Thursday, June 20, 2013

Do You Have Goals or Do You Have Dreams?

Many people think that goals and dreams are synonymous, that the words can be used interchangeably to discuss how we see our future. However, they really are two very different concepts. Dreams are not based in reality, they are imaginary and they are fantasy. On the other hand, goals are about strategy, they are about planning, and they are about taking appropriate action based in reality.

In an earlier blog post, I explored how to create effective goals using the SMART goal setting system. I would like to use this same system to evaluate whether you are chasing dreams or working toward achieving goals.

SPECIFIC AND MEASURABLE - "Goals are dreams with deadlines." Diana Scharf Hunt
Goals answer the who, what, why, where, and when questions. Dreams don't have to have an ending, but goals must have a finish line or an ending. By nature, goals must have a specific outcome. Having a deadline or and ending in sight for your goal will give you that sense of urgency to take action.

Dream: I want to be rich and have all the money I ever need for retirement when I am older.

Goal: By the time I am 50, I want to have $1.5 million dollars in the bank. I will accomplish this by obtaining my Juris Doctorate degree and becoming a lawyer that earns $150,000 or more by the time I am 28. I will save a minimum of 30% of my salary every year and will invest my money so that it will continue to grow.

ADAPTABLE - "When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps." Confucius
It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. It is imperative that you build milestones into your goal's plan. You must be able to stop along the way, evaluate your efforts and progress, and identify what is and is not working. Use this constant analysis to keep yourself on track for achieving your goals.

In our earlier example, by the time you are 35 your life situation may have changed (marriage, divorce, children, etc.) that may make saving 30% unrealistic. Also, you may have tried some investments that caused you to lose money. Constantly evaluate your progress and determine whether or not you need to adjust your approach.

REALISTIC - "I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter." Walt Disney
Remember, the goal must be something that can be achieved within the time constraints you have established. Never forget that goals require hard work, effort, and even struggle. However dreams are so easy, you can even do it in your sleep! However, no matter how hard you are willing to work, don't set yourself up for failure by creating an unrealistic goal for yourself.

Unrealistic Dream: I want to lose 30 pound by the end of this week. 

Realistic Goal: Within 6 weeks, I am going to lose 14 pounds and 2% body fat. 

TRACKABLE - "We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort." Jesse Owens
To keep yourself on the right road to success, you must have a system of checks and balances to which you can hold yourself accountable. Keep track of your milestones along the way to achieving your goals. These mini success stories will not only keep you on the right path, they will keep you motivated toward the "end game."

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