Clarify Narratives Values Interests Dreams Strengths Impact Align: Experimentation

A great deal of fodder for dreams and desires likely came out of your answers in the interests activities. Remember to consult your answers from those when making your final list for this section.

Dreams and desires are different from interests in that they are goal-oriented. A dream or desire (in this instance) is an experience or achievement whereas an interest or passion is an activity, cause, or way of being that you can engage in repeatedly and enlivens you. You could think about it like the destination (dream/desire) versus the journey (sparks, interests, passions). Also, our dreams and desires can often involve our interests.

Dreams and Desires

  • To start a family
  • To start a nonprofit
  • To write a book
  • To contribute to scientific discoveries in healthcare
  • To be a working musician
  • To make people’s lives easier by helping them manage their money
  • To have a job I love
  • To be wealthy
  • To own a home
  • To lose weight
  • To graduate college with honors
  • To be successful in my chosen career field
  • To manage my anxiety effectively

Sparks, Interests, Passions

  • Cooking
  • Running
  • Campaigning against misinformation online
  • Survival skills
  • Teaching
  • 18th Century English Literature
  • Environmentalism
  • Indigenous textile practices across the globe
  • Learning languages
  • Creating and playing board games
  • Claymation
  • Holiday decorating
  • Training dogs
  • Playing hockey
  • Nutrition

It’s important to note that not all dreams or desires will be relevant to purpose because many of them are  not self-transcendent. When a dream or desire solely involves yourself and cannot apply to benefiting the world beyond yourself, it does not contribute to purpose. That being said, one can weave dreams and desires into one’s purpose through creatively combining them with impactful endeavors- but we’ll get more into that later.

While we may or may not directly integrate a specific dream or desire into our purpose cultivation process, becoming intimately aware of what we want can tell us loads about what we value. That information can then be used to design purposes that will be the most fitting and fulfilling for us.

All of our desires are ripe fodder for understanding ourselves and what matters to us more deeply- from simple desires like wanting to sleep until 10 every day, to something more involved like wanting to learn how to build our own home sustainably, to far larger dreams like leaving a meaningful legacy.

But I Don’t Know What I Want!

When it comes to larger scale dreams, maybe you don’t know what you want. Chances are high that if you’re reading the purpose section you’re possibly feeling a bit stuck and directionless- or at least you want more direction than you currently have! That’s pretty normal. It’s actually not that common for people to sit down and think really hard about their lives. But here you are, doing the work!  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself… we’re going to get there, piece by piece!

Have you ever had the thought that if you knew what you wanted you’d go after it? The thought that clarity is the main thing standing in your way? Perhaps nothing seems to grip you as strongly as you think it should to be worth dedicating yourself to, or you feel you have too many thrilling options and cannot choose, or you’re put off by the expertise and investment required of the things that do tempt you.

Author Barbara Sher’s book, “I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was,” explores the idea that not knowing what we want is actually a sign of hidden resistance. She wrote that the key to overcoming the resistance is to uncover the resistance, which you can trigger pretty clearly through taking action towards any of the things you think you want. When we start acting on a goal our fears can sprout up as complaints or excuses. Sher says that confronting these head on is essential to moving forward.

And, fear is a complex beast. While excavating it yourself is absolutely useful, it can be substantially helpful to get guidance and support from others when it comes to addressing it. Friends, mentors, family, and professionals like therapists or career counselors can be wonderful resources. Check out the Purpose Support page to learn more. 

You can do the above Fear Fallacies exercise once you generate some dreams and desires to plug into it. But first, let’s try to piece together some of the potential dreams that matter to you.

Keep in mind the value of experimentation. While we’re going to do some reflection exercises to seek out some buried dreams and desires to consider exploring, a huge part of determining what brings you joy and what you want is actively experimenting with different things.  Broadening your experience by doing things you never considered could lead to many delightful surprises. If after doing the activities below you still feel you’d like to increase the size of your list, make sure you visit the experimentation section and try some of the activities there.

Dreams and Desires Activities

Get access to ALL the dreams & desires exercises in The Purpose Workbook

The Purpose Workbook has 6 beautifully designed resources dedicated to dreams and desires. Print out the Purpose Workbook to use as you read along.

If you only do two exercises, do these two:

Writing about your perfect day can point you towards the things you really enjoy and care for. This exercise provides guiding questions to help you craft and understand your ideal day.

Obituaries can be short (typically one paragraph in length) and tend to briefly describe the life of the deceased and name important events, relationships, accomplishments, or characteristics. Writing your own imaginary obituary at the end of a long life can put you in the frame of mind to consider what the most important things to accomplish in your life are for you. For a longer exploration of this idea, try the Eulogy Exercise.

Other dreams and desires-related exercises:

Fear Fallaces

Pursuing what we want can be challenging. Our reasons for not taking action have a wide range. Underneath a great many “reasons” exists a playground of fears holding us back from taking action or considering more deeply what is possible. “Fear narratives” are our beliefs about ourselves, the world around us, how that world works, and even other people that are often based in fear and limit our options.

This exercise will help you examine your beliefs and the fears that likely correspond with them, empowering you to dispute them and create more possibilities for cultivating purpose.

To do this exercise:

  • Access it through the Purpose Workbook
  • Or learn more about and find exercises for Fear Fallacies here
  • Use the summary below to make up your own version

Here’s the gist of the exercise: 

Choose a dream or desire that you have not started (or at least feel a bit stuck on or haven’t made progress on in a while). Force yourself to actively work on pursuing your dream for an entire hour (or even half an hour). Note all the reasons that pop into your head about why it won’t work or you can’t do it. Do your best to translate your reasons to a core fear about yourself or the way the world works. Do you notice any patterns?

Excavating Dreams & Desires

Just as with our interests, our dreams and desires may be vessels for deeper, less obvious needs. It’s important to investigate what is underneath our dreams and desires so we may choose to prioritize the ones that will bring us the greatest fulfillment (rather than functioning as a band-aid.)

To do this exercise:

  • Access it through the Purpose Workbook
  • Use the summary below to make up your own version

Here’s the gist of the exercise: 

Make a list of all the things a dream or desire might give you if it were actualized. Would you experience joy, love, intimacy, freedom? Would it help you feel accepted, lovable, or worthy? Try to be honest with yourself and identify where your desires are dictated more by insecurity or love- or what the mix is at large.

Why x 5

Exploring where a desire or dream came from and why it’s important to us can inform whether or not we want to pursue it. Use this exercise to better understand why you want something.

To do this exercise:

  • Access it through the Purpose Workbook
  • Use the summary below to make up your own version

Here’s the gist of the exercise: 

Choose a dream or desire. Ask yourself why you want it. Then ask why you want the answer you came up with (or simply ask why of the answer if that applies better). Do this five times and see what insight you gain. The intention is to ask why in a nested way- rather than come up with 5 independent whys.

Clarify Narratives Values Interests Dreams Strengths Impact Align: Experimentation

Purpose The Gist of Purpose Parts of Purpose Purpose Fundamentals Purpose in Context Purpose as your Work Should You Quit Your Job Purpose Myths Hindrances to Purpose Benefits of Purpose Passion The Purpose Journey Clarify your Purpose Align with your Purpose Support your Purpose Purpose Practice and Exercises Purpose Resources