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Last Updated on March 18, 2021

How To Use Goals and Dreams To Achieve Personal Success

How To Use Goals and Dreams To Achieve Personal Success

Goals and dreams are two concepts that are often used interchangeably in the quest for success. Although they can be used to complement one another, they do mean different things. This article looks at what goals and dreams are and how they can be used hand-in-hand in order to achieve personal success.

What Are Goals?

There are different ways to describe what goals are; it can be said that goals are the desired outcomes that you have plans and commitment to achieve. What makes goals spectacular is that the things you want to achieve are clearly defined with a timeframe within which they should be achieved.

Here are some examples of goals:

  • Get certified in analytics in three months
  • Celebrate child’s 5th birthday in Disneyland
  • Attain financial freedom at 50
  • Read and finish at least one book monthly
  • Watch the next Olympic games live

What Are Dreams?

Dreams are thoughts, imaginations, and aspirations that are often about what we desire to attain, experience, or achieve. Dreams can be spontaneous, or they can be desires that we have nursed over a long time. Our dreams are often shaped and influenced by what we see regularly around us, the things we have heard or read about, or the things people we admire are doing.

Here are some examples of dreams:

  • Attend an Ivy League Institution
  • Own a company
  • Be debt-free
  • Be healthy and fit
  • Travel the world

Differences Between Goals and Dreams

There is no need to confuse goals and dreams when you know their differences[1] and how they can work together to facilitate success. The following are some useful insights about goals and dreams.

Thoughts and Imagination Vs. Plans and Action

In order to have a dream, you need to engage your thoughts and imagination. This means thinking deeply about what you want to achieve, where you want to go, and to what extent you want to achieve those things. For dreams, everything ends in the realm of imagination if nothing is done thereafter.

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Unlike dreams, goals require a commitment towards achieving the desired end. This includes deciding the size of the goals, planning the order of events that will lead to achieving them, and the timeline within which they should be achieved.

Spontaneity Vs. Thoughtfulness

You can have a dream anytime, anyhow, and without any form of preparation or formality. This is not the same with goals. Goals must be set thoughtfully, and conscientiously. They must be clearly written down and should be S.M.A.R.T.

Dreams Come Before Goals

It would be right to say that there is no goal without a dream. Dreams must come first because dreams give birth to goals. You must have a desire and nurture it in your mind until it becomes a burning desire that you are ready to pursue. That is when they can be turned to goals.

Captured Dreams Become Goals

There can be dreams without goals. Dreams can go on and on and end only in fantasy. However, when they are captured, they can become actionable goals that can, indeed, materialize.

There is a Yoruba proverb that can be translated thus: “S/he who finds money in the dream and gets excited should be told to focus on working hard so as not to become a victim of poverty.” While the proverb is primarily about night dreams, it can apply to imaginative dreaming, too.

To realize your dream, it must be captured and turned into goals; then, you will have to create a goals strategy and follow it up with hardwork.

Goals Require Steps

Goals are the steps you set out to take after you are convinced that your dream is truly worth it. These steps will outline what you should do and how you should do them to attain your dream.

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Dreams Are Free, but Goals Come With a Price

Dreams come without costs. You can dream as many times as you want in a day without restriction. However, goals are not like that. You have to think about whether your goals are achievable or not when setting them. Because of the costs (sacrifices) associated with getting your goals done, it places a limit on which goals you can set per time.

Lack of Limits Vs. Defined Objectives

There are no structures to dreams, neither are there limits to how far you can dream. But goals have to be framed. They must be clearly defined with measurable objectives and a timeline.

Inspiration Vs. Creating Change

You can dream to inspire yourself and aspire to a greater future, but if you want to experience real change, you have to be specific about what you want and how you want to get there. Goals are the commitments made towards creating change.

How to Turn Your Dreams Into Actionable Goals

To help you take your dreams to the next level, follow these tips and create actionable goals.

1. Make Your Dream Clear and Solid

Before your dream can become ripe enough to be turned into an actionable goal, you have to be clear about what you really want. Your dream has to go from imagination to reality. Here are some things that can be done to make your dreams clear.[2]

Take Inspiration From Success Stories

Read inspiring stories of successful people to think through your own dreams. Such stories will help you to put your dreams in the proper perspective.

Envision Your Future

Engage the power of vision in picturing your own future. Let your mind be in tune with what you desire for yourself. It is a known truth that you are always drawn towards the pictures you have in your mind.

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Think About Your Dream

The mind is very powerful, and it has the ability to create imaginary concepts that can be turned into reality. Most of the edifices you can see existed first in the realm of the mind.

See the Big Picture

Dreams are free, so think big. See the bigger picture of your dream, the highest possible level you think you can attain.

Write Down Your Dream

Capture your dreams by writing them down. This will make them clearer. You don’t have to be economical while writing them down. Just write them the way they occur to you.

2. Break Your Dream Into Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

You might not be able to pursue your dream in its raw state, and that is why goals are needed. You should have a plan and structure for achieving your dream, and this will include setting both short-term and long-term goals that will get you on the path of your dream.

Short-term goals are goals that you set to achieve from now up to 3 months or in less than a year. Long-term goals are goals that can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years to achieve. Your short-term goals are actually your stepping stones towards achieving the long-term goals and ultimately leading you to your dream.

3. Make the Goals SMART

What makes a goal statement differ from a dream statement is that goals should be S.M.A.R.T when framing them. This means that each of the goals you set towards achieving your dream must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time-Sensitive.

For more on S.M.A.R.T goals, check out this article.

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4. Break Each Goal Into Milestones

Beyond creating goals that are SMART, you should also break each goal into milestones. Milestones are small steps (miniature goals) that can be achieved within a very short time. When you achieve these smaller goals, it keeps you motivated to keep getting closer to your big dream without feeling overwhelmed. You can keep your eyes on the big dream while focusing on the milestones.

If you need a bit more help on how to make your dreams and goals happen, don’t miss this dreamers’ guide:

Final Thoughts

Anyone can have dreams to create a picture of their own future. If you are not satisfied with your current state, all you have to do is dream. If you have achieved your dreams, then it’s time to dream again or inspire others to dream.

You can achieve anything that your mind can conceive if you take the time to turn them into goals. Make your dreams big, but set smaller goals to move progressively towards the realization of your big dream.

More Tips on Using Dreams to Achieve Success

Featured photo credit: Yukie Emiko via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on June 16, 2021

What to Do If You Find Yourself Making Slow Progress Towards Your Goal

What to Do If You Find Yourself Making Slow Progress Towards Your Goal

If you are making slow progress on a goal you’ve set, maybe it is the wrong goal in the first place. Perhaps factors, including your attitude or environment, do not allow you to make your desired progress. However, it is easy to blame timing and luck; if you set a goal, you and only you are accountable for achieving it (read the achieve my goals guide). The question is, how?

Start With Why

On my career path, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to explore and learn things practically. After a successful corporate career, I spent two years trying to establish an entrepreneurial consultancy, only to realize marginal success.

The consultancy formed based on my core values, candor, curiosity, and collaboration, but unfortunately, my customer base and projects were seemingly random and disjointed. While I understood I needed to establish a consistent and repeatable approach to content marketing to drive my clients’ results, that approach was not apparent in the brand I had built. Things got so rough that I had to resort to collecting unemployment at the onset of the pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I delivered a webinar called earning trust in uncertain times: coronavirus edition. Afterward, I received an email from a participant. He shared some thoughts on a campaign for his jewelry company and asked for feedback. When I read his email, I realized I could quickly help him to gain clarity, so I sent him a note with an offer to get his message on track. He offered to pay me for my time, and I said to myself,

“I am adding value, and I can charge for this!”

This first client needed to shift my offerings from general marketing consulting to a more diversified career that focuses on personal brand building.

It took a global pandemic to realize I needed to shift my goals to align with the change I was trying to make in the world, to a new business, coaching that applies my skills in an authentic way to me and valuable to prospects and customers.

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Start With Your Identity

James Clear discusses identity-based habits as deeply rooted in a person’s outlook toward life.[1] As a businessperson, identity-based practices are what impact business goals and your approaches towards achieving them. Identity is what you believe in, and outcomes determine what you seek to achieve. A permanent change comes from transforming the who part of behavior—the character.

Whether it is a coaching program I develop, a class I teach, or a marketing campaign I create, I always start identity. According to The Brookings Institute:[2]

Identity is a unique, inherited collection of assets, history, traits, and culture that distinguishes it internally and externally and can unite people and places.

But this logic also applies to personal goals. If losing weight is your goal, your focus is on an outcome rather than an identity-based plan, and you may lose motivation. Think, “Why am I trying to lose weight?”

  • Is it to be more healthy?
  • Did you get some lousy test results at the doctor?
  • Are you at risk of severe health problems?

It may help reframe your goal around a positive statement like, I am working to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Motivation has to come from a place of confidence and belief in yourself. You know what they say about the air mask on the airplane – put it on yourself first.

It is ok to set goals for others; for example, “I am losing weight so I can live for my kids;” however, if you don’t set goals around themes that you can own, and you don’t do it for yourself first, then the people in your life will not receive any benefit.

Think about what you achieve from your efforts — the outcomes. The reality that you are looking at right now must also allude to the fact you promise to create for your clientele, and that is not possible unless you believe in it and make it believable for others.

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Be Specific About What, How, and When

Your values need to align with other people and systems to engage in meeting your desired outcome, so make sure to put in place a process that accounts for what motivates you, that you can reliably complete until you achieve your goal.

If you are not specific and clear about how many pounds you are trying to lose and when you will lose then, then how will you know if you met your goal in the first place?

BJ FOGG, the author of Tiny Habits, suggests that you start small. In the Tiny Habits method, you always start with a tiny behavior. Some examples:

  • Floss one tooth
  • Read one sentence in a book.
  • Take one deep breath.

According to Fogg, an excellent tiny behavior has these qualities:

  • takes less than 30 seconds (even better: just 5 seconds)
  • requires no real effort
  • doesn’t create pain or destructive emotions

Make sure it’s a habit you want to have in your life. Don’t pick something that’s a “should,” choose new behaviors you wish to.

The next thing to learn is where to place the further tiny action in your life. Just like planting a seed, you want the right spot for it, a place where it fits naturally and where it can thrive.

Be flexible and adaptable. We are in a complicated and volatile world, and things change on a dime, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to change how you go about achieving your goal or even what goals you are trying to accomplish first place.

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Be aware of bias. As you set out to achieve your goals, it is critical to be aware of the bias that can sneak in and sabotage your thinking. Yes, it is essential to collaborate with others to achieve your goals, but you need to understand yourself and make sure you are not getting in your way before doing that. Here are some common forms of bias.

  • Confirmation bias: People tend to listen more often to information that confirms the beliefs they already have.
  • Selection bias: Selecting individuals, groups that do not provide diverse perspectives for you to consider.
  • Self-serving bias: People tend to give themselves credit for successes but blame failures on external causes.

What about serendipity? Many of us believe that the great turning points and opportunities in our lives happen by chance, that they’re out of our control.

Dr. Christian Busch, author of The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck, spent a decade exploring how, if acted upon, unexpected encounters can expand our random social encounters can enhance our worldview, expand our social circles, and create new professional opportunities.

Serendipity is usually about connecting dots that have previously remained elusive. Busch’s findings suggest that Good luck isn’t just chance—it can be learned and leveraged. When you are perceptive, curious, open-minded, and eager to see opportunities, others might see only negatively. If you notice something unusual but can connect that bit of information with something else, you are in the right mindset for achieving serendipity.

Motivation and a Realistic Plan

Only you can choose the goals you set. Motivation is critical in meeting your goals. But choosing goals is not enough; you need to select the right goals and define a plan that keeps you accountable for meeting your goals.

Author Gabriele Oettingen defined a methodology you can use to get better at achieving your hopes and dreams. It’s called WOOMP![3]

WOOP stands for:

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  • W = Wish
  • O = Outcome
  • O = Obstacle
  • P = Plan

WOOMP, there it is! WOOMP will force you to be hyper-realistic about your goals and be action-minded in your approach to achieving them.

Show up Consistently

In order to turn your vision into reality, you will have to regularly show up by consistently organizing, leading, and building to get to your goals.

“Some people show up when they need something. Some people show up before they need something, knowing that it will pay off later when they need something. And some people merely show up. Not needing anything, not in anticipation of needing something, but merely because they can.” — Seth Godin

Final Thoughts

While I would be happy to be your trusted advisor and coach, the answer has to start with you. My process will help you to define and document an ownable set of values and marketing frameworks that will make you more appealing to clients/ employers, especially on LinkedIn. These values will translate beyond work, as well.

More on Making Progress

Featured photo credit: Aj Alao via unsplash.com

Reference

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