100 Dreams: Design Your Life
When my first manager (the amazing Jeff Lepine) told our team that we’d be doing an exercise where we listed out 100 dreams we had, I didn’t realize that it would be so transformative.
It’s a simple exercise on the surface, but since crafting that list a few years ago, it has provided the framework for how I design my life and pursue experiences that bring me joy.
It’s easy to get started. Just sit down and list out 100 dreams you have (they don’t need to be in any particular order).
Get to 100
I’ll admit, it was daunting at first — how could I possibly have a hundred dreams? That’s a ton!
But you need to get to 100, even if it takes a while! Why?
The first set of dreams you list are probably going to be big in scope and might take a while to realize — if ever. Will I ever be awarded a MacArthur genius grant (#28)? Will I ever go into space (#18)? I’m not sure, though both would surely be incredible.
But as I worked through the list and got past the first ~30 dreams, many of them started becoming more actionable: hike 20 miles in a day (#89), cure my own meat/charcuterie (#63).
Some dreams have taken a lot more work than others: get a master’s degree (#7) took a solid 4 years.
But by the time I wrote the full set of 100 dreams, I had a balance of dreams that might take a few months (or years) and dreams that I could do in a single day, like invent my own recipe (#62)!
Allow for serendipity
While I love having some dreams that I can influence, some of my favorite dreams on the list are dependent on circumstances mostly outside my control: find something rare (#75), witness a natural phenomenon (#28), see molten lava in a volcano (#60).
I was able to drive from Seattle to Oregon to see a total solar eclipse to cross off one of those dreams, but I still haven’t found a rare artifact or seen molten lava — I’ll have to keep beach combing and strategically time a trip to Hawaii or Iceland. I can try to put myself in favorable circumstances but ultimately I have to let the universe run its course.
Strike a balance between flexible and actionable — and consider separating out your principles
When I looked at some of the dreams I had written out, many of the learning-related dreams were somewhat broad. Even after taking classes in certain topics for years and getting fairly proficient, I realized it was hard to say if I had truly “learned” it — it was too hard to define mastery. So I took a pass through the list and rephrased some of my dreams to be more specific and actionable. Learn a non-Romance language became take advanced classes in a non-Romance language (#5).
Other dreams, however, I chose to keep open-ended. I knew I wanted write something impactful (#56), but I wasn’t sure what format that would take. Maybe a book, maybe an article, maybe a screenplay.
So I wrote a lot, and I put it all out into the world to see what resonated. I kept it broad, and when someone wrote me an email out of the blue telling me how useful they found an article I had written — and that it helped them successfully land a job, I decided that was my sign that I had written something impactful.
I also noticed that in the first draft of my list, some of the dreams were actually more like general life principles (make time for things that matter, always be learning). I want to be reminded of them frequently, but they’re not something I’m ever going to declare as done and cross off the list — they will be a continuous part of my life. So I separated those into a “principles” section of my document and added more dreams to get back to 100.
Whenever I revisit my list, I look at my set of principles and reflect on whether there are any specific dreams or things I can do in my day-to-day that ladder up to those principles.
Revisit and evolve
One thing I’ve always found frustrating about bucket lists is the feeling that it’s just one more to-do list to add to the stack that will make me feel bad if I don’t cross everything off. I already have enough of those in my daily life!
The 100 Dreams list was a mental shift for me. Listing out my dreams was more of an exercise in thinking about what would bring joy into my life — not what I needed to accomplish.
Each time I cross off a dream, I add a new one to keep it at 100. This takes the pressure off. I’ll never get everything done if I always keep adding to it, and that’s the point!
I know I’m not going to do everything on the list, and I also know that the list will evolve fluidly. I go back to it every year or so and take things out (guilt-free!) that don’t seem aligned with where I am or what inspires me in life right now.
Some dreams have stayed consistent from year to year, but some fade away — maybe they’ll inspire me again later and I’ll re-add them, or maybe not.
Either way, that’s okay, because I’m growing and changing along with my dreams.
I’m a believer in living with purpose and intention, and the 100 Dreams list has helped me design my life around seeking out experiences that will bring me joy and fulfillment.
This list has taken me to incredible places, helped me learn new things, and allowed me to continuously reflect on the kind of person I want to be and the life I want to live.
Now go write your list!