During a recent trip to San Diego, I was reminded of the importance of deliberately chasing your dream life.

On an early morning stroll on the beach, I walked past a surfer and said,

Gosh, it’s early to be out here.

He replied,

I have to get it in early because I have to be at work by 8.

I asked what he meant, and he replied, “I’m a CPA. I’ve built my whole life around being able to do the things I love, and one of the things I love most is surfing. On weekdays, I wake up at 5, I’m on the water by 6, and then I head home, shower, and leave for work.”

It struck me how intentional he was about building his life. He’d identified what mattered to him and made it happen.

Chase Your Dream Life by Interviewing Your Future Self

My encounter with the surfer reminded me of an exercise I’d completed years ago, when I was working with an executive coach. It’s called The Reporter Exercise, and it required me to fully involve myself in a mind game in which I was being interviewed by a reporter five years in the future.

The exercise is intended to help you identify your dream life through nine questions. For it to work, you must suspend reality and slide into your future self’s position so you can see exactly how you would like your life to be.

When I went through the exercise in 2007, the vision I created was dramatically different from the reality I was living. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I had a lousy life. In fact, I was happy. But I clearly wasn’t where I wanted to end up — there was more I wanted to accomplish. Without the exercise, I’m not sure I would have ever pinned it down.

In the years following the exercise, I began making decisions to move toward my imagined dream life. Ninety-five percent of what seemed ludicrous to even dream about a decade ago is in my life today in some form, or I’m close to achieving it. Of course, my life isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot closer to my version of perfection because I took the time to craft a vision.

Building the Dream Starts Here

So what about you? Do you have any idea what your ideal life is? Are you the CPA who knows he wants to surf every day? Or do you just have some vague idea that you’ll figure things out along the way?

Here’s the deal: The time to figure life out is now. No one else can build your life for you — it’s up to you. If you’re ready, download Reporter Exercise, then follow these five tips to make the most of the experience and start aiming for your dreams. A word of caution: You must fully embrace the exercise. If you censor yourself, think your ideas are crazy, or limit yourself, you won’t create the vision you need to move forward.

1. Be clear about your intentions.

The first step toward having the life you want is defining what that life is. This isn’t just about your career. This is about every facet of your existence — how and where and when you engage with your family, where you live, who you surround yourself with, how you spend your money, who you help, and what’s important to you.

2. Give it enough time.

It took me six weeks to complete the exercise, and each answer was a few pages long. Read each question, then let it marinate for a couple of days before you respond. Find a quiet space for yourself to allow your vision to become real so you can completely articulate the details on paper.

3. Keep believing.

Back in 2007, I told my coach, “This is crazy — I have no idea how I could even do this!” He reassured me, saying, “We’ll figure out how to get you there. But first, we have to be really clear on the dream.” Don’t sell yourself short.

4. Be patient, and constantly tweak your vision.

Sculpting your dream life isn’t an overnight task, and you’ll likely change a few details as you begin to realize it. Although much of what I dreamed several years ago is now my reality, I adjusted my vision along the way, and I still have more to accomplish.

5. Don’t wait to get started.

You’ve worked hard your whole life, and you’ve taken all sorts of risks to get to where you are. You deserve to have an amazing life, but don’t wait to start chasing it until you’re 60, 70, or 80. I don’t care how old you are — the time is now to get as close to your dream as you can as soon as you can.

Most people go through life one step after another. They’re just marching toward the end, even though they don’t know what the end is. Fortunately, you’re uniquely positioned to craft the life you want. There’s no one on this planet who has a better shot at building your exact dream life.

So get to dreaming.

This post by Drew McLellan originally appeared on Self Growth.