How to Make Your Dreams Come True

by Mark Forster

Cover image

Publisher: Hodder
Copyright: 2002
Printing: 2006
ISBN: 0-340-78629-9
Format: Kindle
Pages: 208

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Mark Forster is my favorite time management author. His books are less comprehensive systems and more collections of tips, mental shortcuts, and ways of thinking about time management and prioritization that tend to resonate for me. I've already read and reviewed several other books by Forster, but hadn't read this one because it was thoroughly out of print (at least in the US). When it turned up for the Kindle, I decided to give it a try, if for no other reason than completionism.

After reading How to Make Your Dreams Come True, I can see why it fell out of print. It's a rather odd book, and quite different from Forster's other work. The topic is still time management, if you squint at it properly, but in the form of a philosophical discussion of life goals and becoming an artist who creates one's own life. Forster structures the book as a series of dialogues between Forster in the present and his own future self and takes the mental exercise surprisingly seriously, even comparing his own coaching technique with that of his future self. The levels of meta get even deeper towards the end of the book, where Forster writes a dialogue between his future self and his even more future self. Those drift into philosophy of life, high-level (and personal) life goals, and some speculations about the reason for existence.

The primary concept Forster is exploring is the difference between push, pull, and drift modes of life. He argues that a lot of time management falls into the category of push systems: you're exerting effort to push yourself along towards goals. In this book, he argues that this is a starting point but not a technique to stop on. Instead, one should try to move to pull mode, where one has a compelling and detailed vision of where one wants to be, repeatedly developing and refining it, and then lets that vision pull you through life. The advantages, in his conception, over the push form of time management is that this requires less expenditure of effort, feels more natural, and lets one be more flexible and nimble in how one achieves one's goals. It can be tricky, however, to avoid settling into the middle ground of drift mode, where one does not have a goal in mind and doesn't act towards anything in particular.

I found the idea interesting and mildly useful, but Forster's presentation of it seemed too convinced of its own correctness. The exercises he proposes don't seem interesting to me; the dialogues with one's future self in particular felt very gimmicky. I admire his ability to invent some of the interactions he came up with, but I don't think it would be a useful technique for me, or as universal as he seems to think it could be.

Forster talks quite a lot about reducing effort in his blog (somewhat less in his other books), and seems constantly convinced that he's found a new way to reduce the sense of effort around time management. After having tried a few of these, I suspect that new systems feel less effortful than older systems, and that it's the constant changing of systems that reduces the feeling of effort more than the details of any specific system. I can develop a lot of enthusiasm about a new system for tracking work, and enthusiasm makes everything feel like it requires less effort.

Other than that central idea, and quite a lot of philosophy that didn't particularly speak to me, this book reiterates a few of Forster's ideas in a less specific framework: adopt a process and trust it, use it for long enough to give it a chance to work, keep refreshing your vision, and try to reach a flow where you're not exerting lots of effort to force yourself to do things. Good ideas, but better, and more practically, presented in Forster's other books.

I'd characterize this as an odd and minor work. I like Forster's writing in general and still only read this for the sake of completeness. His other books offer more practical and actionable ideas. Unless this idea and method of presentation really speaks to you, I think you'll get more out of other books.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Reviewed: 2015-09-16

Last modified and spun 2017-01-01