Turning Dreams Into Reality: The Lab Rats Create a Plan

  • Someday Lesson: Knowing your dream isn’t enough – you need to plan and act if you want to bust your Somedays.

IcE MaN Photography on Flickr.comOnce you know what you want you can’t stop there – you have to start working towards it. Talking and planning isn’t enough. You have to act. (If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know that’s pretty much my mantra: only action produces results.)

Before acting, however, it’s important to know where you’re going without overwhelming yourself with details and too much work.

The last time I ran a bunch of Lab Rats through a maze, I had them come up with a one page plan of things they would do to achieve their goals. It was a highly specific set of actions and included due dates, fears, strengths, supports, measurement and acceptable minimum levels of completion. By keeping their plan to a single page they had to carefully choose their actions for maximum results.

This time through the new set of Lab Rats ran a slightly different maze with less specific directions. It didn’t matter how they got through the maze. They only had to reach the end which was: deciding the big steps to achieving their goals.

As expected, each Lab Rat took a different path to find their way out of the maze, however, they all started with their dream and chose what they would do based on that. Some plans, like that of Horatio, can be quite specific because he’s already taken the big step (quitting his job) and is now into the nitty gritty. Other plans, like Alessio’s, come out looking like a story describing the process between now and reaching the goal.

Really, I don’t care what the plan looks like. I don’t even really care about the plan at all because as the Lab Rats move forward, the consequences of their actions will change the plan. A plan to me is only a guideline, like the outline an author uses when writing the first draft of a novel. The final product often looks nothing like the outline, but the outline was necessary to keep the author from heading off in twenty directions at once.

So, let’s take a look at the Lab Rats’ plans and next week we’ll get to the crux of getting rid of Somedays – taking action.


  • Know for sure that I need a Master’s degree to teach wherever I want to go
  • Put together my application portfolio, create a proposal for a thesis
  • Apply to grad school
  • Do research, write a great Master’s thesis having something to do with creativity and how people learn to be creative.
  • Present thesis work publicly, somewhere.
  • Shows with local artist guilds.
  • Teach creativity workshops.
  • Get an MFA!
  • Paint and draw, a lot
  • My partner and I travel different areas to test them out: how well can we adjust to living there? What are my prospects for work? Artist-in-residence for State or U.S. National parks? Maybe we just keep moving?


To get “the next job”, it might be necessary to pump up my resume and profile – this most recent position has been a bit toxic in terms of career path and recognition! I can do this by making my name more visible in professional circles, publicizing some of the work that I have done (ditto) and finishing off a few odds and ends and getting them out there in the public eye.

Sort out another passport and dual nationality. I’m eligible and it would expand my job options considerably. I’ve just never got around to it before.

I may not be able to step straight into the “dream job” but the next step is to get a job that is actually going somewhere. This doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does have to be leading towards the dream job. It will need to be a position where I am treated as a professional, I manage people and projects and I am the person that is calling the shots rather than just a just a warm body hired to fill a slot. I have to be the guy that knows why and not just how.

Then I work at that job and be seen working at that job. Arguably one of my big problems has been a lack of self-publicity. So next time, everyone is going to see what I do and that I’m good at it.

Dream job!


The big steps to my dream are saving enough money for web design books and study material and use the relevant resources on the internet to improve my current web design skills and add much more to them. During this time I have my blog set up and am slowly but surely increasing the number of my subscribers. I make some free or well-priced websites to get some practical experience and build my portfolio, which is displayed on my blog, and gives me international exposure. My work gets noticed and I start getting some freelance web design jobs, and my blog is generating some money. Eventually, I make enough money to quit my regular job, and get to focus my time and creativity on blogging and freelance web design. After some years of web design and blogging experience, I start a web design course which turns out to be a great success.


Let the world know what I want. At a party recently I congratulated a friend on the new house they are buying and told her that I would have looked at it, too, if it had been on the market. (They bought it before it was listed.) She said “you mean you guys would sell your house?” and I filled her in on my openness to moving. So now it’s out there…if she hears of something I might like…if she gets the word out that we might sell.

Help other people hold me accountable. I have some local friends who speak better Italian than I do–I need to make use of them. Struggle through fifteen minutes of conversation. Do my work–the fun Rosetta Stone things and such–every day. But create a sink or swim situation. Set a date (maybe January 1) and pretend that I’m going to Italy to work and I need to be in pretty damn good shape by then. Put in a couple of hours a day…I can do it at the gym. While I do housework. In the Nike spirit–just do it!

One of my dream elements is looking fabulous. Big Step #1 is get over feeling like I need to wait (until I lose weight–big yawn!) for this to happen. I need to hit the local makeup shop for a makeover. Kick my daily wardrobe up a notch or two. After all…there are fabulous looking women in all sizes. I think I need to commit to eating well and hide the scales. And I need a punishment and reward system for going to the gym.

Figure out which of the small things (horses, garden and all of the rest) are important and which are just static. Then–here’s my hard part–without letting them take over, start incorporating them into my life.

Open myself without fear to friendship. The biggest thing I’ve learned as a Lab Rat is that I don’t regret time spent cultivating friends. So staying open to it sometimes consumes too much of my free time. This weekend turned into a day at the county fair and three parties, which is why I’m finishing this at 1 am…but it was an intellectually satisfying, soul satisfying weekend. I love my partner, love my daughter. But I’m a deeply social creature, and having a community of friends is the glue which holds my dream together.

Now that you’ve seen what each of the Lab Rats has planned, I’m going to leave you to guess what you think their first step will be. Next week we’ll see whether the Lab Rats chose the same action.

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6 thoughts on “Turning Dreams Into Reality: The Lab Rats Create a Plan

  1. Horatio says:

    I feel keenly embarrassed by the small scope of my plans compared to the other rats. Ah well …

    @Lizzie: “I don’t regret time spent cultivating friends”. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to wonder at how hard we – and the world around us – make it to form relationships and friendships. Yet, that social capital is is of vital importance to us and our world. I think you’ve stumbled onto something there, something we could all use.

  2. Alessio says:

    I took a step in the right direction in buying a piece of software that would be crucial to the web design process. It’s a little step, but it’s a step out of my comfort zone into doing bigger and better things. I agree with Alex when he says in his eBook that we need to do things that make us uncomfortable in order to make it for us to get used to it so that we’ll eventually be able to take bigger steps out of the comfort zone in order to bust our Somedays!

  3. Wendee says:

    @Horatio – no, *I* was feeling like my scope was smaller. Your plan sounds fantastic, especially the notion of self-publicity! That’s powerful stuff!

    I love @Lizzie’s first sentence: Let the world know what I want. When I’ve let the world know before, a number of people closest to me have tended to bash my ideas down, so in the past few years, I haven’t broadcasted my wants, dreams, efforts. Boo to that! I’m going to start telling the world what I want again, to get the word to people who *will* help carry my banner and spirits along the way…

  4. Hi Alex,

    I love how you shared “Knowing your dream isn’t enough – you need to plan and act if you want to bust your Somedays.” This reminds me of what I read somewhere that we spend more time making to do lists, then we do doing the things on the list.

    It IS our actions that get us closer to our dreams. Thank you for the great reminder.
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..Recipe For Blog Success =-.

  5. Horatio says:

    @Alessio: good on you. As has been said, it’s easier to talk about plans than so something, anything. Everything always looks better when it’s just in your head.

    @Wendee: Looks to me like you got a pretty detailed plan there.

    I’m thinking that “self publicity” and Lizzie’s observant “let the world know what I want” is all part of the the same thing. What do you want? Let other people know. Ask for it. It’s so damn simple to say but we generate a lot of grief by not broadcasting our desires.

  6. Alex Fayle says:

    Comparisons bad! Don’t compare! 😉

    Seriously – your plans and their scope are right for you. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing – that just leads right back into choosing security and comfort over happiness and fulfilled dreams.

    Yay to little steps! I’m all for little steps that move your forward. A whole bunch of little steps will take you to your destination a whole lot easier than a few difficult and risky leaps.

    The naysayers are difficult to live with, aren’t they? Fortunately once you know for sure what you want to pursue, the opinions of others no longer matter and the broadcasting becomes a way of looking for resources – and there’s no judgment to feel when you’re simply looking for resources.

    I used to be big on to-do lists but now I have my daily tasks and my projects and I don’t bother with to-do lists because if I start such a list, I spend more time organizing the list than working.

    Re: “Ask for it.” Havi over on http://www.fluentself.com has a great series on being very specific for what you’re looking for.

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