“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
It’s that time of year again–a sparkly, shiny, newborn year ripe with possibilities–and I’m guessing when you probably expect me to write about how to make and achieve those ever-elusive (yet always made) New Year’s resolutions. But I’m not going to do that. Nope. Not this time. Instead, I’m here to tell you what I view to be the main differences between goals and dreams. I’m also here to tell you why it matters that you become clear on which of those categories your coveted New Year’s resolutions fall under: goals or dreams. Because it matters. And it might make all the difference in deciding what gets done this year and what you allow to fall by the wayside of yesteryear. (That place where your former goals and dreams are buried.)
Nearly all of us have goals and dreams. But there are definitely some major differences between the two. For starters, we’ll turn to the dictionary for the standard definitions:
Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result
Dream: a strongly desired goal or purpose
They sound pretty much the same, don’t they? Yet they stand worlds apart from an implementation and conquering perspective. In my mind, a goal is an obtainable outcome a person can achieve by taking certain, fairly-predictable steps. Now, I’m not saying that means goals are easier. That’s not always true. And the steps aren’t always the same for every person, but they are fairly logical, predictable, and normally follow a certain path from inception to accomplishment. The goal is clearly stated. The steps, easily understood. In other words, if I “want to be a teacher,” then I’ll have to go earn a college degree in education to do so. Goals typically have logical steps and predictable paths that are common to the majority of people who wish to achieve them. While there may be some individuals out there who have found ways to, say, teach in universities without educational degrees, it’s not common. So, if you “want to be a teacher,” it’s pretty clear what you need to do to achieve that goal.
Now, let’s talk about my favorite category: dreams. I get giddy just typing the word. Dreams are different than goals because they are more grandiose, elusive, far more difficult to achieve, often scary as hell, abstract, and more often than not, we have absolutely NO freaking idea how we are going to achieve them. We don’t know how someone, like us, can do something so big and crazy, like this. All we know is that we really, deeply, truly want it at the core of our being. We can’t resist thinking about it. Imagining it. It keeps us awake at night. Back to our prior example, instead of just wanting to “be a teacher,” maybe you want to become “a nationally-recognized educator who speaks all across the country, authors best-selling books, and is viewed as a renowned authority.” See the difference? That’s way bigger, scarier, and a whole heck of a lot harder to figure out. (Yep, you’ll still need to become a teacher, but you need to find a way to stand out, meet a bunch of people you don’t know, figure out how to write a book, write one or twelve, become a popular speaker, get people to want to listen to you and believe what you say. There is a whole lot more involved with the dream version over the goal one.) While the pursuit of dreams does often involve the pursuit of various “goals,” in reality, they are as different as the shows Family Ties and Game of Thrones. While there is some (way removed) general overlap in theme–families with struggles–they are worlds apart, as far as problems with homework problems, and the Mother of Dragons conquering cities, go. (I’m just saying.)
If you have a goal, you probably know exactly WHAT you need to do in order to achieve it. The steps are logical. They make sense. These are steps that would likely apply to anyone who wants to do what it is you want to do.
If you have a dream, you know what it is you want to achieve, if you dare to allow yourself fly high on the wings of unbridled brilliance and fury, and may have some idea of the types of things you should maybe do to get there, but these dreams are far bigger than some simple, logical actionable steps. These are dreams that keep you awake at night. They quicken your pulse and make your soul shake. They get you excited to hop out of bed (uh, maybe after 3 cups of coffee, or in my case, iced tea) to pursue them. In short, these dreams are so big, you don’t even know where to begin, much less what all you’ll need to be able to do to get there. And that, my friends, is NOT a bad problem to have, so long as you own it for what it is. A problem that can be solved.
As you embark upon this sparkly, shiny new year, be clear about what types of resolutions you have made or will make. Are the things on your list goals or dreams? If you want to lose weight, watch what you eat and exercise. If you want to advance in your career: buy books, attend webinars, find a mentor, and work to elevate your skills and level of knowledge. And if you want to accomplish a big, scary, messy, bold, beautiful, awe-inspiring dream, then by all means–wake the hell up, and c-h-a-s-e it. Maybe you don’t know the exact steps needed. Maybe you haven’t met the right people yet. Perhaps you aren’t quite sure where to start or what that path is going to look like for you, all you know is that the inner whisper is strong, the vision bold, and this is your dream. What I can tell you is this: if you want to do it, you’ll figure it out. You’ll find a way. It may be common to others or unique to you on your personal journey. You don’t have to know all the steps or be able to see the full path. You may need to find a mentor or partner, obtain more education, or training, or more skills for the journey. You may need to discover new resources, find things you don’t even know how to find, or forge more ideal connections as you walk the rickety plank toward your dreams. It’s not a clear path, but if you want it, it is yours to take.
It’s good to have goals and take the steps needed to achieve them. But, it’s even better to have bold dreams that scare the you half to damn death. In fact, if it’s a dream, it should.
Wishing you a year spent in the pursuit of fulfilling goals…and, more importantly…even bigger dreams.
Chase what is to be yours. Don’t worry about knowing the path. Go find it. Don’t worry about knowing the people. Go meet them. And don’t worry about having it all figured out. Often, the best people never do. They just do it anyway. A person with a whisper in her heart, a vision in her head, and a dream in her hands will make it there. And if she cannot find the way, she will forge it.
“The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it, and the perseverance to follow it.” – Kalpana Chawla
Happy New Year, everyone! (As for me, I’ve been insanely busy writing my first book, but I swear I’ll be back full-throttle, words scattered all over the page, once I’m done chasing this big dream of mine.) Wishing you every good thing in 2018! If you enjoyed today’s post, share it.
Until next time…D-R-E-A-M big. And do the damn thing.