Tagged: dreams

4 reasons why you should believe that dreams come true – and 3 reasons why you should not

I wrote a sentence in my last post that started to haunt me. The sentence was: ’Most of the dreams we are really committed to work for are actually achievable.’ Do I really believe it to be true? Isn’t that something that all those cheap happy-happy-self-help-gurus proclaim with their false smiles? On the other hand, there is a grain of truth in it. In the end, it is good to believe in it – but only under certain conditions.

First reason to believe in the power of your dreams is that the clearer goals you have the more possibilities you see. When you have a clear idea of what you want then you are able to see how your actions in different contexts can advance that dream. An optimist who believes that the dream can come true is much more prone to achieve that dream. This is mainly because he or she is always on the lookout for opportunities to take steps towards its fulfillment.

Similarly, when you believe in your dream you have more energy and courage to work towards it. When you see a weak possibility you jump at it and see where it takes you. The one who tries knows whether something leads to success or not. The pessimist will not even try – and thus never will find out whether there would have been a path of possibilities available. This is the logic behind the saying of Henry Ford according to which: ”Whether you believe you can or believe you cannot, you are probably right.” There might be a possibility or there might not be. As a pessimist you will never find out.

Thirdly, the world tends to help those who believe in their dreams. When you get enthusiastic about your dream then you most probably share it with those around you. And they might be able to give you invaluable advice, resources or contacts thus greatly increasing your change of success. Additionally, engagement is highly contagious and the kind of disease that people really want to get infected with. So when you are really engaged in a project it usually is easy to find other people who want to go with you in the same direction. Transforming your dream into a clear and communicable form activates not only the resources of yourself but also those around you.

Finally, the bigger and clearer the dream is for you, the more you are willing to sacrifice for it. Our time and other resources are limited and if you want to achieve something extraordinary you usually need to focus quite a large portion of them towards this one thing. Having a clear goal makes clear that you don’t get sidetracked but really work towards that dream of yours.

There are thus a number of good reasons to believe that all dreams are achievable. The more you believe in it, the bigger chance you have to actually achieve your dream. But there is – as always – another side of the story.

Life doesn’t always go according to the plans. It isn’t a coincidence that happening and happiness have the same first four letters – it reflects the ancient idea that happiness is what happens to us rather than something we can control. A surprisingly big part of our success or failure is due to external factors. In Silicon Valley they have recognized this. Therefore someone who has few bankruptcies behind him- or herself is not seen as a failure but as an experienced entrepreneur.

Believing that everyone can always achieve their dreams if they just try hard enough is totally untenable believe in the real world where a hurricane or a global economic crisis can undo everything you have worked for in a single sweep of fate. More specifically, this attitude leads to three detrimental consequences:

Firstly, you are too harsh on yourself. When you don’t achieve something you blame yourself. You see that it was your own fault that you failed. You become depressed thinking that you are a-good-for-nothing. You loose your ability to try again because you are sure that it will only reconfirm the fact that you are not able to make it. You doom yourself into cynical and embittered passivity in the face of life.

Secondly, you are too harsh on others. If you see people who are worse off than yourself you believe that it is their own fault. This attitude of superiority is one of the plagues of our modern times. There are far too many arrogant hotshots who don’t know anything about life but who are sure that their success is totally their own merit and that they deserve every kind of privilege that puts them above the others who have only themselves to blame. A person’s success or failure in life is quite much dependent on the economic, social and educational capital they have at their disposal. When you read those from-rags-to-riches stories you realize that almost always there was somebody who helped the protagonist on the way and provided the necessary means to make the journey to a new world. How many potential achievers are out there that didn’t have that necessary mentor at the right moment? And the statistics show that at least in America those stories are becoming more and more rare. American dream seems to be most achievable in countries where free education and other welfare policies make it possible for those starting at the bottom to reach their full potential.

Thirdly, by concentrating too blindly on your target you miss everything else that is worthwhile in life. It is always heartbreaking to read those stories about highly successful men who realize in their 60s how they missed out on the whole family thing and how they then try to compensate by spoiling their grandchildren. Be careful about what you dream because by choosing what you dream about you also choose away those things that are not part of your dream.

So what to do? In some situations, the believe in dreams coming true seems to be very fruitful. In others it leads to a dismal worldview. Which to choose?

Luckily we don’t have to choose and blindly follow only one of the beliefs. Instead we can be flexible and look at the world through the one that better suits any particular situation. As long as things work out as they should you can follow the success framework – it gives you energy to reach even further. But when life hits you with a hard hand straight in your face you should have the agility to change framework and not blame yourself or others but accept the situation that lady Fortuna has prepared for you. And then go on to find a dream more suitable for your new situation.

How is your bucket list doing? Want to know what are the 20 items I want to do before I die?

What are the most awesome things that you definitely want to do before you finally ’hit the bucket’? Answering this question right now can be a revealing or even life-changing experience. I’ll tell you why and then you’ll have an exclusive look at the 20 items that ended up on my own personal bucket list.

Why bucket list is so powerful? The answer is simple: Because most of the dreams we are really committed to work for are actually achievable. And getting clear of your dreams is the first step in this process. Additionally, even if you already have a certain dream you’ll be amazed by the power that the simple act of putting it on a paper has for committing to it and realizing it. So even if it sounds a bit cliché and silly, do it!

For me the wake-up call to do the list came in early morning hours of a bus trip between El Salvador and Nicaragua. I woke up to see Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman chat with each other in Spanish on the bus TV. Even though the movie was dubbed into Spanish the subtitles were in English (twisted, isn’t it) and captured by the charm of these two older gentlemen I watched the movie to the end. The movie was Bucket List and it is about two men from different backgrounds who are united by the approaching death and decide to join forces and do the things they always wanted to do. The plot is somewhat predictable but was still able to raise important issues about how one should live one’s life – and also move me to tears at few points.

The most obvious question raised by the movie is of course: Have you done your bucket list yet? If not, then do it! Not tomorrow, but right now!

To practice what I preach I did the exercise myself.

The first thing I realized when I started to answer the question was that I intuitively try to put my life in some kind of categories through which to think about the question. Two dimensions immediately came to my mind: the professional dimension of creating and achieving something. And the personal dimension of those people that stand close to me. After that I realized that I want to give something to the world also beyond my immediate social relations. And finally I thought that perhaps I should also ask what personal joys would I want to experience before I die. Beyond these four dimensions I really couldn’t think of anything that would be worthwhile to include on a bucket list.

So here are my dimensions for the bucket list (please comment if you feel that something important is missing):
1. Professional life: What targets I commit myself to aim to achieve during my limited lifetime?
2. Personal life: What beauty I want to experience in my relations to those near to me?
3. Giving: What do I want to give to the world before I die?
4. Experiencing: What memorable moments do I want to encounter before hitting the bucket?

So what items ended up on my bucket list?

In professional life my mission is to explore the eternal question about how to live a good life. I want to deliver some fragments of wisdom that could enhance people’s actual capacity to live a good life. But with the bucket list I had to get more concrete than that. And the first concrete target that came to my mind is to write and publish at least three different books: one in professional academic philosophy (preferably published by Oxford University Press, if I am allowed to dream big), one book about good life targeted at a more general audience and one fictional novel. In my trade, the books are the milestones of the progress of our thinking. Hence, items 1, 2 & 3.

1. Write a book in academic philosophy.
2. Write a book about good life for a more general audience.
3. Write a fictional novel.

Secondly, good philosophy is rarely done in isolation and one of the most exciting experiences in my short career have been the thrilling conversations I have had the honor to have with many wise people. This is a dimension I want to have more of and to put it into concrete targets I came up with items 4 and 5.

4. Have at least five professor-level contacts whom I can call day or night if an exciting idea hits me.
5. Give a lecture in one of the top universities in the world.

Thirdly, during my short initiation into philosophy and the scientific community I have encountered many great mentors that have unselfishly given so much guidance and invaluable advices to me that I am forever thankful for them. This is a debt I want to pay back for those that come after me. This is items 6 & 7.

6. Be amongst the persons that a future philosopher thanks in the acknowledgment section of her or his breakthrough book as one of the most important advisors in making his or her work possible.
7. Get some form of award for good teaching abilities.

Personal life proved to be a tricky section in terms of clear targets. One of my strongest personal dreams is to have children and be a loving father to them. But how to remake that into a clear bucket list item? Or how can one reduce love story or friendship into certain measurable bucket list items? Finally I came up with four items, 8, 9, 10 & 11.

8. Be able to support each one of my children in achieving what they dream about, whatever that might be.
9. Have a person to whom I can honestly tell that I love her until death do us apart.
10. Be the first person that a friend calls to when a major turning point of life hits him or her.
11. Organize at least every other year a huge party where around 100 good people I know gather together for a long night of joy and companionship.

Giving. Life has been fortunate for me. I have won the lottery of life by being born into a loving family in a peaceful and democratic country with strong social security system and good educational opportunities. Not all people are so lucky and therefore I feel that it is my responsibility to enhance their possibilities to live out a good life. I know that I could give quite much of my possessions away without it affecting significantly my happiness level. At the same time the amount I am giving away could change the life of a big number of people, save them from a disease, give them education and so forth. Let’s start, however, with a quite moderate monetary goal (item 12).

12. Give constantly at least 10% of all my income to good causes.

But I would like to get more personal than that. Martti Ahtisaari received a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts for world peace in, for example, Namibia, Kosovo and Aceh. Yet even more impressive demonstration of his good work is the fact that in Namibia there are now lots of boys carrying his first name, Martti. Naming one’s child after someone is perhaps the greatest gesture of honour one can give. I don’t believe that my contribution will ever be as grand as Ahtisaari’s. But the true test of one’s devotion to helping others is not in numbers. It would be mind-blowing if some people felt that my contribution to their life had been so great that they want to honor that by giving my name to their son – or why not a daughter. Of all the items here I believe that this (number 13) is the hardest to achieve but in the bucket list you are allowed to put also your more ’impossible’ dreams.

13. Have a baby named after me.

Experiencing. Finally, why not have some fun in life while it lasts? These things need not much explanation. I’ve wanted to try paragliding for many years but haven’t got into it yet. Meditation sounds very interesting but despite a few tries I haven’t had the patience to really make it into a daily habit. I enjoy traveling and love the sea. And some sporting challenges are always rewarding to achieve. You’ll find these items (14-21) below.

So here is my bucket list as of now, written just around the time I turned 30:

Professional life:
1. Write a book in academic philosophy.
2. Write a book about good life for a more general audience.
3. Write a fictional novel.
4. Have at least five professor-level contacts whom I can call day or night if an exciting idea hits me.
5. Give a lecture in one of the top universities in the world
6. Be amongst the persons that a future philosopher thanks in the acknowledgment section of her or his breakthrough book as one of the most important advisors in making his or her work possible.
7. Get some form of award for good teaching abilities.

Personal life:
8. Be able to support each one of my children in achieving what they dream about, whatever that might be.
9. Have a person to whom I can honestly tell that I love her until death do us apart.
10. Be the first person that a friend calls to when a major turning point of life hits him or her.
11. Organize at least every other year a huge party where around 100 good people I know gather together for a long night of joy and companionship

Giving:
12. Give constantly at least 10% of all my income to good causes.
13. Have a baby named after me.

Experiencing:
14. Paragliding.
15. Cross an ocean with a sailing boat.
16. Be able to uphold a state of meditation for an hour.
17. Live at least a half a year in three different countries.
18. Run the marathon.
19. Conquer a few cool mountains.
20. Complete a Worldloppet cross-country race in ten different countries.
21. Participate in the Jukola orienteering competition.

If reading my list didn’t move you to make your own list, watch the movie for additional inspiration. Even if for just to see how the dying character played by Jack Nicholson is finally able to complete the list item ’Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world’. For me, seeing that scene was one of the moments when tears filled my eyes. The answer was so simple yet so surprising.

P.S. I would really love to hear your story. What items would you include in your bucket list? What kind of experience was doing the bucket list for you?

What are the most awesome things that you definitely want to do before you finally ’hit the bucket’? Answering this question right now can be a revealing or even life-changing experience. I’ll tell you why and then you’ll have an exclusive look at the 20 items that ended up on my own personal bucket list.

Why bucket list is so powerful? The answer is simple: Because most of the dreams we are really committed to work for are actually achievable. And getting clear of your dreams is the first step in this process. Additionally, even if you already have a certain dream you’ll be amazed by the power that the simple act of putting it on a paper has for committing to it and realizing it. So even if it sounds a bit cliché and silly, do it!

For me the wake-up call to do the list came in early morning hours of a bus trip between El Salvador and Nicaragua. I woke up to see Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman chat with each other in Spanish on the bus TV. Even though the movie was dubbed into Spanish the subtitles were in English (twisted, isn’t it) and captured by the charm of these two older gentlemen I watched the movie to the end. The movie was Bucket List and it is about two men from different backgrounds who are united by the approaching death and decide to join forces and do the things they always wanted to do. The plot is somewhat predictable but was still able to raise important issues about how one should live one’s life – and also move me to tears at few points.

The most obvious question raised by the movie is of course: Have you done your bucket list yet? If not, then do it! Not tomorrow, but right now!

To practice what I preach I did the exercise myself.

The first thing I realized when I started to answer the question was that I intuitively try to put my life in some kind of categories through which to think about the question. Two dimensions immediately came to my mind: the professional dimension of creating and achieving something. And the personal dimension of those people that stand close to me. After that I realized that I want to give something to the world also beyond my immediate social relations. And finally I thought that perhaps I should also ask what personal joys would I want to experience before I die. Beyond these four dimensions I really couldn’t think of anything that would be worthwhile to include on a bucket list.

So here are my dimensions for the bucket list (please comment if you feel that something important is missing):
1. Professional life: What targets I commit myself to aim to achieve during my limited lifetime?
2. Personal life: What beauty I want to experience in my relations to those near to me?
3. Giving: What do I want to give to the world before I die?
4. Experiencing: What memorable moments do I want to encounter before hitting the bucket?

So what items ended up on my bucket list?

In professional life my mission is to explore the eternal question about how to live a good life. I want to deliver some fragments of wisdom that could enhance people’s actual capacity to live a good life. But with the bucket list I had to get more concrete than that. And the first concrete target that came to my mind is to write and publish at least three different books: one in professional academic philosophy (preferably published by Oxford University Press, if I am allowed to dream big), one book about good life targeted at a more general audience and one fictional novel. In my trade, the books are the milestones of the progress of our thinking. Hence, items 1, 2 & 3.

1. Write a book in academic philosophy.
2. Write a book about good life for a more general audience.
3. Write a fictional novel.

Secondly, good philosophy is rarely done in isolation and one of the most exciting experiences in my short career have been the thrilling conversations I have had the honor to have with many wise people. This is a dimension I want to have more of and to put it into concrete targets I came up with items 4 and 5.

4. Have at least five professor-level contacts whom I can call day or night if an exciting idea hits me.
5. Give a lecture in one of the top universities in the world.

Thirdly, during my short initiation into philosophy and the scientific community I have encountered many great mentors that have unselfishly given so much guidance and invaluable advices to me that I am forever thankful for them. This is a debt I want to pay back for those that come after me. This is items 6 & 7.

6. Be amongst the persons that a future philosopher thanks in the acknowledgment section of her or his breakthrough book as one of the most important advisors in making his or her work possible.
7. Get some form of award for good teaching abilities.

Personal life proved to be a tricky section in terms of clear targets. One of my strongest personal dreams is to have children and be a loving father to them. But how to remake that into a clear bucket list item? Or how can one reduce love story or friendship into certain measurable bucket list items? Finally I came up with four items, 8, 9, 10 & 11.

8. Be able to support each one of my children in achieving what they dream about, whatever that might be.
9. Have a person to whom I can honestly tell that I love her until death do us apart.
10. Be the first person that a friend calls to when a major turning point of life hits him or her.
11. Organize at least every other year a huge party where around 100 good people I know gather together for a long night of joy and companionship.

Giving. Life has been fortunate for me. I have won the lottery of life by being born into a loving family in a peaceful and democratic country with strong social security system and good educational opportunities. Not all people are so lucky and therefore I feel that it is my responsibility to enhance their possibilities to live out a good life. I know that I could give quite much of my possessions away without it affecting significantly my happiness level. At the same time the amount I am giving away could change the life of a big number of people, save them from a disease, give them education and so forth. Let’s start, however, with a quite moderate monetary goal (item 12).

12. Give constantly at least 10% of all my income to good causes.

But I would like to get more personal than that. Martti Ahtisaari received a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts for world peace in, for example, Namibia, Kosovo and Aceh. Yet even more impressive demonstration of his good work is the fact that in Namibia there are now lots of boys carrying his first name, Martti. Naming one’s child after someone is perhaps the greatest gesture of honour one can give. I don’t believe that my contribution will ever be as grand as Ahtisaari’s. But the true test of one’s devotion to helping others is not in numbers. It would be mind-blowing if some people felt that my contribution to their life had been so great that they want to honor that by giving my name to their son – or why not a daughter. Of all the items here I believe that this (number 13) is the hardest to achieve but in the bucket list you are allowed to put also your more ’impossible’ dreams.

13. Have a baby named after me.

Experiencing. Finally, why not have some fun in life while it lasts? These things need not much explanation. I’ve wanted to try paragliding for many years but haven’t got into it yet. Meditation sounds very interesting but despite a few tries I haven’t had the patience to really make it into a daily habit. I enjoy traveling and love the sea. And some sporting challenges are always rewarding to achieve. You’ll find these items (14-21) below.

So here is my bucket list as of now, written just around the time I turned 30:

Professional life:
1. Write a book in academic philosophy.
2. Write a book about good life for a more general audience.
3. Write a fictional novel.
4. Have at least five professor-level contacts whom I can call day or night if an exciting idea hits me.
5. Give a lecture in one of the top universities in the world
6. Be amongst the persons that a future philosopher thanks in the acknowledgment section of her or his breakthrough book as one of the most important advisors in making his or her work possible.
7. Get some form of award for good teaching abilities.

Personal life:
8. Be able to support each one of my children in achieving what they dream about, whatever that might be.
9. Have a person to whom I can honestly tell that I love her until death do us apart.
10. Be the first person that a friend calls to when a major turning point of life hits him or her.
11. Organize at least every other year a huge party where around 100 good people I know gather together for a long night of joy and companionship

Giving:
12. Give constantly at least 10% of all my income to good causes.
13. Have a baby named after me.

Experiencing:
14. Paragliding.
15. Cross an ocean with a sailing boat.
16. Be able to uphold a state of meditation for an hour.
17. Live at least a half a year in three different countries.
18. Run the marathon.
19. Conquer a few cool mountains.
20. Complete a Worldloppet cross-country race in ten different countries.
21. Participate in the Jukola orienteering competition.

If reading my list didn’t move you to make your own list, watch the movie for additional inspiration. Even if for just to see how the dying character played by Jack Nicholson is finally able to complete the list item ’Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world’. For me, seeing that scene was one of the moments when tears filled my eyes. The answer was so simple yet so surprising.

P.S. I would really love to hear your story. What items would you include in your bucket list? What kind of experience was doing the bucket list for you?