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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

Dreamlining and Smart Goals

In a recent post we discussed SMART goals, what they are, and what a good SMART goal looks like. To review, a SMART Goal should be:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Actionable by us

R – Relevant & Realistic

T – Time Limited

“That’s all well and good,” you say, “but how do I decide on what my SMART goal should be?” Great question…. and we have the answer!

An important focus here at Inspired Living Projects is value based living. So hopefully, you will pick a goal that is meaningful for you. This will provide some motivation to complete your goal, and generally feel good because you know you are living your life according to your values!

There are many ways that we can figure out what is important to us… but today we’re going to experiment with something called “Dreamlining”.

I [Ryan] first encountered Dreamlining a couple of years ago when I read Tim Ferris’ fantastic book: The 4-Hour Work Week (Check out his blog, and the book, its well worth the read!!! He always has a lot of interesting stories, great competitions, and is always willing to share. NOTE: No commissions here, its just a really good book and site). Dreamlining is exactly what you might think. What are your dreams??

In the book, dreamlines are broken down into 3 categories:

  1. Things to want

  2. Things to be

  3. Things to do

A critical element in dreamlining is to make the goals Time Limited. The book offers up 6-month and twelve month goals… but the greater the time constraint the greater the imposed focus.

For our purposes we are going to focus on 5 things to beboth because on the surface they are closely related to value statements and because they can often be the most difficult to translate into action. Grab a pen and paper and lets get started.


Imagine you have 100 million dollars in the bank and you simply cannot fail at what you choose to set your mind to. What are 5 things you want to be? Think big. I know, SMART goals are supposed to be “realistic”, but the first thing we want is something that is “relevant”, and is going to provide motivation to push through the road bumps that you are bound to encounter along the way.

Examples might include: “Be a great guitarist”, “Be a great chef”, “Be a great parent”

Something like “Be Happy” is so vague as to be completely unreachable… what does that even mean??


Alright, so now you’ve figured out there are several things you want to be. Which one is the most important to you… right now!!! To help you along, I’m going to play along…

I choose “Be a great guitarist”


This is really the “meat” of the post…. “Be a great guitarist” is still a very vague goal. What does it mean to be a great guitarist?? We need to turn Being into Action.

One of my favourite bands is The Tragically Hip, and I really like the style of Paul Langlois and Rob Baker. Still, it is a rather large undertaking to just say I’m gonna play guitar like they do… but maybe you have a “set” in mind. Two of my favourite songs from The Hip are “Boots or Hearts” and “38 Years Old”.

But, for now, I am going to convert “Be a great guitarist” into “Play Boots or Hearts”.

Still, that’s seems like a pretty inspiring goal, fairly large, especially if you’ve never played the guitar before.


Playing Boots or Hearts is still a rather large goal… so how do we break it down further? Well, lets suppose that I have never picked up a guitar in my life… What are the steps I need to take?

Take lessons to learn guitar basics

Get sheet music to learn boots or hearts

Practice a lot!

Again, we getting closer, we still have a ways to go. Lets start writing these out as SMART goals with tight deadlines against which we can check our progress.

Take Guitar Lessons = Call local music centre to arrange rental or purchase of a guitar and first lesson, right now (first thing tomorrow if its too late). This is specific, measurable (did I do it or not), actionable by me (I can call when I want), relevant/realistic (I can make a phone call), and time limited (right now).

Get Sheet Music = Go to local music centre and purchase boots or hearts tabs, or go online and download them, right now.

Practice = Because this is a repeated action, our SMART goal becomes a little different. How often are you willing / motivated to practice? How often are you getting lessons? My Time Limited goal is to be able to play “Boots or Hearts” in 3 months. That’s the overarching goal… so lets turn that into shorter check points.

I will practice 3 times per week for 30 minutes each day. 

I am now well on my way to being a great guitarist.


To review lets talk about the SMART goal and each of the sub-goals in this Dreamline.

  1. Be a Great Guitarist in 3 months = Play Boots or Hearts by Tragically Hip in 3 months

  2. Play Boots or Hearts in 3 months = Get Guitar Lessons, Get Guitar, Get Sheet Music, Practice for 3 months

  3. Get Guitar Lessons = Call music centre today, book first lesson

  4. Get Guitar = Call music centre today, rent or buy equipment

  5. Get Sheet Music = Download Sheet music, right now

  6. Practice for 3 months = Practice 3 times / week for 30 minutes

The key element in all of these is MAKE IT ACTIONABLE RIGHT NOW! Even weekly practice is broken down into 30 minute practice sessions. Its something measurable, realistic, immediate, and its an action that is directed towards completing your larger goal.


The last thing to think about, is what happens when you encounter road bumps, or you don’t achieve your SMART goals.

Time to problem solve. What when wrong? Why were you not able to complete that step? What got in the way? Was the goal to big? Ratchet it down to make it an achievable goal.

Maybe I can’t practice 30 minutes 3 times a week but i can devote 3 hours on the weekend? Not ideal, spreading out practice seems to be more beneficial, but if that is achievable when 3 times a week is not. Use it!

As Tim Ferriss put it “Dreamlining will be fun and it will be hard” but if you really look to your values, than think of how you want to be in the world, it will come. Using SMART goals will help you break it down to a definable set of actions that you can actually complete! Short time limits will inspire action and help you create manageable, individual steps.

So get out there and Live your Dreams!

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