How do you know if your dream is attainable?


I’ve been a proponent of positive thinking for as long as I can remember.  I believe that to a large degree, if you expect positive things in life, you get them.  And when you have to face something difficult, if you remain positive, you have a much better chance of getting through it.

In spite of my positive outlook, it’s always bothered me when I’ve heard motivational speakers say something like, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”

What a crock! I don’t believe that about your dreams, and I don’t believe that about mine. Yes, we do need to aim high. However, we don’t have the ability to attain whatever we seek. I don’t possess the ability to achieve every potential I can imagine. I don’t believe that I can achieve any goal. That is not reality.

Writer Richard Bach similarly asserts, “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true.”

If you give that even a moment’s rational thought, you know it’s not true. At some point in time, just about every child dreams of being able to fly like a bird. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

But it’s not going to happen, no matter how clearly I imagine it.

Granted, dreams, by definition, are not supposed to start with reality. They are supposed to be fantastic, incredible, and out of the box. After all, they are birthed from hopes, desires, and possibilities. They are the products of imagination and creativity. However, if they are nothing but pie in the sky, how much do dreams help us?


I’ve thought about this for a long time.  I’ve wondered how to help people to pursue their dreams but to do so in a practical way.  Last year I finally figured out how to do it.

And that’s when I started to write Put Your Dream to the Test, my next book which will be in bookstores in about three weeks.


How do you measure a dream?  By asking yourself 10 straightforward questions.  If you can answer then positively, then the odds of your achieving your dream increase dramatically.

So here are the questions:


The Ownership Question:
Is my dream really my dream?


The Clarity Question:
Do I clearly see my dream?


The Reality Question:
Am I depending on factors within my control to achieve my dream?


The Passion Question:
Does my dream compel me to follow it?


The Pathway Question:
Do I have a strategy to reach my dream?


The People Question:
Have I included the people I need to realize my dream?


The Cost Question:
Am I willing to pay the price for my dream?


The Tenacity Question:
Am I moving closer to my dream?


The Fulfillment Question:
Does working toward my dream bring satisfaction?


The Significance Question:
Does my dream benefit others?

I believe that if you really explore each question, examine yourself honestly, and answer yes to all of them, your odds of achieving your dream are very good. The more yeses you can answer, the more on target you are to fulfill your dream. I truly believe that everyone has the potential to imagine a worthwhile dream, and most have the ability to achieve it.

What do you think?  How do you measure a dream?  What factors do you use to predict success?


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Categories : dream


  1. 1

    Thank you so much for writing on this topic!
    I will be buying a copy and look forward to learning how to put my dream to the test.

    All The Best To You,
    John C. Morgan

  2. 2

    Thanks John for reminding us to dream….for….There is a place within each and every one of us – a spark lies there – and from that spark is ignited a dream.

    And from that dream explodes a blaze. And from that blaze there rages an ever-burning fire that cannot be quenched, that cannot be vanquished, because the spark itself is eternal. This is the eternal flame that resides within the framework that God has placed around your soul. It is the breath of God himself that was breathed into the dust at the very beginning – and once breathed – no matter what enemies continue to conspire – can never be snuffed out. No matter how devious, no matter how deceitful, no matter how detrimental the enemies plans are, this spark remains intact for an eternity.

  3. 3

    Dreams are critical to leaders, for “without a vision the people perish”. But leaders easily trap value by dreaming visions without strong connection to purpose and by translating dreams into inactionable direction. William Blake shockingly said once that one should “Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.” Thank you for providing some thought and direction for leaders to effectively bring their dreams to fruition!

  4. 4
    John Valera says:

    I got alot of validation for my dreams out of this exercise and look forward to reading the book. I love to dream! Its a must in what I do. Question #3 gave me pause, because the most important criteria for me regarding a dream is whether or not God placed it in my heart. As a church planter alot of factors are not necessarily within my control, but a great many still are. So I wouldn’t necessarily say that I “depend” on factors within my control, since I am dependent on God, ultimately. Perhaps the Reality Question could be rephrased to say,

    “Are there factors within my control available to me to achieve my dream?”

  5. 5
    Anonymous says:


    I take issue with your dream test. Many people are given a dream by God for which they have no strategy, and for whom people have not yet been introduced into their realm to assist them or propel them in to the reality of their dream. And they will have to become dependant on factors outside of themselves in order to attain the dream God placed in their heart.

    Abraham had a dream to get away from his family. I’ll bet in his world leaving his home with no set destination, no benefactors, and no staff seemed utterly ridiculous. God places outrageous dreams inside of people so that He can get all the glory when those unimaginable, pie in the sky dreams are reached.

    What if Paula White, a “messed up Mississippi girl” (in her own words) had read your book and measured her dream by your assumption of how realistic her dream was? Would she be where she is now? No, probably not. I read the first few lines of your blog here and felt like I needed to wrap my arms around my guts and protect myself from a deadly blow.

    There are many who go to their “Pool of Siloam” blind; with mud on their faces. Yet they go… with no guide dog, and while people are staring at them and asking “Who’s fault is it that he or she is so messed up?!” Something happens in the obedience of walking blind to the place of sending (that is what the pool of Siloam translates to)….

    God grants strategy. He sets people in place along the way. And I don’t know about you but it’s not always fulfilling or fun, for me, to work toward a dream. It can be gut wrenching and very difficult along the way. Most of the time we are NOT dependant on factors within ourselves. God takes us totally out of the comfort zone and asks us to stop leaning on ourselves and our own understanding and become totally dependant on Him. I’d say He is a Factor far outside of us.

    I hope people will hold loosely to your test of their dream’s possibility of being realized. I pray protection over those precious dreams that could be aborted and miscarried because they don’t pass your litmus test for reasonability.

    Keep dreaming people. God does grant that which He plants!

  6. 6
    job Manikkam says:

    I will be buying this book. Looking forward to read it.


  7. 7

    Thank you so much for your incredible insight over the years in my life through your many books on Godly leadership.

    I love how you separate yourself from the name/claim it; believe/receive it; and my personal favorite blab/grab it crowd.

    God tells us to be positive, not because our positivity leads to prosperity, but because our positivity allows us to see the path that God has laid out for us. If we wallow in negativity we will never believe that God can do or will do anything through us or in us!

    I’m looking forward to the book, I’m hooked already!!!

  8. 8

    When God gives you a dream, it is attainable – but only in his way, power and timing.

    Your point about ownership is crucial. I have so many students in their mid-life years who are finally pursuing THEIR dreams to follow their creative bents because they first defaulted to pursuing the dreams their parents had for them. I’m thankful I have been able to pursue my dreams and have achieved many.

    Looking forward to reading your book.

  9. 9
    Dorcas says:

    Hullo John,

    Am from Kampala,Uganda East Africa, working in the area of Leadership Development and I must say your books are an inspiration and this blog am very sure will make my help me add to my knowledge and skills.

    Please help me know how and where I can aquire the Contagious and Courageous leadership kit in Kampala, Uganda, East Africa

  10. 10
    Scott Thomas says:

    Thank you for the preview of your new book. It appears to provide a very well thought out, systematic approach to defining and achieving dreams.

    I don’t think the issue is really with the statement “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.” The problem is that people take it too literally and don’t realize that it is meant to inpire true, creative thought that can take them beyond their current thinking. It’s intended to open up possibilities and get people to achieve more than they might have otherwise. As Les Brown says, “it is better to set high goals and miss them than to set low goals and reach them.”

    I look forward to seeing you at the SUCCESS Symposium on March 28th! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.


  11. 11
    HeatherO says:

    I agree,in part. I do agree that you have to be willing to pay the price, truly have a burning desire (not doing it for someone else), and have unwavering faith. I certainly do not believe that you can defy the laws of nature in most cases. I do know however, that there are a lot of people who have achieved BEYOND their wildest dreams (and many came about from opportunities that were “out of their control” ie. Divine intervention).

    I do admire and respect your work,appreciate the work that you do, and believe that many people need to be reminded that you do actually have to DO something, and not just dream :)

  12. 12
    James Holmes says:

    John – My admiration grows for you with each every addition to your vast body of work. I have learned so much from your books and as a former Maximum Impact student. This is an excellent post and I appreciate the filter through which every dream can be scrutinized to predict the realistic chances to achieve it.

    I do believe that if a person can conceive a dream and has conviction (belief) that they can attract the people,resources and opportunities required to address many of the questions you have set forth in this article. The dream does however have to be realistic, which is if course one of your points.

    Thank you for this thought provoking post and God bless you in all of your endeavors.


  13. 13

    Hello John,
    I must take issue with some of your points. We all have limiting beliefs that hamstring us into a life that is not extraordinary, is not exceptional, is not fulfilling, and is to some extent, boring and dull.
    Do I believe we can fly? Yes, Jesus walked on Water, that’s pretty darn close to flying. Transcendental Meditation Practitioners “hop”, defying the law of gravity.
    I believe the only limits to what is possible is our belief in what is possible. And do I practice flying? – Yes, and with a parachute, and a safety net; To really fly as in how Superman does it, seems to me, is an advanced course that few of us including me are not yet prepared to take.
    Do I believe we must grow old and die? Absolutely not! Do I believe we can live forever – absolutely! Now it will take some extraordinary efforts on my part to stay healthy, including paying attention to what I choose to eat, how I choose to take care of my physical body, and not do stupid stuff, as in paying attention to the buses coming down the street. Do I intend to live forever? You Betcha. And loving every precious minute of it.

  14. 14
    catt4family says:

    John: I disagree with a few points. Unquestionably it has to be my dream. For too many years, I expended tremendous energy lifting up others to fulfill their dreams while allowing mine to lay dormant, unacknowledged and unrealized. I believed my efforts of laying aside my dream was being a servant to my spouse, with a servant’s heart. Then one day I realized much of what he dreamed and believed was in conflict with my core values. It was a painful lesson, but through the pain, layers of scales were stripped away from my eyes and heart. My dependence on my Source of Strength (Jesus) to get through to the other side of pain, was a proving ground for recognizing my dream was planted by God. Fulfilling his purpose for “my” life was paramount. Walking the road set before me did not mean walking on someone else’s road. The trials of an unequally yoked marriage, awakened the sleeping giant within. Messengers sent by God in common everyday places were everywhere, if only I had ears to hear. The resounding theme echoed repeatedly “you should write a book”, something I’d never ponder. Though I love to write and talk, I’d kept quiet for too long. My dentist receptionist, my hairdresser, my walking buddies, my sister-in-love (or law if you prefer); my midlife crisis workshop instructor – His messengers popped up everywhere. During many sleepless nights of wrestling to find a solution to releasing the bondage of sin I have veered onto, I began to journal in hopes of falling asleep at least for a little while. What I discovered was a creativity and passion God had planned for me at a much earlier age, but for the first time I believed I had something to say that others wanted to hear to hopefully help them through their journey of letting go and letting God. It was exhilerating and a life-breathing transformation at the hand of God. My journal became a work of fiction based on a true story of struggles and perserverance, acceptance and surrender. The parts that are true you probably think are fiction, and the parts that are fiction you will not be able to discern. But the story is clear – the price of running toward someone else’s “mark” is costly and exhausting. The path set before me by God, even when it seems insurmountable, is in fact the moment I have to stop depending on me and simply trust Him. He has prepared a way that I cannot see clearly, but as I put one foot in front of the other in obedience, he directs my path and provides all my needs – abundantly!! You’re invited to the movie premier as soon as God completes His work in me. The great themes such as Not Easily Broken, and Fireproof, are similar yet my story doesn’t have the traditional happy ending. What it does have are elements of recognizing who my first love is – Jesus – and that no one should ever take his place in my life (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”). The world has perpetuated too many fairy tales for little girls about a dream wedding and a dream marriage; but when their dream is shattered, God is still there. We just have to hold fast to Him and be willing to let go of our deceiver. I have the utmost respect for your leadership foundation on Biblical principles. I’d like to challenge you to write the biggest and best, most important leadership book of all times – a book which will speak to all men in every corner of the earth on the role of leader as a father and a husband. All the success in this world cannot compete with the success of leading your family. Too many Dads and husbands are so consumed by their role in society to be the wage earner, that they forget their most important role and leave us abandoned. We need men to lead us at home especially and to find that role rewarding. God bless and keep writing.

  15. 15

    […] How do you know if your dream is attainable? Great blog post by John Maxwell. This book has been a lifetime in the making for John. This article is definitely worth a read and a pray-through. Today. […]

  16. 16
    Kmac4him says:

    Thank you! I recently worked so hard to achieve a dream that God put on my heart. I made the mistake you talked about of under estimating the cost of the dream once I acheived it. So, I am looking forward to your book, so I can learn not to do that again!!

  17. 17
    Beshoy says:

    You’re a rare Person John,
    Please Continue To Inspire Us,
    Thank You So much, you were truly led when you posted this Blog,
    God Bless.

  18. 18
    ArianaPhok says:

    Great! Thank you very much! I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site? Of course, I will add backlink? Regards

  19. 19

    I’m looking forward to reading your book! We all have dreams…it is a matter of choosing which one to make happen and working/commiting to reach beyond our box to get there.

  20. 20

    Dear John,
    just heard about you yesterday and I am totaly impressed and happy to see there are people seeing the truth as I feel the Truth is.

    I would be so happy to share with you my beliefs and to discover more from whayou know….
    I wish you suceed to change the world throgh your work… thank you…

    Kind Regards,