My list of 100 dreams.

My list of 100 dreams.

For almost 5 years, I’ve been trying to complete an exercise I first read about in Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think: create a personal list of 100 dreams.

The idea is this: to help you think through how you want to spend your time (in the big-picture sense) brainstorm an unedited list of anything you want to do (or want to do more of) in your life.

I made my first attempt right after reading the book for the first time back in 2011. It was harder than I thought: I only put 27 items on my list.

I’ve made a couple of stabs at a full 100-item list since then. For some reason, this exercise has been on my mind recently, and when we prepped for our big drive down to Florida last week, I packed a legal pad and a pen and warned Will this was happening (and that I needed his ideas).

(This wasn’t actually all that unusual: we have a long history of talking Crazy Talk in the car.)

Logging 10.5 hours in the car (even when split over two days) has an upside: I did it.

There’s no way I’m posting the full list here (we could call it “too much typing,” but “too much vulnerability” is probably more like it) but today I’m sharing a snippet.

Here’s the deal: grab a pen and some paper and start writing. Don’t edit yourself, but I would encourage you to go for experiences over material things, and to think about the local stuff as well as the once-in-a-lifetime big experiences. I tried to keep things relatively concrete and measurable (as opposed to “experience world peace,” for example).

I divided my list into 3 sections to make brainstorming easier, and I’m preserving those categories here:

A selection from my list of 100 dreams:

Personal

  1. Host dinner parties. Or start/join a supper club.
  2. Steward a Little Free Library.
  3. Take art classes.
  4. Go away for a girls’ weekend.
  5. Get really familiar with our local parks system. I want to know the trails like the back of my hand.
  6. Learn to use chopsticks. (I try, but I am terrible.)
  7. Plant a garden bursting with tulips.
  8. And a garden bed spilling over with zinnias.
  9. Find and perfect a signature dish.
  10. Learn to dance (ballroom, swing, I don’t even know).
  11. Do a pull-up.

Travel

  1. Visit the Pacific Northwest with the kids.
  2. And the California coast with the kids.
  3. Visit the Abbey of Gethsemani (local to us, but we’ve never been).
  4. And Mammoth Cave with the kids (also local, but I haven’t been since I was a kid).
  5. Revisit the International Wine Festival in Budapest (Will and I just happened to be in town for this the last time we were in Europe, and it was magical).
  6. Visit a ton of indie bookstores: Powell’s, Parnassus, the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, and any others we happen to be near or can manage to get to.
  7. Take a small town road trip (definitely inspired by our recent experience).
  8. Visit the Grand Canyon.
  9. And at least five other national parks. (I’ve only been to Mt. Rainer …)
  10. Take the kids to Europe.
  11. Take an architecture tour in Barcelona.

Professional

  1. Write a few real book reviews. (I write about books a lot, but I rarely write formal reviews.)
  2. Develop stellar interview skills.
  3. Go on a writing retreat or take a formal writing class.
  4. Write some poetry as a skill-building exercise.
  5. Write a nonfiction book.
  6. And a novel.
  7. Write a long-form piece and publish it somewhere.
  8. Become an expert at something.
  9. Learn to take great photos.
  10. And edit them.
  11. Support others in their work in tangible, practical ways.

Want to make your own list? Please do! And tell me a few things you would put on YOUR list in comments. 

Books mentioned in this post:

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40 comments

  1. If I wrote a list of 100 dreams, I’d definitely have to only share a selection. But it might not be just about vulnerability…more that not everything is right for public consumption. And that some of my dreams involve other people whose stories aren’t mine to tell.

  2. Lindsay says:

    The crazy car talks..yes! We live in Michigan and our parents live in FL and Idaho. Which means lots of road time. I love how a long road trip gives you the space to talk about the deep stuff. I feel so connect to my husband after a long trip.
    Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your goals. Many of the same would appear on my list. For the record, I have a signature dish that’s easy and a crowd pleaser-chicken Marsala and risotto. This year, I am working on making it gluten free with rice flour to dust the chicken.
    I find it really daunting to write out my dreams. It’s probably a mix of feeling vulnerable and making the time and head space. This book has been on my TBR list forever. I’ve got a road trip coming up with just the husband (!!). I’ll have to bring a notepad along this time.
    As always, thanks for sharing.

  3. Kate Unger says:

    Great list! It’s a good mix of immediately doable things and long term goals. I think I’d have a hard time hitting 100 too. Just a few ideas: learn about wine, go to Portland, update my blog design, spend a weekend alone at home, meet Rainbow Rowell, go to London, get an ARC to review, go to BEA next year, make friends with a few new couples in town…

    • Karen says:

      Definitely the downtown Portland site. Beaverton is nice, but doesn’t have the same “feel” as the flagship store.
      Plus you’re very close for the gondola ride up to OHSU…

  4. Steve says:

    Oh! I just love this idea 🙂 I am so with you on the indie bookstore visits— My mom recently asked if I would be interested in traveling with her to Portland next month to visit a new client of hers and there was definitely NO hesitation in saying “YES!” And since she’ll be working, I won’t have to worry too much about spoiling mother-daughter time by spending most of our stay roaming the shelves at Powell’s.

  5. Lori says:

    This is so good! I love seeing some of your list and on a few of them I think “oh, I would want that too!” (a garden with zinnias, for example). Thinking through this and writing it down really puts intentional living in the forefront of your mind and can often give you a little push to take on a few of these dreams.

    On a sort of related note, I keep thinking of your list from the winter of things that are saving my life right now. I had one for that and just recently added another one. (1) changing the light bulbs in the kitchen to daylight type rather than soft white light. We did this last year and it made a huge difference in being able to see well in our somewhat dark kitchen and even in the darkness of winter, having that bright daylight light really helps! The best part is is accidentally chose those light bulbs at the store but it’s turned out to be just what we needed. (2) We’ve always meal planned and that’s so helpful of course, but for the last three weeks I’ve went a step further. For each day I write down what each person in the family is eating for dinner so I know what to prepare when I get home from work. And I think through the meals and determine if we can do any prep work ahead of time (like the night before or the morning of). It’s not that we didn’t do prep work before but having it thought out so thoroughly and writing it down makes it clear to both my husband and I and gives us a boost in taking care of more dinner prep in the evening for the next night. Putting some extra work in then, saves us the next night and gives us more time as a family. I do feel like I’ve gone overboard with the meal planning and lists but it is truly saving my life right now and I am secretly so proud of myself for accepting my natural ability to plan like this.

  6. Jenn says:

    Under travel; Visit other towns libraries. I always make my husband do this when we travel. I would like to see some that are in big cities like Chicago or New York.

    It scares me to write down my dreams. I’m not real good at dream building and it makes me a bit sad to think about never accomplishing them. It’s a question of what holds us back? Isn’t it.

    • Lazyretirementgirl says:

      What a wonderful idea! I always visit farmers markets when we travel in the U.S., but never thought of libraries. Thank you.

    • Karen says:

      My cousin (who is a librarian) just finished riding her bicycle across America. Along the way she visited every library she could. It was fun to see the pictures she posted.

  7. Hannah says:

    My real desire is to be open to whatever comes next, because all the best things I’ve done, or that have happened to me, have felt like serendipity. I want to be ready.

  8. Cathy says:

    I love the idea and I NEED this idea! My husband and I are dropping off our middle child for her freshman year of college on Saturday. All week, I have been trying to think of ideas of things to talk about with my husband for the 3.5 hour trip home as we try not to bawl our eyes out 🙂 This will definitely help!

  9. Girl in Boston says:

    They make chopsticks for kids where the top part is connected. It makes them a little easier to handle!

    I made a list in college at the suggestion of a professor. It is interesting how things once important are dropping off my list and the new things that I am adding instead.

  10. Lee Ann says:

    When (not if) you visit the Grand Canyon, you can easily visit five Utah national parks, all of which are pretty close to GC:

    Zion – http://www.nps.gov/zion
    Bryce Canyon – http://www.nps.gov/brca
    Capitol Reef – http://www.nps.gov/care
    Arches – http://www.nps.gov/arch
    Canyonlands – http://www.nps.gov/cany

    You can fly into either Las Vegas or Phoenix, depending on which park you want to see first, rent a car, and make a loop. I’ve been to all of these, except for Canyonlands and Capitol Reef; they’re all different and all spectacular.

    This trip, IMO, is best in late spring or early fall. Roads can be closed around Bryce Canyon in the winter, and summer is just too hot to really enjoy seeing much of anything.

  11. Suzanne says:

    I’ve been to the Abbey. It was rich and meaningful and quiet. The grounds are lovely and the gift shop boasts a great book assortment (are you hooked?) but my favorite thing was their motto that is “silence is spoken here.”

    • Leah says:

      Do you think it would be a bad idea to take my kids (4, 2, and 4 mos) to the Abbey? It sounds lovely, but I’d hate to disturb others who may be there for quiet prayer and meditation…my kids are definitely not quiet! Thanks!

      • Suzanne says:

        I took my kids several years ago when they were probably 9 & 6. There are clearly designated areas where silence is spoken (like the abbey and the dormitories) but the grounds are huge and you can wander quite a bit. We had several adults with us so we did a little divide and conquer so the adults could go participate in vespers while the kids walked around. It is clearly a decision of comfort level. I think My husband was more sensitive to disturbing people with our children’s voices. I would call the bookstore and pose the question about children to get a better idea. I loved it and hope to go back.

  12. Sue says:

    Just went to Powell’s a couple of months ago for my second time…worth the trip…Victoria, Canada is also great since you would be so close.

  13. donna says:

    Great list, Anne! I’m definitely going to work on a list of my own and share it with you when I’m done. I’ll ponder on it this weekend.😊

  14. Dana says:

    My husband and I do a version of your “Crazy Talk” when we travel. We call it “Car Talk” and we have had the best conversations in the car with no other distractions. We do dream talk and also talk about matters dealing with faith or politics or current events or our relationship. It is a great way to reconnect with each other and also declaring your dreams aloud helps them become a bit more concrete.

    Making the list of dreams is something I have done several times in connection with reading the book ” Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher, which I have read and re-read a number of times. It is a great exercise. The book is really good especially for people who have trouble deciding what to do first.
    Right now my list has 67 things, but I have accomplished some of the things on my earlier lists. My husband and I are going to the mountains for a few days next week. Maybe I will take my list and add to it. The other thing Sher has you do is make a list if all the things you have accomplished and learned so far. This helps you see that you can do many things already and encourages you as you make your list.

    • Dana says:

      I forgot to put things from my list:

      Write and illustrate a children’s book
      Publish my novel ( work in progress)
      Create a piece of art for the gallery at my church.

  15. Great list! I’ve created (and posted) two lists of 100 dreams in the last 5 years. They do change some, but some stuff stays exactly the same. I find it interesting that people would feel nervous about creating such a list. You’re not bound to anything on it – it’s just to give you ideas of things you might want to try. It’s not a to-do list, but it’s sometimes fun to put one or two items on a regular to-do list!

  16. Whitney says:

    I think this is an interesting idea and sounds fun. I also (generally) abide by the advice Shauna Niequist gives in one of her books- have lists of things you don’t do and things you do, because that rings very true for me and my stage in life. I did start writing down some dreams and realized they are all within my “things I do list”. For example, lots of my dreams are related to my home, writing, staying in shape, and my family relationships (things I do). But I have literally no crafty dreams. Or intense sport dreams. And guess what? Crafts, and intense sports (triathlons, marathons) also happen to be on my list of things I don’t do. As I realized this I thought the dichotomy between the different types of lists was interesting. Maybe something similar happened to others as well? Or maybe it would help someone distinguish what dreams really belong to them. emphasis on them.

  17. RobinfromCA says:

    Great post! Now I want to make a list (although 100 might be hard to do) and I want to read that book! I teach music to 1-3 grades in elementary schools so I would really have to think about something to do professionally. There are only so many songs appropriate for 6 year olds. 🙂 I have a lot of travel dreams and things I want learn how to do. I can’t wait to start my list! Thanks!

  18. Audra says:

    What a great challenge! I had doing a photography course on my endless to do list too and just completed an online course with Click Love Grow – highly recommended! We just visited the US and the National Parks were a highlight. Loved Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Yosemite. Best of luck with your list!

  19. Jamie says:

    100 is steep, but doable. Thanks for the push. Some of mine: A weekend at a local Catholic retreat center several friends have told me about, regular solitary walks, more photography, write for a ministry blog about an outreach topic close to my heart. Also? There’s a resource online where, if you submit a video of yourself teaching a fitness class and they accept you, you can choose a resort destination and time where you teach a class a day for a week. If you can get yourself there, you and one guest can stay at the resort free! 15 year anniversary?

  20. Lauren says:

    I have never considered doing this until I read this blog post. I have heard so many people speak of their “Bucket” lists, and I only have a few things that I really long to do before I die so I never compiled an actual list.

    This year my two oldest are away at college and my two youngest are in high school nearly full-time after 8 years of homeschooling. I am facing a very empty house starting next week, and just the thought of it makes me want to cry! Maybe creating a list will give me not only something to do ;0, but help to shift the focus back from doing for others to thinking about what I need and want to create my own happiness. I think I have been too used to getting my happiness from being a part of my kid’s lives and as they grow and move on to their own lives I need to start filling my own.

  21. This is MUCH more difficult than you would expect. I got to 36 with no problem, but it will take me quite some time to get to 100. Do you think writing the list helped you focus your time on what’s really important? I’m pretty sure that was the goal, if I remember correctly. I really enjoyed that book, didn’t you?

    Kenna

    • Anne says:

      I did like the book. I only just wrote the list, so I haven’t had time to see if it has a practical impact on how I spend my time, but I do generally find getting things down on paper where I can see them to make a difference.

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