How to Make 2011 the Year of Your Dreams

Rather than hoping you'll get lucky, maximize your potential in the coming year by making a conscious effort to think about what you want.

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Curt Rosengren
Imagine looking back one year from now on 2011 and saying, “Wow! What a great ride!” You might get lucky and find the year of your dreams fall in your lap. But if you want to be sure to maximize your potential in the coming year, it will take conscious awareness. And that awareness starts by asking questions.

What would my dream year look like?

Send your internal realist out to lunch and let your internal dreamer run wild. If you could write the script for the year to come, what would it look like? Picture what a rich, fulfilling, rewarding year would look like for your career if you didn’t have that voice saying, “I can’t do that. That’s not possible. That’s not realistic.”

The goal of this question is to expand your scope of possibility. Too many people create false boundaries by trying to “dream realistically.” Instead, think of it as a two-stage process. Expand your universe of possibility with dreams, and then get realistic as you work to turn as much of that dream as possible into reality.

What would success look like?

If your dreams are truly expansive, don’t expect to achieve success within one year. This question scales your focus down to what is achievable in the immediate future. What would success in your career look like for 2011? Challenge yourself to go beyond the inertia of your present path. Stretch yourself.

[See Learn Career Lessons from 2010 to Thrive in 2011.]

What do I see myself doing by the end of 2011?

Do you still see yourself doing what you’re doing now (albeit enhanced by the stretching from the last question)? Is there anything you want to add to the picture? Do you want to refine what you’re doing? Supplement your experiences with something new? Change your path completely? Get specific.

What do I want to do more?

Little in life is absolutely static, and that includes your work. Slow motion job sculpting, or gradual change, is possible through the cumulative results of our choices. If you make even small choices with conscious awareness, they can add up to significant positive change. This question gives you specifics to work with as you move toward that goal.

What do I want to do less?

Sometimes moving in a positive direction means addition by subtraction. You can sculpt your work in a positive way by identifying what you want less and finding ways to reduce it.

What helpful habit can I create?

Dreams and goal-setting are great, but the real source of your career progress in 2011 will be your day-to-day implementation. And much of how those days unfold will be based on an autopilot created by our habits, both good and bad. With that in mind, explore how you can create a positive auto-pilot by nurturing habits that feed your momentum and your potential.

Some examples might be to create a habit of reading a personal development book for 15 to 30 minutes every morning. Or it could involve reaching out and having coffee or a phone conversation with at least one new person in your industry every week. Or it might be simply drinking enough water, which can have a positive impact on your mood and your energy.

[See One Simple Secret to Managing Work Stress.]

What limiting habit can I break?

Most of us have no shortage of limiting habits that constantly apply the brakes as we pursue our potential. Addition by subtraction can have a powerfully positive impact here as well.

What new doors can I open?

My mind boggles at just how much opportunity there is out there. And yet most of us get trapped into thinking that the limited space we can readily see is all there is. The best way to expand our awareness of the potential that life has to offer is to continually look for new doors to open. Those new doors might come in a variety of forms, such as meeting new people, gaining new knowledge, or trying a new experience, such as exploring public speaking.

[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.]

What help do I need? Who can help me? How?

I put this one last, but it might be the most important question of the bunch. If you want to make 2011 a year that’s worthy of looking back on, you’re not going to succeed alone. Creating a career you love is not a solo sport. You need help—and probably lots of it. The more you understand what help you need, the better equipped you’ll be to both recognize that help when it presents itself and identify people to reach out to for support.

None of this is a magic formula. Answering these questions won’t automatically make 2011 the career of your dreams. But the awareness it creates, coupled with consistent, persistent day-by-day implementation, opens the door to possibilities that might otherwise pass you by.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.