Our 15 tips: How to achieve your dreams

Our 15 tips: How to achieve your dreams

It sounds a bit pretentious doesn’t it. As if I, this eco chic who ran away to Greece, has all the answers and will endeavour to impart her wisdom and knowledge on you. I don’t mean it to sound pretentious in the slightest. This blog post is purely about the very, very specific things we did to achieve our dreams and make them reality.

By the age of 28 and 32, Mr Sidestepping-Normal and I owned two properties without mortgages, had no debts, a healthy bank balance and a new life in Crete. Nobody gave us money, we didn’t inherit a fortune, but equally, this didn’t happen by accident.

I’m not professing to have found perfection, or all the answers, but I have noticed some things along the way. Equally, my measure of success may be different to yours. Success is measured by the individual, and not by my thoughts and opinions. Do we feel successful? Yes, in a sense we do, because we found what we were looking for.

Without realising it at the time, we did very specific things to achieve our dreams, and it’s only now, in retrospect that I can see how we made it possible. After lots of thinking, here is my compilation of everything we did to get here. There are 15 tips in total and we use all of them, however number 2 and 4 are ones to really take note of.

Our 15 tips to achieve your dreams:

1) What is your dream/ goal? And what’s preventing you from achieving it?

If you eliminate all the factors that are prohibiting you from achieving your dreams and goals, such as: money, ties, responsibilities, fear, opinions, etc, what is left? What makes you feel excited? What do you want? That’s the dream right there. It may be a life like ours, or something entirely different. Either way, set a goal or a vision, however unachievable it may seem right now. The dream/ goal isn’t the difficulty, it’s the hurdles that stand in-between. Now you’ve ascertained what you want, the plan can emerge.

2) Work backwards.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but the way we achieved our dreams was to set the goal way ahead in the future, and then work our way back, step by step. For example, we knew that we wanted to live in Greece and have no mortgage. From that point we worked backwards. Here’s an example:

Question: How do we save enough money to achieve our dreams when we’re both earning minimum wage? 

Answer: Become self employed and earn more. 

Question: How do we become self employed? 

Answer: Begin looking for self employment opportunities. 

Question: How do I save money in the meantime, until I can earn more? 

Answer: Reduce outgoings and pay off debt. 

Question: How can I reduce outgoings? 

Answer: Move into a caravan and sell unwanted possessions at a car boot sale to pay off loans and debts.

Question: How do I find a caravan? 

Answer: Begin asking everyone around you.

As you can see, the first steps in the process are to begin looking for self employment opportunities, sort through possessions and sell them, pay off debts, and ask around to find someone who has some land or a caravan for rent or sale. None of these steps directly result in the end goal, but incrementally they become part of a process that does eventually achieve the end result. I’ve noticed that most people don’t set a goal in the future, and if they do, they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of getting there. Break it down into tiny pieces.

3) Start taking action.

A dream will always remain a dream unless you act upon it. I always get a bubble of excitement at the though of doing something that will alter the coarse of events. All the time you sit and dream without taking any action, nothing will happen. Imagine picking up the phone and booking a house viewing or going for a job interview or booking a flight. Those things could start a domino effect that changes the course of your life. Sitting at home watching T.V is all good and well, but it won’t get anything done.

4) Use flexible visualisation.

I’m a very visual person and imagine everything in very fine detail. In my visualisations I imagined everything about our new life in Greece: the house, the pillowcases, the garden, what flowers I’d plant, the conversations Mr SN and I would have whilst cooking, the walks with Dora, renovating our cottage, the stilted conversations in Greek. 

This might sound a little sad, but, my visualisations were FLEXIBLE, and this is the most important part. They were never fixed visions, although the theme was always the same, the details could change all the time. If something happened in the present which altered the plans for the future, then my visions would change too. I never felt upset when things didn’t go to plan, instead I just altered my visions to adapt. 

Even though we’ve achieved our dreams, I still use flexible visualisation everyday to keep me on the right path to achieve the rest of my dreams and goals.

5) Distance yourself from the people that don’t want you to succeed.

It’s sad, but lots of people won’t want to see you succeed. I know that sounds very pessimistic, but it’s true. As we began to progress and find success, we noticed that some people tried to bring us down and attributed our achievements to luck, or privileges they didn’t have. 

Those same people came running when things went wrong and seemed to enjoy our misfortunes. Negative people will drain your energy and enjoy your failures; but this can be because they are struggling themselves. Some people feel threatened by people who achieve what they set out to achieve, because it makes them reflect on their own lives. We tried to distance ourselves from these people while trying to understand and support them. We began to surround ourselves by the people that wanted us to succeed and supported us. Those people shared our vision, encouraged us and are still there today.

6) Celebrate every little, teeny, weeny bit of progress.

Indulge yourself in celebrating your achievements as you go. Why wait until the end? The encouragement from yourself will spur you to keep going. Every step of the journey is an achievement, not just the end result. I’m all for celebratory tea and cake every day of the week. At the end of writing this article, I will celebrate and treat myself to a coffee and chocolate. 

7) Do what ever it takes…

I don’t mean like robbing a bank, I mean in the sense that sacrifices will be worth it in the end. Don’t buy takeaway coffee, quit the gym membership and get a bicycle, don’t go on holiday this year, buy the cheapest thing on the menu. etc, etc. Strangely enough, I don’t even like the word sacrifice in this context, as far as I’m concerned, Mr SN and I have never made any sacrifices in order to achieve our dreams. Living in a caravan with no running water and electricity wasn’t a sacrifice, living frugally isn’t a sacrifice. I see everything as experience. I can find the positives in everything, I feel grateful for everything, and when it goes wrong, there’s a funny story to tell.

8) Don’t follow the crowd.

In my opinion, following the crowd won’t result in quick results. You must take risks, be inventive, problem solve and do the opposite of everyone else. If you look at society, the majority of people spend their whole lives doing what they’re expected to do. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you want something different, you need to swim against the tide and do the opposite. Did the most successful businessman/women follow the rules? Of course not, they took huge risks and did what other people were scared to do. Is there a possibility of failure? Absolutely, but you don’t know until you try. The majority will always play it safe.

When I looked around me, I saw that we could never succeed by following the expectations that were set out for us. We were supposed to buy a big house, get a mortgage, work full time for fifty years, take two weeks holiday every summer, climb higher up the property ladder, buy more gadgets and things, and finally retire with healthy pensions and lots of regrets. No thanks.

9) Don’t listen to other people, trust your gut.

Only YOU know what you are capable of, nobody else. If you tell yourself you are capable of anything, then imagine the power you have. Other people’s opinions should be listened to, but never acted upon to please them or feel accepted. I know what’s best for me, nobody else. I use my intuition and gut instinct to guide me. When I’m trying to find the solution to a problem, I visualise all the scenarios and feel which one is right. It’s never failed me and I’ve made a lot of decisions that other people have told me are wrong, but turned out to be right. If I’d listened to other people, Mr SN and I wouldn’t be together. Those same people now tell me that I’m lucky to have found my soul mate – which I am.

You can create and recreate yourself as many times as you want. You have the potential to be anything you choose. Maybe tomorrow I’ll decide to be a doctor and train for seven years? Maybe I wont. Only I know the answer. 

10)  Fear is an illusion.

I think that fear is an illusion of the mind. It’s there to be challenged and if left unchecked, will greedily devour your freedom. Fear is useful when you’re walking through a dark park at night, it heightens senses, analyses all possible scenarios and out-comes and prepares you for the worst. But is fear in our every day life useful or detrimental? Personally I thinks it’s extremely detrimental. When I feel fearful and anxious, I tell myself that I must face the fear head on and conquer it.

11) Make lots of mistakes.

Making lots of mistakes is necessary. What’s the point of not doing anything, just in case you fail? I fail everyday, that’s not even an exaggeration. I try hundreds of new things every year, and some of them are a resounding success, but most of them aren’t. You name it, I’ve probably tried it. Since I was a little girl, I’ve tried and failed at so many things it’s hard to remember. I’ve exploded homemade blackberry wine in the airing cupboard, made flip flops out of PVA glue and string (they held up until the weather got hot and they melted) I’ve caught fire to a chopping board, killed plants, crashed a motorbike, lost dogs whilst running my own business as a dog walker…I could go on and on. Eventually, you will improve and succeed and these skills may lead to achieving your dreams, or just bring you a lot of happiness along the way.

12) What will you regret on your death bed.

Call me macabre, but I imagine myself on my death bed as an old lady whispering my last words to my weeping family. Will those last words be laced with regret? NO they will not. Will those last words involve minute details about whether I bought the right car, or broke my favourite plate, or whether the shelf in the bedroom was straight or not. Of course not. We all get bogged down with tiny everyday details, but look at the bigger picture, don’t let a little detail ruin your day or cause an argument. We’re all guilty of it, but when you take a second, it rarely matters much. If you imagine yourself on your death bed regretting all the things you never did, the dreams you never fulfilled, then act now and make them happen. 

13) Seek and ye shall find.

I receive a lot of emails from people, and I often reply that if you search enough, you will find it. I truly believe In the power of intent. If you intend to do something, and search for a way of making it happen, then an opportunity will present itself. Don’t be fooled into thinking that opportunities will keep coming your way, it’s up to you to act and make the most of them. I’ve witnessed lots of people around me passing by opportunities. They have excuses as to why they couldn’t take the opportunities, but it’s rare that the opportunity ever opens back up again. Keep searching and grab the opportunities.

14) Self reliance.

Self sufficiency and reliance goes well beyond growing vegetables in the garden. Call me paranoid, but I don’t trust anyone that hasn’t got my best interests at the forefront of their motivation. I trust myself, Mr SN, my close friends and family, but it stops there. This extends to companies, banks, drug companies and governments. I don’t think I’ll succeed if I leave it up to them. They have their place, don’t get me wrong, but I won’t leave my destiny in their hands. 

I’m responsible for making my dream happen, no-one else. Lots of people are motivated by their own gain, I try to make sure I’m not trodden on by them. Companies are driven by money and don’t care about me. I avoid being tricked by advertisements and promises made by them. Governments are driven by control of the population, their decisions are not motivated by individual people. Banks are businesses, they don’t loan me money because they are worried about me. Drug companies are profiteers, I’m cautious about their genuine care for my wellbeing. Do I live in a state of paranoia? No absolutely not. I just try not to place my destiny in the hands of people or companies that have ulterior motives.

15) Don’t leave a trail of destruction behind you.

If achieving your dreams and goals comes at the expense of treading on other people, inflicting negative consequences, exploiting others or hurting animals and nature, then you’ve gone wrong. Success should be driven by passion and love, not greed and selfishness.

We’re all about the love in this house…


So, that’s about everything I could think of. By using these strategies, we’ve managed to achieve our dreams. Do you think there’s a secret to success? Have you used any of the above techniques? Do you have any that I haven’t listed above? Let me know.

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28 thoughts on “Our 15 tips: How to achieve your dreams

  1. Brilliant steps – I particularly like number 2 – work backwards. Actually they are all brilliant and thought provoking and I am sure they will help a lot of people follow and create their dreams – I’m on with mine at the moment by acting on fate and following my gut instinct in 2015 when I bought a former storage outbuilding which one day will become my little piece of Crete.
    Have a lovely summer

    1. Good luck with your project, it sounds very exciting. Gut instinct and fate have guided most of my decisions, they are very powerful but lots of people dismiss them. Keep trusting yours, it sounds like it’s guiding you in exactly the right direction.

  2. Thank you for sharing your journey! I came across your Blog recently and really enjoyed reading your insights and thoughts about living in Greece, following your dreams and so much more!
    We spent six weeks travelling around the Greek mainland in Dec/Jan and absolutely loved it. We bussed it everywhere with two teenagers in tow.
    The itinerary took one year to plan. I had two rules for my family: take it all in and no complaints.
    Visiting Crete is on the list for next time.
    Keep loving life.

    1. Your travels around the mainland sound fantastic – I love the two rules you had for your family ?

  3. Lovely article and agree with so much of what you say. Only thing I would suggest adding is that I think it can be powerful to write down what you want to achieve and have it somewhere you can see (taped mine to inside of wardrobe) – not necessary (or even possible) to know exactly how you’re going to get there but weird though it sounds I think this is a helpful thing to do. Good luck to all who follow their dreams & thanks for sharing your stories.

    1. That’s very true, it’s something I didn’t think of whilst compiling this list, but I have to admit that I write everything down too. Thanks for reminding me – there should be 16 tips in total ?

  4. Hi there, I really enjoyed reading your tips. When my husband retired (as did I) he really wanted to buy a boat and sail through the european waterways. Lots of people said that we were too old etc but I really encouraged him to do it, even to the point that we saw a boat that he liked and I suggested we leave a note for the owner to say that if they ever wanted to sell it to let us know. They did and we took ownership of it in 2008; spent 2 years doing it up as we wanted it and spent the next 5 years sailing down the coast of Wales, across the channel and through the european waterways. It was a fabulous experience which I have never forgotten and was only stopped by deteriorating eyesight ( a must when you have to navigate a boat!). I would really encourage everyone to do what they want to do and not spend too long thinking about it. Life is too short. Thanks for such a lovely article. It’s very inspiring.

    1. That sounds like a fantastic experience, I bet you have some wonderful stories and memories.

      I loved the sentence where you said “I would really encourage everyone to do what they want to do and not spend too long thinking about it.” Thinking about things for too long often means that you find the pitfalls and never end up doing it. Great advice.

  5. You are wise beyond your years young lady, well done. The only sure tip I would add is to do anything and everything you want when you are as young as possible. No-one under 30 understands how life goes so fast and absolutely runs away with you the older you become. Enjoy every moment, all of you.

    1. Ever since I was a teenager, my family have joked that I’m an old lady in a young body! I feel like I’ve lived a few lives before this one!

      Great advice. Time is already beginning to fly by.

  6. Inspirational- as are your other blogs! I followed my heart and spent a wonderful ten years in Greece (back in the UK now). I have never regretted it. Reading your blogs reminds me of the hospitality and generosity of the Greek people. I loved coming home to find mysterious bags of artichokes, cucumber/courgette-hybrids, potatoes. These gifts often kept us going in times of hardship! Enjoy your amazing lives and well done for making it happen. Great tips!

    1. We feel the same, just lately when those mysterious bags have turned up on the doorstep, they have kept us going when we’ve been struggling with money. Thankfully the vegetable garden is now producing and the chickens are laying, but now that we have surplus, we are giving our produce away.

      Thanks for your lovely words ?

      1. hi
        I wonder if Greece would be as hospitable for a non-white person. I mean arent they freaking out re: refugees and the fascjst Golden Party is awful. Is crete any diffrent?

        1. I’ll have to be honest and say I don’t really know the Cretan views. All I know is my own opinion, which is that all life is equal and matters.

  7. All great advice, I particularly like tip #8. Thanks for the updates, wish I was on a Greek island right now!

  8. Hello Mr & Mrs SN,
    Thank you so very much for your writings. My wife and I are just about to embark upon a similar adventure but based in the Peloponese. We cannot wait to get out of the mainstream.
    I agree with everything you say and I might add to your No. 5 – beware of the people who don’t support you as they are probably jealous of you and feel threatened by your success. They actively want you to fail so they can feel better about their own failures.
    John & Bev soon to be in Tolo.
    PS You are very lucky to have worked all these things out at your young age, I have over twenty years on you and am still learning!

    1. Hi John and Bev, I’m so excited for your upcoming move to the Peloponese – keep us up to date with how it’s going.

      You are quite right about your thoughts on number 5, It’s very sad, but unfortunately true.

      All the best.

  9. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We were lucky enough to discover Corfu about 7 years ago thanks to taking on a friends cat when they went to live in Corfu so We are also passionate about Greece. I love the way you write and Share your thoughts with us all in an uncomplicated style that makes it easy reading. You seem to have a fantastic lifestyle and I hope it never changes for you both. Take care and stay safe, Dave Whitlock.

  10. Hi Steph, I’ve just read this blog post, I’ve managed to save this post for 6 days before reading!
    All 15 points are absolutely spot on, points number 12 to 15 really hit home with my own thoughts and my gut feelings, it’s amazing to know I am not the only person who thinks and feels this way…
    I’ve always had those thoughts you described but bringing up 2 children has affected how I have lived…conforming to society’s right way…
    I feel now my children are adults and successful in their own lives surely I can now be selfish and live my dream…it is what I intend to do.
    Thanks for a brilliant blog post, I still have your latest blog post to indulge….how long can I resist before I read it???

    1. I’m so happy that my blog posts are being savoured and relished…I do exactly the same with books and bloggers I follow too ?

      It’s refreshing for me to find other people that feel the same way. The older I’m getting, the more controlled I feel my life is becoming and the more I want to rebel against it. Freedom has become a battle; I refuse to conform because I’m told to!

      I hope you enjoy the latest blog post…If you haven’t read it already!

  11. I think you will find the Doorstep Mile book https://alastairhumphreys.com, and the planning book you can see here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umwp9oTJDkY&ml_subscriber=1455791242175583671&ml_subscriber_hash=t4s6&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ive_made_a_new_simple_tool_that_i_hope_youll_like&utm_term=2020-07-01 useful material. I do think it is about having the courage AND a framework to think differently are what make the difference. Thanks for the blog – always inspiring!

    1. Thanks for those recommendations, I just looked them up and they look really interesting.

  12. Hello, these 15 tips have really resonated with me, thank you for sharing what is important and personal to you in this and other posts, I’m really pleased I found your website/blogs today. I am looking at the possibility of a different life somewhere else even though I’ve never been to Greece. This post is a bit like manifesting but much more natural and down to earth, somehow manifesting I give me a lot of anxiety and affects my OCD. Did you always have a clear idea of you wanted in life? Or is it enough to know what you don’t want and work from there? I love the UK but deep down I know that it also makes me unhappy, the weather affects my SAD in a big way.

    Best wishes

    1. Hiya,

      I’m glad that the 15 tips have helped you, I still use them all the time. I’ve just published a post on the blog explaining about why we’ve moved back to the UK…we’re now searching for our Greek lifestyle here in England, so I’ll be using my 15 tips yet again to achieve it.

      I have always had a rough idea of what I’ve wanted from my life (I mostly dream about what I want and then find a way of making it happen) but you’re definitely right, I mostly know what I don’t want and then that whittles it down a lot.

      I know what you mean about the UK, it can be really depressing. It’s so easy to get caught up in it all. We’ve now realised that our Greek lifestyle was idyllic, but we need our friends and family too. Perhaps a holiday home could be the answer?

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