12.1 The Dream of a Lifetime

Learning Objectives

  1. Use your life mission to inform career decisions.
  2. Understand how you are already on your way to fulfilling your dream.
  3. Work with changing life objectives and goals.

Throughout this book, we have covered many techniques for how to get things done effectively: how to study, how to read, how to take notes, how to manage your personal finances or your social life. This last chapter challenges you to really think about the why. Why did you decide to attend college? Why is it important to you?

We all have life goals or objectives—some are clearer than others, but they are there. You may think of your objectives in terms of finances (to hold a job that allows you to be financially independent, for example), or perhaps your goals are more personal (to be married and have a family). They might be specific (pay off my student loans within three years of leaving college) or very general (to do good). Regardless of what they may be, they are all important because they influence the decisions you are making today about your future.

Understanding what motivates your goals and aspirations is essential because you are then better able to prioritize your thoughts about the future and identify new options that you may not have thought of before that will bring you fulfillment. Beware of accepting dreams others may have for you as your own (“I want to finish college to make my parents proud” or “I want to complete my associate’s degree because my boyfriend says I can get a better job”). These are not necessarily bad dreams to pursue, but they will lead to genuine fulfillment only if they are your dreams.

Exercise 1: My Dream Machine

In the table that follows, list the four or five most important dreams you have for your future. Include your personal, professional, and economic goals. Now take some time to think about why these dreams are important to you. Revisit your answers frequently over the next week or two and fine-tune them. What do they tell you about what is important to you? How are they linked to each other?

My dreams for the future                         Why they are important to me                        

















Since you were a child and first definitively stated, “When I grow up I want to be a ____________,” you have been making decisions in order to fulfill your dreams. Most likely you are in college today as a step toward fulfilling a lifetime goal. But very few of us are still passionate about our childhood dream. As we grew up, we discovered new options; were influenced by people we met; or perhaps even learned that being a fireman, nurse, circus clown, pro baseball player, or princess is not all we thought it might be. Your evolving life dreams may continue even today and should be embraced. But for most people, the motivators behind the dreams—the answers to “Why they are important to me” in Exercise 1—change very little over time. If as a child you wanted to be a princess so your kingdom would have a kind ruler, today you may want to be a teacher to help children learn—and both of these dreams, at their core, are motivated by the desire to help others.

Take a close look at your “importance” statements in Exercise 1. What do they tell you about the direction you want to take in your life? What are your priorities? Will some dreams need to be put on the back burner while you pursue others? Using your dream statements as a guide, write a two- or three-sentence mission for yourself. You don’t need to share it with anyone, but you should refer to it a few times a year and ask yourself, “Am I living up to my mission?” and “Am I taking the right steps toward this mission?” You may also want to fine-tune it as you progress.

Key Takeaways

  • The world is changing quickly around you, but your dreams and aspirations may provide a sense of direction in unknown territory.
  • The reasons dreams or aspirations are important to you are as important as the dreams themselves and are likely to be more consistent than your literal dreams.
  • A mission statement can be very useful in helping you to make important personal decisions, but it needs to be considered often and fine-tuned as needed.


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