Living in China

How to Make Your Dream Come True

Great Wall, 2010, first week in China

On Monday I showed you 13 photos of proof that it was absolutely worth it to make my dream come true. But how do you actually do it? Do you just wake up one day and you realize you’re living your dream? Well, I’m sorry to say, but it doesn’t happen like that. There are certain steps you need to make and in this blog post I’m gathering all the best advice I’ve found on how to make our dreams come true.

First I would like to start with a personal story, but if you want to get right to the meat, scroll down for tips and links.

We all have dreams, but we’re afraid to act on them

Already back in high school I wanted to go to China for my undergraduate degree and dreamed of moving to China right after graduation, but I didn’t. Why? Because I met a guy and put his needs before my own. I pressed the pause for my dreams just to get cheated on five years later. Well, thanks to that, I had this sense of freedom I’d never had before. After crying my eyes out I realized, that I could do anything I wanted, anywhere in the world. I decided to call my mother.

I called my mother because I wanted her to encourage me to go to China for student exchange. In that critical moment I needed her to tell me “Go, make your dream come true”. And that’s what I did!

Making your dream come true once, doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to do it again

During my first months in China I told people I’m not interested in doing business. I told them that I’m going to move to a small village and write books for living. And what did I do? I let my right foot sink into the pool of business. I started helping my friend with her business, found a client or two more and tought about doing it full-time after graduation. I love helping the few clients I have right now, I’m helping them to make their dreams come true, but there’s something I’m more passionate about my self.

During this Summer I met two very passionate persons who absolutely love what they are doing. One is a teacher at my university, but even during her holiday, she is finding ways to make a difference in the Teaching Chinese as a Second Language field. She is helping out a friend who used to study online business, but is also very interested in teaching foreigners Chinese. He wants to both help us expats to master Chinese, but also educate young teachers on how to teach foreigners. I noticed I could discuss these topics with them for hours and be amazed how similar ideas we have.

Finding the passion already inside you

After meeting them I realized this is what I’ve been doing all the time! My first blog was about helping others to prepare for their university exams and a small book was published based on the blog. I was, and still am, very interested in psychology, learning strategies and education.

After moving to China I started this blog, Living a Dream in China, and started receiving emails from readers who wanted to move to China. They wanted to make their dream come true and asked for my help. I also started How Can I Learn Chinese in order to share my findings among the best tips, tools and apps for learning Chinese.

I noticed that the things I’m ready to stay up late for might just be the things I’m most passionate about: Chinese language, culture and history, blogging and writing, learning and educating my self, and helping others to do the same.

I still don’t know how I’m going to put this all in a package and use it to buy me bread to eat, but I’m certainly going to try!


Spring 2013, moved to a village, still dreaming about writing a book

The most important step

[You can stop scrolling now!]

You have to decide to make your dream true, you have to decide to try your best. Without this decision your dream is just a dream, something you think about before going to sleep and something you will once again putt off when you wake up the next morning.

Sounds simple right? Well, if it was simple everyone would be living their dream lives right now. We all have our excuses. Boyfriends, girlfriends, family, kids, house, mortgage, job, career and so on. But we also only have one chance at life, are you going to let it pass?

Tools to help you get started

I’m not a pro in dream making business, but I’ve been lucky to find useful resources to help me on the journey.

  • Just last week I saw a video called How To Get Dreams Out Of Your Head by Darren Rowse and besides having funny pictures from his youth, the speech is very inspirational and offers tips on how to get your dreams out and make them true.
  • For 7 steps on the path to your dream, check out a blog post by Pick The Brain. On which step are you at the moment? There are also a lot of other thought provoking content on that blog.
  • I’m also reading a book by Henri Junttila, who has the same given name as my little brother. On Find Your Passion: 25 Questions You Must Ask Yourself, Henri helps us to achieve our dream by discovering our passion. I haven’t finished it yet, because I’m trying my best to answer the questions in writing as well as I can.

If you watched that video by Darren, you surely noticed the little assignment he gave for everyone in the audience. To tell someone next to you about your dream and the first step to make it true. This is my first step and it can be yours too, please leave a comment and share your dream with me.

Do you dream of moving to China? Or becoming fluent in Chinese? What is your first step?


  • ggoorts

    I really recognize that there is a distinct moment where you realize that you need to act.

    When I was 17, I was dreaming of spending a year abroad after secondary school. One night, I was already in bed while my parents were up and as I was thinking of it, I realized it was time to act. I would graduate in another 8 months and now was the time to plan and decide not to apply for University etc.

    I got up, joined my parents in the living room and talked with them about it. Like you, I looked for their encouragement. And though my mother was hesitant at first, I got both of their quiet support.

    When I was 18, I spent a year in Italy and Ghana and it has shaped my life ever after. But even if you do this once, you need a “wake up moment” every now and then to focus again on what’s important and your dream, not someone else’s dream.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi ggoorts, thanks for the comment!

    I’m sure you had unbelievable time in Italy and Ghana, what would you say were the biggest lessons you learned while living abroad?

    Those “wake up moments” are just so magical, it’s hard to put into words how to describe the feeling during those moments. Like a light bulb suddenly turned on in your brain and you realize you have to make the step.

    I think it’s important and useful to schedule some time every month/year to see where you’re going, what dreams you want to pursue and if you are living the life you want to.


    ggoorts Reply:

    I think the most important things I learned living abroad so young were:
    (1) confidence – the confidence to put myself in strange new situations and trust that somehow I’d learn and adapt, figure out what I wanted to achieve
    (2) global mind – I realize that we’re all “citizens of the world”. There are many differences, but every person is human and cares about their family and friends. Everyone has a hometown and activities they like to do.

    You’re right that it’s a good idea to schedule some time for reflection. It’s easy to get caught up though, just going through the motions.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I so agree with number 1 especially! After I heard that I was accepted for the student exchange back in 2010, I started to think of coming to China earlier than the semester started.

    I only had a Finnish blog at the time, but I wrote there that if I was braver, I would travel a whole month before my first semester in China. And that’s what I decided to do, all by my self!

    It was so great to realize that I can do that on my own.


  • Luke Roland

    Loved your post and the pictures. We do only get one chance at life and we might as well go for the dreams that we have. My wife and I fell in love with the city we live in now. Moving and leaving our family and everything we knew behind was very hard, but we did it and we couldn’t be happier with the decision. Life is better when you are pursuing the dreams that you have.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    So great to hear you and your wife made the change and are now enjoying the fruit of your decision! I totally agree with you, that life is so much better when you pursue your dreams.

    Thank you for leaving a comment Luke!


  • Ellen


    If there is a place where I can announce the best blog entry of the year, I would certainly choose this one. The book by Henri is great! It’s simple, yet genius. The video by Darren is a nice cherry as well. However, most importantly, I love how you write about achieving your dreams. Very often young people dream about becoming entrepreneurs, rich and famous. Yet it’s not always what the life is about. I truly admire your dreams and what you’re doing, also that you’re living your dreams at such a young age.

    As for myself, I’ve been trapped since I studied truly hard for the past years, and I’ve forgotten what was that I’m striving for. Thanks to your suggestions about Henri and Darren I am hoping to resume who I was some years ago and what were those dreams that I had put “on hold”.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Aww, thank you so much Ellen for your kind words. I wrote this post in such a flow and passion, it’s even greater that I was able to help others with it too.

    I’ve been very impressed by Henri recently and I think because he is from Sweden (with a Finnish name) I can relate to him much better. I really like his blog and his book, he always seems to know to ask the right questions.

    I’m happy to hear thay you’re now getting back to your dreams, something I’m doing my self too. I can very well understand why dreams go on hold, but the most important things is to not forget them, but to be brave and pursue what we want. Lets us all encourage each other to make our dream come true.


Leave a Reply