How to Turn Your Dreams into Your Intentions

I was hot. I was sweaty. I was in pain. And I was not in a good mood. I hadn’t actually wanted to go on this trip in the first place. It was one of those last minute things; the kind that you know are a bad idea, but you let yourself get talked into it anyway. That, of course, contributed to my downfall. Literally.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

I’m not a “horse” person, but my ex-husband is. So, when he was asked to outfit for a young adult wilderness excursion at the last minute, he jumped at the opportunity. It meant taking our motley crew of horses, most without any mountain experience, and a couple of hands to help ride and lead the horses.

That meant me. It didn’t matter that I had zero experience on horseback in the mountains. I was needed. How could I say no to that?

Have you ever felt yourself pulled into something that you have a feeling won’t end well?

Having vision is essential to being intentional

It would have been useful for me to think about the trip I was being asked to take. Instead, I climbed onto the back of my horse, a term I use loosely as we weren’t that well-acquainted.

It would have been useful for me to have considered the age of my horse before subjecting him to steep switchbacks.

It would have been useful to consider the miniature horse I was leading, whose only interest was in grazing at every opportunity, and who almost yanked my arm clear off every time he stopped to do just that.

It would have also been very useful to have the right equipment for the horses, so that they could in turn carry their loads properly.

That’s what having vision is all about.  A vision for your life means thinking about the future: what you want, what God wants for you, and why, rather than just drifting from one situation to another. It means planning, with foresight and wisdom. It means considering the consequences of your intentions before you act on them.

Having vision:

  • Creates passion and inspiration
  • Provides a target on which to focus resources and energy
  • Allows you to plan with intention
  • Motivates against challenges, setbacks, emotional and financial hardships
  • Aligns people and goals, which helps to create unity
  • Prevents you from making foolish errors with lifelong consequences

A vision is not a dream but a reality that hasn’t happened yet

How do you get vision?

It starts with your dreams. 

There are things you’ve wanted, still want, that are just waiting to be realized.  Aligning those dreams with what God intends for you is what being divinely intentional is all about.

But it’s not enough to have a dream. Your dream must take you somewhere.

That’s the difference between being a dreamer and a visionary. A dreamer imagines how her life could be. A visionary sees how her life could be, then sets out to make it happen.

There are four components to having vision:

1. Purpose

This is your why—the reason you’re doing what you’re doing. Who benefits and how? Having purpose for your dream is how you find the motivation to stick it out when you encounter setbacks.

Which takes me back to my story.

I knew the purpose for the trip and I knew the role I was to play. Sort of. The problem is, it wasn’t my dream, nor was it my purpose. It was someone else’s. So when things got difficult, it was hard for me to stay motivated. I certainly didn’t feel passion or excitement about climbing onto the back of a horse that I couldn’t fully control. I felt dread.

So why was I doing this? Why was I allowing myself to be pulled into something that served someone else’s purpose?

2. Clarity

Vision, by its very definition, needs to be clear and well-defined. You do that by starting at the end, and working backwards. In other words, what’s your destination? What do you want to achieve and why? What will life look like once you’ve achieved it?  What will you look like?  Will your roles have changed?  Will your relationships be different? Your environment?

Write it down

This is your time to brainstorm, to imagine without imposing limitations. And when you think you’re done, keep writing! The more detail the better. It has to be real to you—no haziness. That doesn’t mean, of course, that everything you imagine will come to pass. You’ll make revisions to your vision as you gain greater clarity. But the more detail you give yourself the better, so that you can work backwards and figure out the steps needed to reach your destination.

The clearer your path, the more real your dream becomes. 

Clarity about the trip would have been familiarizing myself with the area we would be taking the horses. It would have forced me to ask some tough questions.

  • Why did I really agree to go?
  • What level of horsemanship would it take?
  • Did I have what it would take?
  • If not, what could/would be the consequences to me and everyone else if I went anyway?

If I’d been clear with myself, I would have admitted that I truly had no business going with so little preparation!

3. Values

If you don’t know what matters most to you, how can you have a clear vision of what you intend?

Values are your core beliefs. They reflect what is most important to you, which makes them the backbone of your vision. They support and give definition to what you’re trying to achieve. In turn your vision, as it’s implemented, tells others what you value. 

To be honest, I let myself be talked into going because I didn’t want to be left behind! I could envision having fun once we arrived, but I had no clue what it would take to get there.

Sometimes we base our decisions on emotions, not values.  We convince ourselves of the “rightness” of our choices because of how we’re feeling. We think we’re aligning them with our values when in reality we’re just being self-serving. If I’d been honest with myself I’d have admitted that, and insisted that it would not be in my (or others’) best interests to go on a trip that I was not physically prepared for.  I would pay a price for that, and in turn my decision impacted others, well beyond the trip itself.

4. Goals

How do you turn your vision into intentional actions? You set goals. The clearer your vision is the easier it is to determine what steps you need to take. Your goals are the mile markers that lead to your destination. Once you’ve identified them you can move forward with intention. However, you can’t set goals until you’ve defined your vision.  Having an idea of where you want to go, who you want to be, is not enough.

I had an idea of what to expect, but that was all. Unfortunately, my idea didn’t match up with reality.

The reality was that my horse was old.  He didn’t want to work any harder than he had to, and climbing up that steep mountain with me on his back was work. So, he finally quit. No amount of nudging or kicking would budge him. That meant resting for quite a while, then walking and leading both horses for a time. Unfortunately I hadn’t had the foresight to envision needing hiking boots!  

After a period of time the trail led into the tree line and away from the steep drop-off of the mountain edge. I assumed we were done with switchbacks. I assumed wrong.

Finally able to mount my horse again, I became lazy. I wrapped the lead rope of my other horse around my saddle horn. I was tired of yanking him to get moving. I’d been told not to do this. But without vision, I could only think about the short-term benefit to my arm.

Suddenly, we emerged back out of the trees and onto a narrow path. The mountain was to my left, a shale drop-off to my right; my ex-husband was ahead and out of sight.

That’s when disaster struck. The giant duffel bag the miniature horse was carrying had slipped and spooked him. My first clue was when he appeared beside me and my horse on a path not wide enough for two horses. A quick glance over told me his load had slipped. I could see the whites of his eyes. But there was no time to do anything because his fear immediately transferred to my horse. They both veered right and bolted down the mountainside. With me still attached. But not for long.

I don’t know how long I stayed on, truthfully. It felt like forever. But when I did fall off, I fell hard on that rocky shale, right on my bottom.

As I lay there I was pretty sure I’d broken bones. But as I slowly began to move various body parts, two things became apparent. I could move, though painfully. And, I was alone. No one was around to see any of it happen. So, that meant that no matter how injured I was, I had to get myself up to the path. My horse had disappeared and I could see the other horse below me, tangled up in the trees. Rock climbing gear had spilled out of the duffel bag and was strewn everywhere.

I made my way, slowly, to the top. I was in agony, crying, feeling sorry for myself. When I reached the path I could hear my ex-husband calling out. He’d eventually realized something was wrong, tied his horses off and walked back to find me.

It took an hour to calm me down, gather gear and untangle the one horse. My horse had reached the path below and trotted back up to rejoin the herd. I knew I’d have to get back on. There was no turning back. We were carrying gear that was essential to the group’s mission. So, though my body screamed in protest, I knew it would be easier to ride than to walk. With many miles left to go, I finally re-mounted and continued the journey.

We did finally reach our destination. It took much longer than expected. And all the “fun” I thought I’d have once there turned into an agonizingly painful six days that stretched into a year of recovery. Because, as I discovered later, I’d broken my tailbone. 

To this day I still have back problems related to my accident—one that could have been prevented! If I’d only taken the time to give some thought and planning to what the trip entailed, I would have said no. It would have saved me a lot of pain and suffering. It would have eliminated the need for others to accommodate me the rest of the trip, in multiple ways.

Where are you on your life’s journey?

You’re on a journey too.

 I hope it’s a purposeful one.

 I hope you’re taking the time to get very clear about what you intend on this journey.

 I hope it’s based on your beliefs, not your emotions, and that you’re setting goals to mark your path as you travel along.

Don’t do what I did. Because not having vision is painful!



  1. Karen Collins on May 18, 2019 at 1:05 am

    Great article! Thanks for sharing your story and some wisdom as well.

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