Create a dream list to visualize your ideal future

There are an almost unlimited number of things you can do over the span of a lifetime. This is exhilarating, but also intimidating. It’s easy to feel adrift and uncertain about which path to choose. Here’s where having a vision can help. A vision is like a beacon that guides your journey through life. It paints a picture of the future you wish to achieve — one that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

A vision gives your life direction and keeps you focused on what is truly important. When visualizing the type of future you wish to attain, ask yourself: What do you want to create with your life? What impact do you want to make? What will your legacy be?

A fun way to document the key elements of your vision is to make a “dream list.” Some people keep a bucket list of things they want to do or see before they die. A dream list is similar, but whereas a bucket list tends to focus on once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as watching a rocket launch live or rafting through the Grand Canyon, a dream list is a more holistic and meaningful inventory of the life you wish to create. Here are a few examples from my own list:

  • Write and publish a book on how to discover your purpose
  • Build a charitable foundation that supports emerging change-makers
  • Do a speaking tour to inspire other people to pursue their dreams
  • Live in a foreign country for at least one year
  • Own a home in a warm climate

I keep a copy of my dream list on my computer and review it regularly. At the end of each year, I spend some time reflecting on my vision, values and priorities, and revise the list if necessary. For instance, one of my earlier aspirations was to own a Porsche 911. A few years ago I came to the realization that possessing an expensive sports car was not a big priority, and so I removed it from my list. Don’t get me wrong. I’d still love to drive a 911 someday, but being a proud Porsche owner isn’t important to me anymore.

If you are more visually oriented, you might consider creating a vision board to illustrate your ideal future. A vision board is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations taken from magazines, newspapers or the Internet, and artfully arranged on a poster-board or computer screen.

Whether you use a dream list, vision board, or some other tool to conceptualize your vision, the act of putting it down on paper can serve as a major source of inspiration as you work towards making your dreams come true. Remember, you are the creator of your own destiny. Rather than letting life happen arbitrarily, visualize the type of future you want, then get to work bringing your vision to life.

25 more books: An update on my daily reading practice

A few years ago, I wanted to see if I could adopt a new habit of reading more substantive literature. So beginning in 2012, I set a goal to read 100 books in four years. Three years and 301 days later, I finished my 100th book, Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson. I wrote a blog post about my experiences here (it includes a list of all 100 books).

It was satisfying to complete such a big goal and I was able to develop a desirable habit in the process. I’m happy to say that my ritual of reading for 20 minutes or more every morning has continued day in, day out. Pro tip: if you’re trying to form a new habit, it helps to link the desired behaviour (reading) with an ingrained habit that’s already on autopilot (in my case, a morning coffee).

Given that I just surpassed the 125-book milestone, I thought I’d share the most recent 25 entries from my reading list. Here are the books (those marked with an asterisk are personal favourites):

  1. Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky
  2. Join Me, by Danny Wallace
  3. The Element, by Ken Robinson *
  4. City of Thieves, by David Benioff *
  5. The Force of Kindness, by Sharon Salzberg
  6. The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau *
  7. Decisive, by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
  8. The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden *
  9. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion *
  10. The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx
  11. Born For This, by Chris Guillebeau
  12. Naked, by David Sedaris
  13. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein *
  14. The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King
  15. The Art of Thinking Clearly, by Rolf Dobelli
  16. Buddhism: Ethics and the Path to Peace, by Phra Saneh Dhammavaro
  17. Burmese Days, by George Orwell
  18. The Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman
  19. Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert
  20. The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas Stanley & William Danko
  21. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
  22. Peace Is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh *
  23. A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson *
  24. Talk Like Ted, by Carmine Gallo
  25. Walking to Japan, by Derek Youngs & Carolyn Affleck Youngs

Buy a book, make a difference

Are you looking to stock up on some new books for the summer? If you intend to use Amazon to buy books or other products, here’s an easy way to leverage your online purchase for a good cause – at absolutely no extra cost to you.

If you click on this link to Amazon or on the banner below, and then make a purchase, I will receive a small referral fee. Every year, I donate 100% of these referral fees to the Project Change Foundation to help support emerging Canadian charities in creating positive change in our communities.

Stay true to your values

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” — Albert Einstein

When I set off to Bali for a six-month writing sabbatical in the summer of 2014, I planned to end my trip by spending Christmas Day on the beach drinking piña coladas. It was one for my bucket list — and a beautiful white sand beach on the Indonesian island seemed like a perfect setting to soak up some sun over the holidays while sipping on a sweet, tropical cocktail.

Life is not always kind. Sometimes it is just downright cruel. Never in a million years would I have anticipated being back home in Canada on Christmas Day, grieving over the sudden loss of my father.

It happened so fast. It was difficult to process everything. I wasn’t ready or prepared to say goodbye, but I’m not sure more time would have fixed that. I have comfort in knowing he was surrounded with loving family, and many good friends, right to the end. We even got to open some Christmas gifts with him on December 22, in what would turn out to be his last full day before he passed. This gave him, and us, a small moment of joy.

The expression “salt of the earth” comes to mind when I think of my dad. He was an honest, stand-up kind of guy. A natural provider who was fiercely loyal to his family, and always there to help others without asking anything in return. His love was tacit, but present in everything he did.

With dad, actions spoke louder than words. The key to my father was not in what he said (or didn’t say), but in what he did. I came to learn over the years that he showed his love through actions, and his actions were almost always guided by a strong moral compass. My dad’s gift was his integrity. His life was grounded on a core set of values that he tried to live out every day: hard-work, fairness, family, kindness, and stability, all come to mind. His wasn’t a flashy life, but a deeply rewarding and highly principled one.

Three days after my father died, my family gathered together for Christmas Day. To pay tribute to my dad’s spirit of playfulness and love of the outdoors, we drove to a small secluded beach at a lakeside park not far from my parent’s home in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. On a cold and clear afternoon, with piña coladas in hand, we honoured him with a short Irish blessing and a reading of the poem, He Is Gone, by David Harkins. It was a fitting way to pay tribute and bid farewell to my beloved father.

One of the stanzas in that poem reads, “You can remember him and only that he is gone, or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.” It’s a poignant message about finding your way forward after the loss of a loved one. Taking the poem to heart, I spent several days after Christmas contemplating how to honour my father’s memory and keep it alive in my life. During this time of reflection I kept coming back to one thing — my dad’s gift of integrity.

My father led by example rather than proclamation. Through his actions, he taught me what it means to stay true to your values and to live a life that’s guided by a higher moral code. What better way to pay homage to his memory, I thought, than to model this way of living. I would stake claim to my own values and then take deliberate steps to live them out in my daily life. There was just one problem: I’d never thought about my values before. I wasn’t even sure how to go about identifying them, let alone how to live a life based on them.

This is an excerpt from the first chapter of The High Road, a series of lessons on how to find your purpose and live it out loud. Lesson 1 discusses the first principle for living with purpose: staying true to your values. In this lesson, you will learn how to identify your own values and live a life based on them. All things considered, it’s a tremendously powerful way to live.

Get Started! Click here to access the complete lesson.