Convert dreams to action plans.

Robert Conyne

2/16/2021 3 min read

 "Follow your dream," we often hear.  An ethereal directive, appealing to the heart and soul.  As you have seen, we endorse dreaming as an important step in charting your personal future of retirement.

Yet, a dream can be quite fuzzy when we think of action steps, sort of like an impressionistic painting.   Its contours leave much to the imagination, less to clarity of direction.  More certainty is called for when action is desired, as suggested by the quote (Greg Reid) below:

                                                    "A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. 

                                                    A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. 

                                                    A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true".

This way of thinking gets us going in a useful way.  How does one convert a retirement dream into an actionable plan?  There is no single way.  While some people find it facilitative to create and follow a detailed set of steps, others favor only light guidance, relying more on spontaneity.  It's a matter of style and parsimony.  For now, let's consider the first option, using a plan based on a set of steps. 

Say your big dream for retirement is to write your memoirs.  What is your plan for "living that dream"?

     Timeline: As the above quote suggests, setting a timeline can be very helpful, if not necessary, in moving toward goal setting.  When will you begin working?  When do you expect to finish? 

     Steps:  In addition to timing, a goal needs to be attainable and feasible, not so lofty or difficult that you cannot accomplish it.  How are you going to structure your days of writing?  Do you possess right now the necessary writing skills or might you need to further develop those?  Might you create a rough content outline for your memoirs to serve as a guide?  Are your memoirs meant to serve a personal and maybe family purpose, or are you wanting to publish them for a wider audience?  If the latter, how might you find a publisher or might you self-publish?  Can you build in ways to monitor your progress to help keep you on track and stay close to your intentions? There are many steps to take to make a goal a reality.

     Action/Engagement: Sustaining your effort no doubt will be challenging, even if you have reasonable answers to the kinds of questions listed above.  How will you keep yourself moving on target?  How can you maintain motivation and momentum?  How can you include this project within your broader life in a harmonious manner?

     Sometimes looking at a calendar when planning can seem almost like reading a foreign language, as pictured below.  The schedule sometimes suddenly makes no sense.  This can be because the task is feeling burdensome or out-of-reach.  In such cases (and they will come from time-to-time), what do you do?  Building into your plan alternatives is always a good idea.  Maybe stepping back for awhile, or perhaps re-construing the time line or your own expectations could be helpful in giving yourself a fresher start. 

     Retirement activities, like retirement itself, are best seen as evolving over time.  There always will be ups and downs, ins and outs; they are best viewed as a marathon and not a sprint.  But planning and its flexible application can go a long way for your retirement being a satisfying and meaningful one.