how to begin the journey.

In other words, you will become “stuck.”

The longer you remain stuck, the harder it will be to get you “unstuck.” The shame and guilt and self-hatred that emerge when one is stuck only provides further fuel to the flame.

To put it another way: the longer you dig your own grave the harder it will be for you to crawl out of it. So, stop digging. Instead, trust what moves you the most right now and go with it.

Your Mind and Heart Are Working Together To “Entangle” Your Dreams

You may not realize it, but both your mind and your heart are working together to entangle you dreams so that you don’t make any real progress on them. This “entangling” buys them time—time enough so that they don’t have to live in a world of risk and vulnerability.

So, if you want to move forward, just tell your mind and heart that risk and vulnerability is what makes your dream worthwhile. It’s what makes your journey an adventure and not just another predictable, boring part of your daily routine.

This strategy works wonders because your heart likes an adventure. An adventure gives your heart a thrill, which is a pleasant emotion. Your mind also likes adventure because an adventure gives it something to master. (The mind thinks it’s pretty clever and welcomes any opportunity to test its sharp wits.)

Once you’ve convinced your mind and heart to join you on the adventure to fulfilling your dream, ask your soul to be your captain:  the fearless leader that leads the way home.

Today, Make Some REAL Progress On Your Dreams

If you want to start making some REAL progress on your dreams, know that you don’t have to walk through 10, 000 doors in order to do so.

You just need to walk through one door.

What door is that?

I just gave it to you. It is the door you wrote down for #1.

You see, before today, you had 10 or more doors to choose from, and you were putting all your energy behind trying to decide which “dream door” to open first.

But now that you’ve narrowed all your choices down to one, all that energy you were wasting on indecision will be re-channeled into opening door number #1.

And, trust me, you may need all your energy just to open that one door.

much love,

Ollin

Feel free to share your results from “The One Dream That Matters Exercise” in the comments below. I’m curious: did the exercise help you uncover something unexpected?

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35 comments on “How To Prioritize Your Dreams So You Can Finally Make REAL Progress On Them

  1. Arisa says:

    Here’s my list!

    #1: laying in a hammock by a pool all day, doing absolutely nothing. And sleeping.

    I didn’t get any further than that. It’s probably the reason I procrastinate on everything and just hang on the couch. Yes without anything on or whatever.

    I think this is prove I need a purpose in my life😛

    All joking aside, I think the problem with that exercise (for me) is that it leaves so many possibilities, that I’m just overwhelmed by it. A sort of paralyses by abundance.
    I could do anything? Wow well there’s a lot!

    • Ollin says:

      Hey Arisa,

      Please repeat the exercise all week. The problem is probably that you are thinking too much about it. Remember: your mind wants you to entangle your dreams so you don’t make any progress on them. Progress on your one dream that matters is too risky.

      There is no problem with the exercise. This is a lie of the mind. Don’t listen to it. Listen to the whisper of your soul. Your soul is captain and guide. Good luck!

    • run4joy59 says:

      So funny, Arisa…as I was reading this, I was thinking about you searching for your passion…and here you are!! And the hammock sounds pretty good, with your laptop so you can write!!

  2. Dana Bennett says:

    The dream exercise was perfect. I keep coming up with the same answer. And I’m practicing every day – as a writer. I’m glad you added the part about the risk and vulnerability because I will be aware of that, too, as I continue on the path. That they are inherent ingredients of challenge to my number one dream. Thanks for pointing that out. I read conflicting advice from other writers – some say “passion doesn’t matter.” But it does very much. And writing for my inner voice and my sense of integrity for quality and honesty. Those matter. Risk, to me, seems to be about the exposure of myself through my writing. Lately, though, I’ve been attracting others who support my doing that. I think it all starts working once you make the choice. And I have. Thanks, Ollin – you’re part of my warrior team.

    • Ollin says:

      That’s wonderful Dana! People who say “passion doesn’t matter” just want more eyeballs on their posts. It’s a sensationalist headline technique. Everyone says passion matters so if you say it doesn’t then you get more views.

      But as I’ve said before, the truth is the truth. When it’s shared, it’s powerful. And passion is a very powerful concept. It’s truer than most things!

  3. InfiniteBliss says:

    I did the exercise on the spot .. wasn’t really any shock to me because I already knew I want to write. However , that must be put aside for the moment because my education matters most and my future. I shall remain to write but that will always be a hobby nothing more.

  4. good thoughts, Ollin. Now if I could just find a way to quit the day job. LOL

  5. Karen Wan says:

    I’ve done this kind of exercise before, yet today something clicked in the way that you shared it.
    My #1 was being home to pick up my kids from school and go to their soccer games and help them with their homework, and giving them freedom to have the best childhood possible.
    I’ve been living this as a priority for the last four years, making sacrifices to do it. Something about giving myself permission to acknowledge this as my highest priority among all my dreams through this exercise, brought tears to my eyes.
    Thank you for giving me a new understanding of my natural path!🙂

    • Ollin says:

      You are welcome, Karen! I am so glad you got the point of the exercise!

      Yes, I’ve done this exercise with other teachers before but I took a fresh twist on it that I think illuminates the exercise and helps people understand it a bit better. I’m glad it worked!

  6. RD Meyer says:

    I heard a great analogy for prioritizing yuor dreams. Take a jar and fill it wityh big rocks. Then ask someone if the jar is full. When they say yes, pour some gravel into the jar and watch it fill in the holes between the big rocks. Ask again if the jar is full. When they say “certainly,” pour sand into the jar and watch it fill in even smaller cracks.

    The point is: make room for the big important things in your life first, and the less important things will still be there to fill in the cracks when they’re needed.

    • Ollin says:

      Wow. I LOVE THAT. Thank you for such a brilliant addition to this post. I was going to leave that idea for a different post, but you are right RD, once you make your one dream that matters a priority, the rest will fall into place. Thanks!

  7. sorrygnat says:

    well done; will try and check back; thank you!

  8. tinasicre says:

    Hi Ollin,
    Thank you for the post. It was so timely as I have been sitting here most of the day trying to do my day job, while being distracted by the range of items I want to accomplish in the limited hours I put towards my dream job (after hours, of course).

    I knew I needed a list to help me unmuddle everything that was racing in my overly ambitious head. This exercise was the perfect tool. Once I finished my list, I wrote a big fat #1 next to the top item. For a few seconds I tried to argue with you, er myself, over the value of the other items on the list. But as I continued to read your post, it became much clearer. Now, when I look at the list, ALL I see is the top item.

    You’ve gotten me back on the right track. I think I can focus now, and have the faith that all of the rest will come in due time. Thanks, I needed that!

  9. winn says:

    Wonderful entry Ollin.
    I’m currently in a seminar with the topic of Commitment, which is key to actualizing dreams. Taking a look at what we say we are committed to and what our “hidden commitment” may be.
    Once uncovering your hidden commitment (which is generally akin to things like getting more sleep or not risking something) then you can begin to take powerful action in the face what stops us. I’ve found it really helpful just giving up the idea that the experience is supposed to look or feel a certain way and choose it exactly how it shows up in that moment. Easier said than done some days. HA!

    P.S. Love the profile photo. It has changed since I was last here.

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you! Fascinating thoughts. What seminar is this? Is it a book? Do share! Sounds like something my readers would love to learn more about.

  10. You’re right on target, Ollin. I’ve often felt I was juggling so many balls, that I was unable to focus on my purpose for being. Time to work on my calling. Thanks for the push in the right direction.

  11. This is really difficult for me. I had a writer friend tell me the other day that I’m scattering my energy too many different ways. And I realize she’s right. My problem is that when I do the exercise I keep coming up with priorities that are too general (because within general categories, there are smaller projects….which projects to pursue). For example, 1 is always either paint, or write. The rest of the list, which includes making jewelry, music, travel, etc, changes. But 1 or 1 and 2 are always paint and write. Of course, as someone that has 3, count ’em 3 unfinished novels, I need to further prioritize…….Thanks for the exercise. I’ll do it a few more times, see what comes up.

  12. Katie says:

    I could have sworn I commented on this yesterday when I read it but apparently I had a ditzy moment and DID NOT. So- let me say, this is a great post. It’s very true! The first instinct is usually the best! The first dream that jumps out at you is the one you should jump on. I appreciate all of your posts, they’re encouraging. Thank you for writing!

  13. Yvette Carol says:

    Olin…I love the dream pretzel analogy! Brilliant, man. That’s it in a nutshell, we get all tied up in knots until we can’t see the woods for the trees. Please forgive me for not doing this list, however I was fortunate enough to have a guide post like you come my way a few years ago. The way I found my number one dream was from reading the book ‘Wish Craft’. It advised going back to your childhood (in order to find your purpose in life) and then analyze what it was you most loved to do as a child, what you did most often and what came most naturally. There I found this gift. I’ve lived it ever since. John Keats said it best; “…if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.”🙂
    Yvette Carol

  14. ansuyo says:

    I have many things I love to do, but other than wanting my family to serve the Lord, I don’t really have dreams. I have ‘I’d like to’s’, but I don’t think that’s the same. Maybe there is something wrong with me or fear keeps me from dreaming. Maybe I have everything that matters?? Angie

    • Ollin says:

      Did you try the exercise? Are you open to entertaining the fact that maybe God wants you to fulfill your wildest dream? That that is why he planted it there? And that when you are pursuing that dream, that you are doing so in service to God? Just something to consider.

  15. lagiou says:

    Thank you Ollin, it was truly inspiring, simple and helpful, what everyone needs to re-read once in a while to get back on track…

  16. Ruth says:

    What I learned from the list is that I have the idea that other things have to fall into place before I can do what I really want to do. I buried what I want to do at #4 so I have three really good excuses not to do it.

  17. Chafic says:

    I did the exercise, my #1 happened to be pursuing my career as a video game developer, or game programmer if you want. So do I quit high school? Jocking, my mother would kill me.

    I’ve been programming for an entire year and I’m focused on a single dream, which is the #1 on my list, but I’ve had numerous secondary goals, or half-dreams, that could assist me in the future. Some examples include being a concept artist (I can draw fairly well), a game designer (I can create and write fairly well) and a music composer (on the computer). But I can’t seem to choose the strategy to follow: do I concentrate solely on my #1 dream or do I make it my priority to pursue my #1 dream while developing my abilities in other fields related to that same dream?

    I don’t think you can answer that question because it’s a matter of personal preference, some people opt for the first option while other would rather go with the second option. Anyway great article Ollin, as always. I’m a huge fan of your writing and I hope to read more articles.

    Cheers from Lebanon!

  18. Divya says:

    Only one thing came into my mind during the exercise – the only dream that matters! I’m glad I don’t have to prioritize,

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