Welcome to my adventures and experiments in creativity. Where writing is like running: sometimes I know where I'm going, and sometimes I see where the mood takes me.

Monday, 11 February 2013

How To Follow Your Dreams

Follow your dreams, right?

It’s one of those gloriously clichéd sentiments. A piece of advice that’s easy to dish out without meaningful substance to back it up. Easy to dish out without meaningful explanation of how to do it.

We all have dreams. Wild, ecstatic dreams that we would follow if only someone believed in us. Beautiful dreams, terrible dreams; dreams of the life we could lead if we were freed from the clutches of modern life for a short time. Just a day, even.

If we could just follow those oh-so-vital dreams.

Well, tonight is your lucky night. I’m going to explain how to follow your dreams. I’m going to unlock the secrets of success for you. Make you realise anything is possible as long as:

a) You dream it, and
b) You then follow that dream.

I could have hidden this groundbreaking advice behind some sort of pay structure. I could have created a ten week online course, or written an e-book and charged tens of pounds for it. But I’ve done neither of those things. I’m offering this advice for free.

Why? I hear you cry. Why are you taking it upon your shoulders now to be so benevolent?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because I want you all to share in this unearthed wisdom. I want the profundity to reach deep into your hearts and your souls, so that you might act upon the advice I am about to impart. I want you to act upon it with all your energy, and without hesitation or fear.

But you have to be ready. Are you ready?

Then here it is:

Follow your dreams! Literally.

That’s right. Whatever fevered imaginings your brain might create while you’re asleep: do them. Sure, many of the dreams you have might be completely impractical. Illegal, even. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the things I did for the first time during 2012 and two of the items on the list were dreams:

Dreamt that I let a man plummet to his death in a broken lift.
Dreamt that a woman tried to kill me with a felt tip pen.

Now, of course I’m not going to try and make those situations a reality. That would be stupid, and I’m not sure I could live with the guilt or the ink stains. But one of the other items on the list was:

Expressed interest in running a half marathon.

Back in October, I had a dream that I was about to take the start of the Great North Run. I’d not prepared for it, and I seemed to be dashing round trying to find somewhere to get changed ready for the race. For the most part it was like any other dream – illogical, lacking in sense or a satisfying narrative. But it was a dream about something that must have been a sub-conscious goal on some level.

The next day, I joked about it being a premonition.

The next month, I entered my e-mail address on the Great Run website to be notified about the opening of the ballot.

The next year, I completed my application. There was no anticipation of success – after all, just think how many people submit their details for these events. I laughed about suggesting a target time for a distance I’ve never come close to running. I laughed even harder at the terms and conditions stating roller blades and wheelbarrows are not allowed on the course.

Then I forgot about it.

Last Thursday, I received an e-mail saying I had been successful in my application. In September, I will be running the Great North Run.

Now, I’m taking it seriously. Not in a detrimental way, I hope. But I’ve never done anything like this, and I want to see what I’m capable of. The event is seven months away. I don’t intend to follow any sort of fixed plan to prepare. I simply intend to keep running, get better, and do the very best I can.

I’m writing this on a Monday night. Over the last three days I’ve eaten no biscuits. One ‘After Eight’ mint is the sum total of my chocolate consumption.

I’ve no idea if I can sustain it. But surely this approach is more sustainable than saying, I’ll start next week or I’ll start next month? Even more exciting, if the blog post I wrote the other day is anything to go by, it means I’ll be writing even more during 2013.

So there we go. That’s my advice. Sometimes, dreams literally can come true. Though hopefully I won’t be dashing around and unprepared come September, but you know what I mean…!


  1. Congrats Paul! Mel and I have signed up for our first half-marathon in April - we are using Hal Higdon's training programme (12 weeks long).

    And Mel was also successful in the ballot for the Great North Run! Unfortunately I missed the boat with that one but may well be there to cheer her on :)

    1. Thanks Milo, it was a surprise to be successful! I'd be interested to know whether you find a specific plan useful. Guess it depends how much you'd have been going out running had you not got a half-marathon to prepare for.

      Trying to work out whether to run something else between now and September, or just enjoy the GNR in all its glory! Anyway, hope your training is going well, and similar congratulations to Mel for being successful. Sorry you didn't get in!

    2. I do think a specific plan is useful. For me it's far better to find a proven system and commit to sticking to it, because it means I don't have to make daily decisions - I just follow through on my commitment.

      This is a fairly new realisation for me because I've not been good at following systems in the past.

      I stupidly didn't even apply for the Great North Run, so I have no-one to blame but myself. Now I'm jealous ;)

    3. I'm told it's a hilly course, so how jealous you should be might depend on how much you enjoy going up! Personally, I like hills, so hopefully it will suit me...

      I found 'How To Run Faster' by Julian Goater opened my eyes to better technique. But in terms of building up to a big event, I might find I need more specific guidance closer to the time. We'll see!