A dream is a goal with a deadline. What’s yours?

pen n paper Pictures, Images and Photos

Many years back, I attended a course which had a very interesting exercise that gave me a fresh perspective on life, which I want to share with you here.

How old are you? Whatever be your age, round it off to the next nearest multiple of 5. For example, if you are 23, round it off to 25. If you are 48, round it off to 50, If you are 32, round it off to 35 and so on.

Done? Good. Now divide the result by 5. (Don’t tell me you need a calculator for that—but if you do don’t worry, use it! This is not a test of your math skills—So relax!

Now take an A4 size paper and a pencil. Keep the paper horizontally and draw two lines across, parallel to each other. Divide the first line the same number of parts as the above result. (Your age rounded off to nearest multiple of 5, divided by 5) Relax—this is not a Geometry test either!

You now have your life in 5 year segments on a piece of paper.

What we were asked to do was to write out THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT and significant events in ` that time zone. For example

0-5 years—what were the three most important events in your life? What do you remember?

5-10 years: What were the most three significant events that shaped your life?

We continued this way, (10-15 years, 15-20 years, 20-25 years and so on) till we reached out current age. Most of us could not remember any ‘significant or life changing events’ between ages of 0-10. For most of us, graduating or completing a post graduation and getting a job were the most important events between the ages of 20-25. After 25, for many it was marriage and birth of children. For some buying a vehicle and buying a house featured prominently too. Some had lost near and dear ones. One had given up a corporate career and completely turned her life around. For another it was a painful divorce from a difficult marriage. But for most, the milestones were all very similar.

Somehow mapped out on that bit of paper, our lives summed up so precisely, so pointedly had made us all think. Where were we heading? Was that all there is to life? Getting educated, Getting a job, finding a life partner, having kids, building a house –running through life like a race to reach the next level, and each time you reach what you think is the finish line, it has moved—and Lo behold, you have a new finish line to chase!

Then we were asked to reflect on what we really want out of life and what is the price that we are willing to pay for it? What was it that gave you inner peace and joy? There was a very senior executive who nearly broke down in tears after this exercise as he had been a workaholic, working like a maniac from 8:00 a.m to 11:30 p.m, working even on week-ends. He said his children were grown up now and he really regretted not spending time with them when they were children. He was rich, successful, on top of his career and very unhappy, discontented and lonely.

On the second line we were now asked to map the rest of our lives, on a presumption that we’ll live up to 70. We were asked to write specifically what we want to achieve, no matter how impossible it may sound. It again made us all think so much. It forced us to define our terms, our goals, our hopes, our aspirations. It kind of gave us a direction.

I remember reading somewhere that a Dream is a goal with a deadline. This exercise made me realise it was precisely that and yes it is possible to make your dreams come true.

This exercise helped me immensely. It motivated me, made me think, made me determined to turn my dream into a goal. Somehow when a deadline ticks, one spurs into action—at least I do. Most of us do not push ourselves. We are happy to drift along, like a sea weed, going where the current takes us, along with the flow. It’s always harder to swim against the current—but the important and noteworthy thing is, you are going where you want to go.

Take half an hour off and do this exercise. Write down the events that have shaped your life. Reflect, think and decide where you want to go. Believe me, there’s something so definitive about putting it down on a paper—it is indeed different from just thinking the same thing in your head. Do it--It’s your gift to yourself.

And if you share your thoughts, as always, I’m listening.


  1. Wow! Here I was asking the universe to listen to me and lo! I have you who is ready to listen :)

    I'll do the exercise and will let you know Preeti, though I already know what I'm yearning for.
    Beautiful post as always. Each one of your post gets me to reflect and tells me 'Move on woman!'

    How are you doing?

  2. "Most of us do not push ourselves. We are happy to drift along, like a sea weed, going where the current takes us, along with the flow. It’s always harder to swim against the current—."

    Were u talking abt me Preethi????
    or were u talking to me?????

    Thank U for the post!!!!!

  3. ahh good to see ur post again...
    This is one excersise which i really do not have the guts to do...
    Ahh so many things not done in life, so much missed out, so much pain and relif and the happiness....
    Well i guess i hav got to do it sometime...

  4. hi,nice blog keep it up.

  5. Preethi, like Enigma...said. this one exercise that needs a lot of guts to do....I am in that plane where...I know what i want but am so petrified of acheiving it. It's not failiure that frightens me. Failiure is somehow soothing. I am horrified of success...becuase where do i go next???

  6. I turened 25 last year.. Something I was dreading cos I was nt sure if I had lived my life well. I made a list and I realised I hav nt fared bad, and I have made a 23 item list for this year (i dont want to jinx them calling them resolutions!! :P). This exercise actually helps us do a lot more!! thanks... :)

  7. Thanks for sharing....

    Anthony robbins states you write your own obituary column and then work towards it...

  8. Great exercise, Preeti; I'll be sure to try that one.

    On a side note, may I ask if you had nice Valentine's Day? Did your wonderful man do something nice for you?

    T and I took her parents (who were married 66 years ago on V Day) out to dinner and then spent the last part of the evening together snuggled up on a blanket looking at the stars...


  9. Nice one Preeti. Dreams yes, Deadlines no. There's already enough of deadlines in life - sometimes life can turn on a dime; so broad plans are OK, but tight deadlines ? I would rather not !

  10. Great post! Would do the exercise for sure...!
    I turned 25 this year and I remember I was more sad than happy on my bday! Don't exactly know why but I got a feeling that time is running out fast.

    And to top it all, It was that finally time has come for being forced to meet guys for an arranged marriage! :-(

  11. Cool exercise

    Made me think a lot about my life

  12. Pesto: Yes--it made me think a lot too.

    Akanksha: n arranged marriage might sometimes be the best thing! Satish and I met because our parents insisted we do--and looking back I am thankful they did!

    Ramesh: Sometimes deadlines do give you that gentle nudge to convert dreams to reality--else they remain just dreams. I remember how I went and did para-gliding,( something that i always wanted to do but kept finding excuses not to)only after I put up a 'list of things to be done before December 2007', on my cupboard where I could see it everyday!

    Scotty: Wow! What a lovely thing to do on Valentines.(Both stargazing and taking her parens out) As for us, we're relocating and in the middle of shipping our stuff.Its crazy.But so darn sweet both dad and son got roses for the girls even the midst of al the packing, moving and sending stuff--and we exchanged flirty text messages :)

    Sunder:Thats a very interesting perspective--writing ones on obituary.

  13. 25yearold: Well--you have your whole life ahead! And anyway, its not a 'i-have-to-do-this-or-I'm-finished' kind of thing.Its meant to just kind of give and idea as to where one si heading.

    Shalini: Hmmm...Sometimes I guess the joy is in chasing not the actual getting of it, right? But i guess life always gives you options and takes the strangest turns.


    Enigma: Somehow it helped me--sometimes we just switch off and not rally look at things.This one forced me to. The main thing here is that one should not have regrets for want of trying--thats all.

    Reflections: Well--i'm like that sometimes too :P So actually I was talking about me!!! :-) Glad you could relate though! At least i have company!

    Still thinking: i think i know too!;-) I'm doing good.In the maddening process of relocating!

  14. Why does the second line look shorter than the first one..eekk!This is a good excersise...and i'm happy to report..I'm doing the one thing I wanted to do all my life!....see you soon!

  15. Very interesting exercise... thanks for sharing it PS. Will talk to the hubby abt this and hopefully we ll do the exercise together..

    n have u noticed thing abt dreams...the ones we realize n fulfill no more mean that much n the ones that remain unfulfilled...seem like significant unfulfilled things...that ll remain dreams forever!

  16. wow that was a nice exercise let me grab a paper right now

  17. Hey welcome back!!! hope u enjoying in UK. I have done this exercise in one of the workshops i attended during college days!! But i guess I forgot about it the day after..will try doing it once again!!

  18. Good one..sounds pretty thought provoking exercise. I will surely do it. thanks for sharing it.

  19. I'm one of those seaweed types too! So this should be a good exercise for me..will try it out! Nice one! :) Thanks

  20. good one will try it out.but i think flowing with the current is also impt so it does not create waves and disturb the rest..

    i feel life is worth when we slow down enjoy each moment and is aware of its passing by..

  21. Rm: Having a deadline does not mean rushing through things!! It just means you have a direction and a goal. Obviously if there is a deadline for a thing like 'Do bungee jumping by end of 2008' then you are not going to spend each day rushing through things because bungee jumping is on your list!!!

    Wannabe: My pleasure

    Life begins:Glad you found it useful

    Chirpy paro: In transit--not yet there. :)

    Monika ::-)

    Pavi: Dunno about unfulfilled dreams! Mine seem to come true--touch wood.

    Niall; Yes my friend!!! See you soooooooooon!!!! So glad you're there!

  22. Beautiful post...

    I know of the short term goals... still...
    I will also do this exercise and get back to you :)


  23. Preeti,
    Good to see your post!
    And it is a great one. I will defenitely try this exercise, Having a deadline for fulfilling our dreams be it small or big, will certainly result in contentmet.
    Have you watched the movie The Bucket list?!!!

  24. writing it down does make it more real, like carving it in stone

    good exercise, thanks

  25. Extremely thought provoking. It makes sense to stop and re-think, where we have come and where is it that we are headed.

    But at times there are things that we want to do, but it's just not the right time to do it,or it does not make practical sense doing it...I guess it's at times like these that we postpone doing all that we know will bring us happiness...

    But your post tells me to keep in mind always that even though it might not be the right time, it still needs to be done sometime.. :-)

    I Wish you a happy and safe journey :-)

  26. Anonymous4:10 PM


    I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be very good.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘Just a mother of two
    ’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

    BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run www.rambhai.com where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

    This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)


  27. Preeti,

    Very effective way for introspection and planning for future. Thanks for sharing it. It is good to be highly successful and rich but at what cost? Definitely not at the cost of enjoying moments which will never return, like spending time with children. I have no regrets for not being rich materially but cherish memories enjoyed with family and now with grandchildren.

    I am still waiting for your reply to my question about your f i l.

    Take care

  28. It's a great exercise indeed. Made me reflect quite a bit :) Its good to ask ourselves "where are we heading" every now and then so that we don't head in the wrong direction. Thanks. BTW, I finally grabbed a copy of your book - am resisting hopping on to it from another book that I am currently reading :)

  29. SS: :) Am sure you'll like my book as most of them are from my blog posts itself.

    Ray:Thank-you. My blog already has a world ranking in Technorati, and also many sites in India have listed it among their top blogs. My book too which is doing extremely well, is actually based on my blog and has got terrific media reviews. Am flooded with fan mails on a daily basis and struggle to reply to them. So at the moment really not looking for more publicity!

    Jack: Sorry about missing that.My FIL never used his surname Shenoy while he was in the Air-Force and nobody knows his surname.So there is no chance of it being the same person.

    Stillness speaks: thank you! Will be in touch once we settle down a bit.

    Nessa: very true--thanks.

    Durga:Yes--and i totally LOVED it!

    Chinmayi:Thank you!

  30. I'd be lying if I said this post doesn't hurt a bit.. because it showed me exactly what I didn't want to know... just how I've wasted some beautiful years of my life in mindless work, given up so many dreams which I'll never get back.

  31. It's always good to try to be as clear as possible about where we come from and where we'reheading. Timelines in particular are very good at doing that and it's an exercise I made with many of my clients.

  32. Nice post and a great excersice. :)

    Something that everyone shud do many a times, at each turining may be. As for me, It's become almost a practice to stop in bw and look back to see if this is the same route that I want to head on with.

    And right now when am going ahead to do all that I had fantasised as a kid, this post comes in as a hands up from a known one, as if telling me that I really can go on hehehe...

    I guess what is most important is to feel great about ourselves at the end of the day - end of a lifetime!

  33. hey 1st belated valentine day wishes !
    hope you have settled in your new home :)

    And what an eye opening post !
    Really good :)
    would do as adviced
    take care

  34. Meenu: In the process..Thank you :)

    Sandya: Very well said!! Its so true--if at the end of the day we all feel the day has been well lived, thats all what matters.

    Devil Mood:It indeed is a great exercise.

    Dr.Roshan:I'd look at it differently.I'd say what you have been thtough has been an eye opening learning experience--and it makes you value what younow have.You are a better and a more aware person because you went through it. Think about it.

  35. I have this habit of writing down to-do list. When its achieved, the other things get added up. One way, it helps us to do what we want--a constant reminder.

  36. hi.. i actually was referring to the list of things i hav always wanted to do, and one tends to postpone thinking we have our whole life... i hav taken up a few of them for now.. :)

  37. Hi Preethi,

    To be honest i am deeply touched and if you don't consider this flattery - Impressed - by the fact that someone who perhaps has once in her lifetime achieved the pinnacles is so rooted to earth that she believes her biggest accomplishment is to be a mother of two. Urban metropolitan life today has somewhere made us insensitive towards most of our so called soft insides and i deeply regret losing my sensitive side to Mumbai and its shining arch lights.

    Thanks to you, i got mist eyelashes again ! Will be grateful to you to make me realize the HUMANE nature of humans and the power of compassion and simplicity.

    I would now say..if you would ever want to speak pr spread your word around, you have one partner for the same.

    Keep up the good work.

  38. Hi Preethi,

    Good exercise...

    A Dream is a goal with a deadline...it really makes you think...

    Thanks preethi for sharing..

  39. Awwww....the ultimate motorcyclist is so sweet:-)).

    Came here to ask if everything went off as scheduled.

    Best wishes, tek care,

  40. Hi,

    I simply loved the idea of the exercise. I would definitely act as the "path correction" or rather a "deviation realisation" session.

    I heard a lot about you from Varun. I read few chapters from your maiden book "34 Bubblegums and Candies", which made me a fan of your writing.

    Shall I add your blog to my blog list? You are always open to visit mine and give your precious comments[which I would be waiting for]

    luv 'n' luk
    Arnab Chakraverty

  41. m gonna do IT r8 now :D

  42. Wow! Some exercise that was! Really tough to resist the temptation of making up stuff just so one time period doesnt look bare as compared to the others! But it really gave me a LOT of insight on all that i have done and all that still remains to be done.
    Great post. Keep up d good work. Good luck!

  43. Today's writer: Thank oyu.It was indeed an eye opening exercise for me too.

    Wildflower: It does change your perspective;Hope you found it insightful.

    Arnab: Thanks so much! Do add my blog--you don't even have to ask!:)

    Reflections: Still in the tiresome process--but yeah all good! Thanks for asking :)

    Marina:my pleasure.

  44. Ultimate motorcyclist:Thanks for those fabulous compliments.The name 'just a mother of two' was actually a joke :P But yes--I do consider bringing up my children to be good human beings more important than making money or achieving fame.

    25 year old: A thought--next year will you change your name to 26 year old? :P :)

    Manasa: if we didnt have that we'd have nothing to look forward to--right?

  45. Oh my God - I cannot believe the timing of me finding this post. All day today I have been thinking along the same line. I will do the exercise. Thanks Preeti - love your timing :)

  46. Its quite a thought provoking post which leaves you in an introspective mood.

  47. I read this post the same day you posted it but somehow missed commenting on it. The exercise looks great. I'll ask my dad to do it first and will then try it out myself :)

    And when did you change Ps to Preeti Shenoy. Ps sounded so cool :)

    How is the cold UK treating you? How are the kids finding it?

  48. nice post madame ...really liked it ....iam just at the start of my career,and yes money is one of the things that seems important to me at this stage,and even though many people have told me otherwise i refuse to give it a little less importance....i did do the exercise.....i have a preety long list looks like ...thanks and take care ..godbless

  49. Its true deadlines help us push ourselves and work better but sometimes they're pressurizing too...


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