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1. Make list of dreams. 2. Start to live them.

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'Someday' is a word filled with promise and possibility. "Someday I want to ..." we say dreamily, finishing the sentence with a variety of specific or vague plans. There are books to read, trips to take, projects to start or finish.

But then clocks tick and calendar pages turn. Months and years go by, and "someday" never quite comes. Caught up in careers and families, duties and interruptions, we become masters of postponement.

For Carrie Tuhy, a former magazine editor in New York, that realization finally prompted action. After losing her job as editor of Real Simple magazine three years ago, she began considering her next step.

"I had always said I'll do certain things when I have time," says Ms. Tuhy, who is in her 50s. "Suddenly I had time, but I wasn't sure what these things were that I had been planning to do." Afraid she might squander this opportunity – "dribble it away on things that didn't seem significant" – she began compiling a "life list."

"We all have to-do lists," Tuhy says. "Pick up the dry cleaning or work out three times a week. They tend to be the kinds of things that aren't very nourishing. When I sat down to think about it, I made a list of things that were nourishing for me."

That list included nature, travel, spirituality, and friends. In addition to being nourishing, she says, those broad categories were "empowering."

Under each heading, she wrote specific activities. Her list grew to 25 goals. Some were big: "It wasn't just 'Take more trips.' It was 'Go to India.' " Explaining her desire to visit India and Turkey, she says, "I wanted to see the world through Muslim eyes."

Other destinations were more modest. After moving to New York as a young journalist, Tuhy stopped driving. But she still has a driver's license, and the open road beckoned. She wanted to take a driving trip.

Some items on the list were small and practical. She classifies them as "life skills" – things she wanted to know to feel competent. She enrolled in Spanish language classes, broadening her view of other cultures. She also mastered Microsoft Excel and learned to make her own business cards on the computer.

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