Reclaim Your Dreams: An Uncommon Guide To Living On Your Own Terms is a wildly successful e-book by Jonathan Mead. I first stumbled across Jonathan’s work on Zen Habits, where he contributes regular guest posts. As if being featured on one of the most respected blogs on the internet wasn’t enough, Jonathan is also the man behind the amazing content over at Illuminated Mind.
At this point you may be thinking, “What does reclaiming your dreams have to do with personal finance?”
My answer to you is “EVERYTHING.”
For me, striving to eliminate debt and establishing control over my financial life is simply one small piece of the overall puzzle. Financial independence is nothing if you aren’t truly living out your dreams and enabling the dreams of your loved ones. Jonathan’s book not only contains theory that reinforces this believe, but also demonstrates tangible techniques that help accomplish it.
For example, several times each chapter Jonathan takes a break to provide “Exercise” sections, which contain real, actionable material for you to try. Some examples include writing lists, fasting from media, and even creating a “to-stop” list. I, for one, appreciate this kind of direction. All to often personal development books get lost in the fluff. Jonathan has an amazing ability to provide theory that stretches our minds, while still giving us the kick in the pants we need to get rolling.
Reclaim You Dreams!
“This is a declaration of authenticity, an act of spontaneity, and a call to live deliberately.
This is an homage to exploration and a dedication to yourself; an affirmation that we all have the ability to create whatever we want.”
Introduction: Taking the Plunge
Jonathan starts by asking one simple question: “Why do you live?”
Wow, I had really never heard it asked quite like that. I’ve heard, “What are your goals in life?” and “What do you truly love to do?” Somehow this question impacts me much different than the other two. It sends my brain searching in a way that the others don’t.
He continues by summarizing how people default towards traditional objections and create excuses for why they aren’t living a life focused on what they truly love.
“We spend so much time doing what makes sense and playing it safe. We do “what works.” We follow the path that’s been safely traveled by many. We ignore our heart because we’re not quite sure where the path of our heart might lead us.”
Chapter 1: Reclaim Ownership of Your Mind
Two things I read in this chapter really connected with me. First, Jonathan begins by exploring the internal struggle of establishing control over your thoughts. Second, he outlines how, starting at a young age, society slowly influences us to be more and more domesticated. I had never really thought about it in those terms. The more I reflected, the more I felt like I was being pushed into a domesticated role. I started to realize that I’m not quite ready for that type of lifestyle, yet.
“The thing is, your mind is a powerful tool. It can help you solve complex problems and can sometimes predict the future based on what’s happened in the past. The problem is that our mind gets out of control. Instead of you owning your thoughts, your thoughts own you.”
Chapter 2: Stop Caring
In this chapter, Jonathan encourages taking an honest look at how our priorities have shifted. I felt like he brought up several concepts that relate directly to the personal finance world:
- We give more merit to the bullet points on our resumes than the contents of our character.
- We care more about the size of our bank accounts than the fulfillment of our passions.
Afterward, he goes on to instruct us how we can break free from living our life by a predetermined template. I feel like I could do a much better job at this. All to often I push myself to fit some other template. To go back to school, to get this license, or that certification. None of those thing would be inherently negative, but certainly none really get my blood pumping.
“Have the courage to do what works for you, instead of the ready-made path of existence. Don’t let having a pre-made plan to follow keep you from doing what you love.”
Chapter 3: Undomesticate Yourself
This chapter’s discussion first centers around recognizing and discarding your limiting beliefs.
“This won’t be easy at first. Your mind will work hard to keep you holding onto your beliefs. It won’t be easy because you identify with them. Stay diligent, though; the more you break these tiny self-defeating agreements, the more power you take back. Work on constantly cultivating that power, and the room for your dreams will start to grow.”
I’ve read all sorts of self-help content on empowering and limiting beliefs. Somehow, the way Jonathan presented the material in the chapter sincerely sunk in. I think this was a combination of Jonathan’s unique voice and my current readiness to accept and apply this information.
Later, Jonathan hits on yet another applicable personal finance theme. He breaks down the “if I just had…” mentality. If I just had more money. If I just got this promotion. If I just… If I just…
“The truth is, if you can’t find a way to better manage the time you have now, you’re unlikely to change even when you do have more money and more resources. You’ll still have the same habits, and you’ll still be stuck in the same situation. That’s because owning your time is more a matter of an inner mindset, and not something inextricably bound to outer resources. Money can certainly play a factor, but it’s not everything.”
Chapter 4: Define Your Dreams
This chapter marks the start of “Part 2″ of the e-book, which focus on how to actually make your dreams a reality. Of course, the first obstacle is identifying what they truly are. Again, I’ve read lots of content on brainstorming dreams, setting goals, finding your passion, etc… However, I was really influenced by the following passage:
“Most of the time we’ll feel inhibited to unleash the full spectrum of our desires. A good way to get past this is to tap into your superhero alter ego. That’s the part of you deep down that’s fearless, unshakeable with a will that can’t be broken.”
After reading these few sentences, I came to realize that most of the time I set out to determine what I’m really passionate about, I still find myself being fairly analytical and grounded. That’s no way to dream! For the first time, I really opened up and let this alter-ego take control when I was brainstorming. Afterward, I let my analytical side take a look over what I wrote. Even though I had done this process countless times before, the results I came up with this time were like no other.
Jonathan also provides this insightful and practical content for Living Your Values, Developing a Personal Manifesto, and Creating and Using A Dream Sanctuary. If you could only read one chapter of this entire book, make it this one.
Chapter 5: Key #1 – Give Up or Overcoming Uncertainty
Yet another area of my life that I struggle with is pushing my boundaries. If it’s in an area that I am passionate about, such as blogging or personal finance, it’s super easy. I’m always exposing myself to new theories, concepts, and people. However, what about the areas I’m not comfortable in. Fitness, for example. I’m horrible at pushing my boundaries and thus almost never make any noticeable growth in this area of my life.
Jonathan takes this chapter to really push you to take on uncertainty face-to-face, as well as deal with people who might try to shoot down your dreams. He provides actual examples of things you can do to break your daily routines. I remember taking notes on how to apply his suggestions into my fitness routine (or lack thereof).
Chapter 6: Key #2 – Quit or Reclaiming Ownership Of Your Time
I was ecstatic to see that this chapter wasn’t just another version of GTD. I’m going to be honest. I’m just not a GTD person. I’m sure the system works for some people, but I don’t connect with it. Luckily, it seems neither does Jonathan. Instead he focuses on eliminating “things” (and commitments) from your schedule altogether.
“Don’t be afraid to work less (and get paid less) to have more free time for the things you enjoy doing. You might see an initial decline in your income, but you’ll have an immediate spike in your level of happiness. Once you start making money doing what you love, you’ll catch up.”
I really needed this kind of reinforcement. Just saying “do what you love” isn’t enough for me. I need actionable steps to help inch towards my passions, which Jonathan provides throughout.
This chapter also contains my favorite “Exercise” section. Instead of focusing on a “to-do” list, we are encouraged to create a “to-stop” list. This is to evaluate our lives and upcoming events and search for those that aren’t really in line with our goals. Especially for blogging, I’ve found that eliminating useless activities is just as important as getting useful ones accomplished.
Chapter 7: Key #3 – Skill or Creating Love Money
For all of you personal finance buffs, this chapter was written for us! Jonathan advocates tracking your discretionary spending, as a method of realizing where your current priorities are. Sacrificing the discretionary spending that is not aligned with our goals and priorities will allow us to refocus that money to actual accomplish them.
“Take away the expenses you can afford to drop and replace them with freedom. Remove all the things you don’t need to prepare for a transition to making a living doing what you love.”
Courtney and I have recently done just that. We’ve sacrificed and slashed our budget immensely, so that we could eliminate our consumer debt and save up to move to Australia. We understand that even in Australia, we will have to continue to live frugally and work to maintain our lifestyle. But, for us, the juice is worth the squeeze.
Jonathan goes on to provide specific examples to start “creating love money,” including actually offering your services for free, at first. I know Jonathan has had success implementing this strategy in his own life. When he wanted to get into life coaching he put up an offer to take on newcomers for free. This produced an enormous waiting list of people who desired to participate. He is not only honing his skills, but has built a large list of people that would still be interested even as he begins to charge for his service. His personal example has me brainstorming on what I could be doing for free that would both help me learn, as well as be valuable for the participants involved.
Chapter 8: Three Things You Need to Know
This chapter is really about overcoming naturally occurring obstacles that come up after we start down the path of living out our passions. It discusses in detail how to not force your passion into work and thus lose it altogether. It also touches on maintaining balance and dealing with what I call “the grass is always greener” syndrome.
“It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re caught up in this rat race. Always in search of the next upgrade means being in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction. We tend to think it’s a problem with our desires… There’s nothing wrong with these desires, so to speak. What’s causing the trouble is placing our satisfaction and identity in them.”
Conclusion: A Promise to Yourself
Jonathan’s conclusion ends like his book began, with short and sweet calls to action.
“Living your dreams isn’t just a matter of seeking adventure; rather, it’s being adventurous.”
When I set out to write a review for this e-book, I promised myself to be honest no matter how I felt. After all, I do no one a service by sugar-coating my true feelings. As you can probably tell, I was absolutely blown away by Jonathan’s message. I’ve read at least a couple dozen e-books from some pretty big names, but none have had the impact on me that this did.
It pushed the limits of my thinking… It caused me to dream more passionately… And most importantly, it reinforced this little feeling I had deep down inside me. I’m excited again to leave for Australia and even more committed to sacrificing and making this blog the best it can be.
What I’ve outlined above is only a small fraction of the content that is packed into this e-book. Jonathan’s unique voice and short, easy-to-read paragraph style captures your attention early and doesn’t let go until the last page. You can get more information by visiting the official site of Reclaim Your Dreams: An Uncommon Guide To Living On Your Own Terms. In addition, you can visit Jonathan at Illuminated Mind or read his regular articles over at Zen Habits.
If you’ve already read the e-book, please feel free to add your comments below!