What’s the Difference between a Dream and a Goal?

This featured article by Dixie Sanner, Dorothy’s co-author of 16 Professional Organizers Tell All.

A timeline and consequences.

I think of a goal as a dream with feet. A young couple recently told me they wanted to have a house within the next year. “Great!” I said. “What’s your plan? How are you going to do it?” The reply was all too common, “We don’t know, but we’ll find a way.”

Really???  It’s like getting in the car to drive to a foreign destination without a map! If we don’t know where we’re going, how will we know when we get there?

Setting goals is one thing – meeting them is another. Unless we take that first step of clarifying what we intend to accomplish in a given time frame, we only have a dream, not a goal.

  1. Put them in writing. I know you’ve heard this before, but it really works! Writing out goals helps to clarify exactly what you want to do and gives you a feeling of commitment to achieve them. This sense of commitment is increased if you share your goals with someone. Work backwards. First write down the results you want to achieve, then give your goals a realistic deadline. Your written goals should not only motivate you to get started but also provide direction for what you need to do and how to do it.
  2. Be very precise about what you want. What are you going to do? Why do you want to do it? When do you want it to happen? What will the pay-off be when you achieve it?  People often write out goals that are too vague or too broad in scope. Then it’s hard to know where to start let alone how to keep going. For example.My friends who wanted a house (let’s call them John and Jane) might have written out detailed goals: A four bedroom colonial with at least two bathrooms, large kitchen and formal dining room, full basement, family room and living room, two-car attached garage, large back yard, located in the Maple Grove school district. Price cap $240,000. Don’t forget that if you’re working on goals involving other people, they should be a part of this writing process. Otherwise, they may lack the commitment to help make it happen.
  3. What tools will you need to accomplish your goal? Will you need to do research? Can you do it yourself or should you ask for help? What kind of problems might you encounter and how will you overcome them? Identify people who can help. Write all of this down so you can better analyze what needs to be done and plan how to do it.
  4. Make sure your goals are measurable so that you can check your progress.Every goal has short-term milestones along the way to achievement. These are good measurements to keep you focused and on track. It’s a great feeling to reach these mini achievements. They motivate you to keep going. John and Jane should sit down together and develop a plan of how they’re going to turn their dream into a goal. Some things they might consider

    Write down each task that needs to be done.

    may be to determine how much money they’re going to put aside for this goal and how often they’ll do it. They could also plan to visit all the neighborhoods in the Maple Grove school district, maybe one each weekend, then do research on each to narrow their target.

  5. Goals should be realistic and achievable. If they’re set too high, you’ll give up. If they’re too low, you won’t be challenged and may get bored and quit. Goals should stretch you but not break you. They should take you out of your comfort zone and guide you to new achievements. Realistic means it’s do-able for you. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy. It doesn’t have to be easy, but it does need to be attainable for you.

Now that all of the pieces are written down, it’s time to develop a plan. This is where you put feet to your dream, making it a goal. Write down each task that needs to be done.

Prioritize them and affix a deadline date to each one. Put the list in date order. Now you can schedule each task on your calendar. Why put it on your calendar? Because things that don’t get scheduled, don’t get done.

Choices have consequences.

My family is used to hearing me say, “Choices have consequences.” People who set realistic, measurable goals with achievable deadlines usually reap the benefits of making good choices. Those who just wing it and wait for fate to guide them often go through life with many unfulfilled dreams.

So if you decide to keep your dreams and not turn them into goals, you can. Just be prepared to accept the consequence of probably never having your dreams come true. But, if you choose to put feet on those dreams, be prepared to reap the benefits!

Dixie Sanner is a professional speaker, seminar leader, organizer and coach helping people organize their lives at work. She has run a successful organizing business, SOS (Sanner Organizing Solutions) for five years in the greater Washington, DC metro area. Dixie can be reached through her website at http://sos4order.com/


  • warwickbeauchamp says:

    Love your Blog on Goal setting – great ideas and very practical!

    I’m in the process of writing a book on goal setting and achievement myself – would appreciate you having a look and giving me any feedback…

    All the best for achieving your goals in 2012!!!!

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