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I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me

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Action 32

Write down your dreams for the future

Getting clear about our dreams for the future helps us to crystallise our goals and prioritise the things that are really most important to us. It also helps to focus our attention and efforts on the things we can do to make our dreams a reality. And the evidence shows that it can make us happier as as a result.

Why do it?

Psychologists in America have shown that writing about our dreams for the future can help us become happier. They asked people to write about their future - for 20 minutes a day for four days - imagining that everything had turned out well and all their dreams were realized. People that did so were more likely to feel immediately happier (than people writing about other neutral things) and this effect lasted for several weeks. They even felt better physically too.

But isn't this just fantasyland? Are we just setting people up for disappointment? Well it seems not. For those for whom this action worked, it helped them identify what was really important in their life - what they really valued. They weren't just writing a list or daydreaming - they were describing in detail their vision of the future for themselves. They were then able to identify specific goals to work towards. It seemed to help make them feel that it was in their control to work towards the things they wanted.

Where to start

To get the most from this action it is important that you:

  • Write things down
  • Commit to do it for at least 20 minutes a day for at least four days
  • Only try it if you think it will be a meaningful or challenging thing to do

Ready to try it? Ok here goes…

  1. Get set. Get yourself a notebook and a pen (or use your computer). Make sure you can have at least twenty minutes undisturbed. (We have done this action at home, in a café, even on the train).
  2. Imagine. Now imagine yourself in the future - say 5 or 10 years from now - after everything has gone as well as it possibly could from now. You've worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all your life goals and made the most of your talent and potential. Think about all aspects of your life - your home, work, relationships, leisure activities etc.
  3. Start writing. Keep going for 20 minutes, or longer if you want to. Remember - there are no rules to this, just start to describe what comes into your mind about your dreams for the future. No need to try to 'get it right'. There is no right answer. This is for you, no one else need see it.
  4. Continue. Carry on doing this for another three days (or more if you want). You may want to read over what you wrote on previous days and continue from there, getting into more detail or new thoughts may have come to you.
  5. Reflect. After four days look back at everything you've written. What does it tell you about what you really want in life? What would really make you happy? Now, why not set your goals and make them happen.

Enjoy your dreaming!

References

[1] King, L.A. The Health Benefits of Writing about Life Goals. (2001).Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 798-807

[2] Sheldon, K.M. & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006) How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves.The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 73-82

Resources

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Optimism helps us achieve our goals

Research shows that people who are optimistic tend to be happier, healthier and cope better in tough times.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined"
- Henry David Thoreau