The Power of Intent: How to Turn Your Dreams Into Reality and Achieve Your Goals

by Anne Dorko

Humanity is cursed with self-awareness. We want to live intentionally, we want to feel fulfilled, we seek purpose and meaning in everything.

We fear emptiness, the void where a sense of self should be. We loathe the idea that we could wander through life only to reach the end and realise… we were never really living to begin with.

Some folks are lucky enough to have found a passion or a calling.

Most people fall into school, a career, and a family before they ever get the chance to look in the mirror and ask themselves “Who am I?”, and they are not to be blamed for that. It’s what everyone has been told is correct to do. There’s nothing wrong with this life trajectory, but it’s simply not for everyone.

You had crazy dreams for yourself at some point. You wanted to walk on the moon. Those dreams are practically gone now, but you can get them back. Even if you never walk on the moon, you may yet find yourself flying over glaciers or swimming with turtles or wandering through ancient temples or any number of incredible things you didn’t know were possible for you.

If you don And if you don’t like your luck, just put it back.

But, these events won’t happen out of the blue. You must intend to do something, to do anything.

In this post you will learn how to start dreaming with intention and live out your most impossible goals.

Warning: This post contains content that encourages major life change and personal introspection.

A Dream as a Goal Is a Plan With Steps Put Into Action

It’s no secret that to make your dreams come true, you have to take action. You are your own fairy godmother.

You talk about wanting to learn another language one day, or maybe trying contemporary dance, or picking up your old guitar and finally learning to play… but like most people, you let every day go by without actually taking that guitar out of its case.

Step 1: Stop kidding yourself about what your dreams are.

This is a crucial element to the power of intent. When you say things that you don’t intend to do, you take the power out of your own words.

If you will never make time to learn guitar, stop pretending it’s a dream of yours. If you will never make time to learn a second language, stop saying you want to. Because, in the end, what we really care about is what we make time for.

It’s okay to let go of old dreams if you don’t really want them anymore, and it’s okay to talk about what interests you without any intention for making it part of your life. The point here is to stop giving a grand platform to topics that don’t deserve it.

When you say you want something as part of your life, really mean it.

Otherwise, when you talk about your so-called dreams, your reality is apathy. “I wish I cared enough to do anything about this.”

Step 2: Define your dream as a goal.

Dreams are often vague, which is why we like them. Vague means it’s not achievable, so we get to talk as if it could only ever be a dream, comforting ourselves by saying that it is completely unrealistic.

Unfortunately for your comfort zone, many dreams are much more realistic than you believe them to be.

Reality may not always play out to the exact specifics of your dream, but you can sure get close if you try. Sometimes, reality plays out better than your dream would have been, anyways. When you’re looking at turning your dream into a goal, you have to scale back and start at the beginning. There’s always the first step.

Here’s some examples of how to turn a dream into achievable, entry level goals.

  • Dream of being a pop-star? Your first goal is to become a performer with an audience.
  • Dream of seeing the world? Your goal is to visit at least one foreign country in the next year.
  • Dream of becoming a dancer? Your goal is to perform choreography in front of an audience.
  • Dream of becoming a paid artist? Your goal is to sell one piece of art.
  • Dream of being an author? Your goal is to publish and sell one copy of one book.

Step 3: Create a step-by-step plan.

Entry level goals are the most encouraging. They are direct, simple, and not too difficult to break down into a series of steps.

The path is clear.

amsterdam botanical path 1024x683

Let’s practice thinking of steps to achieve the examples from above.

  • Pop-star: It’s probably time to start vocal training at home with YouTube videos, performing at open mic nights, and maybe try your hand at busking. You may not become famous overnight, if ever, but you’re more likely to find fans by performing than not.
  • Travel lifestyle: Reduce your belongings, live minimally, save money. Work on building passive income or take seasonal jobs throughout the year, get your passport, and buy a plane ticket.
  • Dancer: Find videos of inspirational choreography. Study their movements. Use YouTube videos to train for specific styles. Use local groups in your area to find people who are also interested in dance. Host a performance in your home, at your community center, or whatever venue you can get your hands on.
  • Paid artist: Attend free networking events. Take photos of your work and post it for sale online. Pitch your artwork to local businesses. Approach galleries. Do whatever it takes to sell just one piece of art.
  • Author: Write a book. Edit it ruthlessly. Publish it on Amazon Kindle (this is free, by the way). Market it. Your goal is to sell just one.

None of these things require incredible amounts of money. They require passion, effort, time, patience, and probably a lot of heartache before things really work out the way you want them to.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? You are actively pursuing your freaking dream. Your DREAM. A dream you’ve spent hours thinking about, fantasising over, wishing for, aching for in the deepest parts of your soul. These stop being passive interests you list in the hobbies section for a job application. These become your life, fuelling your creativity, reigniting that childish sense of wonder, filling you with a sense of accomplishment you’ve never experienced before.

It’s time to take your dream, and define its entry level goal.

Write it down.

Brainstorm steps you could take to reach that goal. Research each of those steps and see what it would take to achieve. Break down your goal into smaller goals if you have to. (For example, writing a book is no simple task on its own.)

Step 4: Take the next step. Rinse and repeat.

Start an ongoing list with resources you can use to achieve the next step for your goal.

Subscribe to relevant blogs, use free educational websites, take a local class, join a group, start practicing your skill and working towards your goal 30 minutes a day. Get obsessed.

Take that next step.

By defining your actions as simple steps, you’ve transformed an unachievable dream into an incredibly actionable goal that you have a fighting chance to achieve.

It doesn’t matter how busy you are. Nobody has the time or resources to chase their dreams. You’ll have to make the time. Be inventive. This is for you. No one else is going to do this for you.

Keep repeating this final step until you don’t want to make your dream a reality anymore.

Plans Are Guesses and Your Intentions May Change

You’re probably thinking that this all sounds a lot more like strategic planning than the mystical power of intention.

Cambodian temple roots

Here’s the thing: Intention is an aim or plan. That is the actual definition.

When you learn to say only what you mean to do, you teach yourself that your words have actions attached to them. You stop aimlessly wishing on pipe dreams, and start thinking in terms of, “How can I make that reality?”

Training yourself to live with intention leads to action, which leads to realised dreams.

The problem with planning, as any person of achievement will tell you, is that plans are guesses. You have no idea what’s around the corner. Especially when you’re tackling a whole new arena (marketing, editing, performances, social media, entire industries you have no experience in)… there’s no way to prepare for every step of the way.

Life is full of obstacles, and that’s why you must learn the skill of intention.

With every obstacle you face, you have to decide: Do I go through it, around it, over it, under it, or pick a different way entirely? You learn to see options where others see failure. The nature and intensity of your intentions defines how you make difficult choices.

This is why chasing your too-big-to-be-real dream is so important. You have no idea what the route to success is. No one does, because everyone’s path is different. Who you may meet, where you may end up, what hidden talents you may discover, what passions you find in yourself… these things are all unpredictable.

Your dream? That may adapt or shift entirely as you go. You will change as you go. You will become stronger, more confident, more motivated, and more capable of accomplishing whatever you set out to.

Not trying is the only path guaranteed to stop your dreams from becoming reality.

The journey will broaden your perspective, offer you invaluable experience, and open doors along the way.

Your Intentions Reveal Your True Nature Over Time

Dreams say a lot about you – and not necessarily those hallucinations you have at night while you sleep.

Hand dangles over bd

Everyone is obsessed with translating our subconscious dreams, but what about the dreams we consciously pursue through the story of our lives? The dreams we chase with intent?

As you dedicate yourself to following through on big dreams, you eventually find yourself in situations that require you to make judgement calls and bizarre ethical decisions. These put you and your dreams in perspective, forcing you to answer questions about yourself that most people never bother to consider, putting you face to face with realities most people are not comfortable thinking about.

No one teaches you how to handle these situations. You will learn about yourself as a person to a depth you didn’t know was possible. You’ll start to see exactly who you are and what you stand for.

You are constantly risking everything, putting your values to the test, and making yourself vulnerable. As you repeatedly face these intense scenarios, you’ll find that your personality and character level up at an exponential rate. You can experience a lifetime of personal growth and change in a matter of years, rapidly bringing out patterns that show the traits truly at the core of who you are.

Chasing your dreams brings about a fine tuned sense of self-awareness, helping you find your own self-actualisation.

A Word to the Wise: Dreams Can Get (Really) Freaky

Real life dreams, much like our nighttime dreams, often tend to wander into a surreal world where the rules don’t seem to apply the way they do in normal life.

The farther you go down the rabbit hole, the more likely you are to meet strange people, in strange places, and do strange things you would never have thought to find yourself doing.

As you learn to sidestep obstacles, tackle incredible feats, overcome personal fears, find non-traditional success in the unlikeliest of places, it becomes harder and harder to ground yourself in reality.

When you start living outside of the box, you see how much of life’s expectations come from the construct of society. Society is incredibly important to aid the survival of our species (for example: making murder illegal), but should aid you in living a happy and healthy life rather than restricting your potential.


If you have felt stuck, that life has lost its purpose, or that everything seems aimless, it may be time to revive your life’s dreams. You never know what you might accomplish, or whose life you may impact for the better.

When you turn your dreams into actions, even understanding that everything may change, you will begin to achieve your goals and find personal growth beyond your wildest imaginations.

When you live with intention, you are living on purpose.

What dreams are you going to start chasing and what is the first step for you? Where will you let your dreams take you next?

Image credits: Anne Dorko

First published December 27, 2015

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