Dreaming of the Future: The Lab Rats Set Goals

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland the Cheshire Cat’s conversation with Alice sums up the need for a clear purpose when it comes to dreams, so I’ll let the conversation (started by Alice) lead off this post…

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’

Lab Rat Dreams

Y on flickr.comThis week, after exploring all the possible reasons why their lives aren’t working for them now and what might stop them from reaching their dreams, I asked the Lab Rats to explore possible somewheres and I was thrilled with the results. Not only did each one come up with a great list of possibilities, but they were all able to apply a reality-check filter on each of the dreams and then come up with a clear idea of what they want out of life.

Here’s what they each came up with. And since everyone has their own way of expressing themselves they all came up with a different way to express their dreams.


  • Live in an open space, with a porch looking out, garden in back
  • Live near a large body of water
  • Work involves a good deal of creative writing and visual creativity
  • Work in an environment where my skills are recognized and utilized, and where my energies can be focused and are acknowledged
  • Have ample free time (at home) to make healthy activity (hikes) and creativity (writing and art) a significant part of my everyday life
  • Earn a living to be able to travel (domestic US, National Parks, Hawaii) as we want to and to be able to provide for ourselves what we need, and to be able to splurge with much less guilt!
  • Have enough saved so that we know we can continue to live our lives this way


  • Travel: Travel overseas at least twice a year, eventually settling in Buenos Aires.
  • Blog: Author/Run successful technology, self improvement, travel and design blogs.
  • Web Design: Be a successful web designer, working from my laptop, anywhere in the world.
  • Be Rich: My successful web design business and blogs provide a highly substantial income for me.
  • Location Independent: Due to the nature of my web design and blogging businesses, I am able to work anywhere in the world from the convenience of my laptop.


  • I run a lab of eager junior scientists doing diverse and interesting work
  • I am called on regularly as an expert to talk in public or at conferences
  • Work has taken to many different cities around the world and on regular breaks I travel to more remote locations
  • I can take pride in the tangible benefits my work (and life) has had – it had actually made people’s lives better
  • My books have been well reviewed and I receive letters thanking me for them


It’s a weekday, May of 2010. I have breakfast with my daughter on the screened in porch (we have muffins that we made together earlier in the week and homemade yogurt with blueberries) before sending her to kindergarten by bus. I then head to the gym for a spin class.

Come home and shower. Check email and give the okay for a couple of friends to come over and have coffee. They are both writers, and we sit on the porch for a couple of hours writing on our laptops, me also day trading and occasionally chatting. Our little writers’ group, as we’ve discovered that we’re all more productive without the chance to jump up and do housey things.

A companionable lunch at home with my partner–each of us reading our own papers, but sharing interesting stories. After lunch I answer email to set up the work that I will do later in the week in the city, to arrange dinner with friends there, and to see what stores are having good sales.

Also make arrangements for a trip to the Vineyard in a couple of weeks–I’ll go out with my best friend and we’ll spend three days getting the new house in order for the people who’re renting for June and July but also having a girls’ weekend of drinks and talk and trashy movies.

Do some work in the yard so the garden is ready to go once the freeze time is past. Pick up my daughter at school because it’s the day when we both ride at a friend’s stable. Stop by my Mom’s to say hello. Home for practicing for me and homework for my daughter.

Then cocktails with my partner (and my daughter’s 30 minutes of daily TV) and a lovely dinner fixed on the grill. Early to bed if not necessarily early to sleep…

Money Issues

You’ll notice that in each one, there’s a predominant theme of freedom from money worries. Everyone wants enough income to allow them to do what they want and not have to spend a lot of time each day to earn that money.

Everyone will have their own path to that financial freedom, but in each case it’s not going to happen tomorrow. Getting rich is never quick; even moderately well-off requires a lot of work.

Lizzie is the only one who put a timeframe to her dream – and it’s also the most fleshed out and visual. Given that Lizzie has most of the financial pieces of her dream nearly in place, the less-than-a-year deadline could very well be doable. Plus as Lizzie knows she’s a procrastinator having a fixed deadline like this might stimulate her enough to get moving.

Alessio is taking a course that will lead him to his dreams and once he’s finished the course it will just be a matter of following the steps and apply the skills he will have learned in the course and developed on his own through programs such as this one.

Horatio has already taken a huge step on the road to a new life – he has quit his job! Rather than letting the biggest obstacle in his life continue to block him from moving forward, he’s handed in his resignation and is willing to face unemployment. Already his energy has changed and suddenly things seem much more possible, including possibilities of finding a better position. Now that he’s not operating from a negative worldview and has a clear idea of what he wants, he can go get it. Way to go Horatio!

If you remember from past weeks, Wendee’s major challenge centers around wanting to teach but feeling blocked by the lack of the right qualifications. And although she would rather teach in just one school and not many across a wide region, she has been offered more than one class at a couple of locations, which is a step in the right direction.

Plus she’s found the Masters program she wants and has considered taking a part time retail job to help pay for this qualification that will get her to where she wants to go, but isn’t sure that the most obvious route is the one she wants to take.

In other words, Wendee has a clear idea of what she wants, but isn’t sure the route she sees is one that will make her happy in the long run. Fortunately we’ll be covering more on the steps between here and there in the weeks to come.

Measuring Progress

This has been a breakthrough week for almost everyone.

Alessio has been moving forward at a steady pace, each week revealing a bit more of the best path for him. No big revelations, but to achieve progress they aren’t always needed. Often slow and steady works best.

Lizzie told me that after writing out her perfect day, she realized that she is more or less there and maybe just needs to pay more attention to the present and appreciate each day as it passes.

Wendee’s frustrated by what comes across as negativity – she’s normally a very positive person and the seeming lack of options really irritates her. And although the negativity causes pain in the moment, for a normally positive feeling negative reaches a limit where they (I should say we, because I’m one of these people) say “Enough” and make the tough decisions that they (we) have been delaying for whatever reasons. So hold on just a bit longer, Wendee!

Of course the biggest change was Horatio! After several weeks of focusing on the different parts of his life, he realized that his negative work situation was blocking everything else. Here’s what he has to say about quitting:

I’ve been working a job for the last couple of years that I took “just to tide me over until something better shows up”. It’s not been all bad, but it doesn’t use my skills fully, it’s leading nowhere, it’s underpaid, and is managed from above abhorrently (constantly shifting objectives, under-resourced, active obstruction from other staff with conflicting interests). Having come to the belated realization that are worse things than unemployment, there’s a reasonable amount of work around, my finances are in good shape, and I’ve got plenty of things to use my time on, it’s time for a decision. So I quit.

I didn’t throw a tantrum but executed a dignified exit, saying I couldn’t work there any longer under the current conditions and so was moving on. It’s probably symptomatic of my situation that several people tried to talk me out of it by fiat (“You can’t do that!”) or flattery (“But you’re so valuable to us!”) without any actual promise of fixing things. Another symptom would that, even after being told, several colleagues ignored it and kept handing me work to be done in the months ahead. These are all signs that I should have quit ages ago.

So I have a few weeks of wrapping everything up and handing it off to other staff. I left open the possibility of returning at some point in the future but only under vastly different circumstances. Already, I’ve attended one interview and have a few promising on the horizon (all at nearly double the pay, which makes me feel like a mug). Fingers crossed.

Yay Horatio!

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12 thoughts on “Dreaming of the Future: The Lab Rats Set Goals

  1. Andy Hayes says:

    Yay to progress and change – especially Horatio.

    And Lizzie – I’d love to join you for breakfast and the writer’s group. It sounds fantastic!
    .-= Andy Hayes´s last blog ..Travel the World as a Nomadic Mom =-.

  2. Alessio says:


    Congratulations! You’ve done great! Wishing you much success and hope that you’ll achieve your somedays!

    All the best!

  3. Alex Fayle says:

    I agree – I want to do a breakfast writing session with Lizzie!

    Thanks for the support! The same wishes back at you!

  4. Horatio says:

    Aw, thanks. Although it’s unusual to be congratulated for being unemployed …

    Once again, I’ve discovered that some decisions are blatantly obvious once you make them. Several friends have enthused “At last, I never though you’d do it”. A few people at work have quietly noted it was a good move. And there are much worse things than being unemployed. So here’s hoping.

  5. Alessio says:


    You’re being congratulated for choosing to take a step in the direction of the life you want, walking away from what you don’t want. I think way too many of us get stuck in a comfort zone, and it’s a bad place to be. (Guilty as charged!)

    Congratulations once more for your courage!

  6. Wendee says:

    @Horatio – Yay for you! I was congratulated once for being unemployed, as well, so I agree, sometimes it just seems so very clear that that’s what needed to be done, after the fact. Best wishes!

    @Allesio – how soon can you be doing websites?

    @Lizzie – I love the image of your day.

  7. Alessio says:

    @Wendee – busy doing a web design course now, should be done by December this year. I’m really loving it, the hours turn to minutes when I’m doing my assignments!

  8. Horatio says:

    @Alessio: and congratulations to you. Sounds like you’re on the way (and that Wendee is looking for website design …)

  9. Wendee says:

    Yes, actually, I am looking around for someone that might be able to do website design… πŸ˜‰

  10. Alessio says:

    @Wendee: I’d be honoured, if you don’t mind waiting till December?! πŸ˜‰
    I only want to give you the very best of what I have to offer!

  11. Leslie says:

    So inspiring to read about all the positive steps you all are taking towards getting the life you really want! Way to go!

  12. Alex Fayle says:

    Glad to hear the Lab Rats are inspiring you! I hope they’re also helping you take steps to get the life you want too! πŸ˜‰

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