Goals or Dreams?

There is power in setting goals for oneself, but there’s even more power in understanding and taking the steps needed to achieve a goal. Just setting a goal is the beginning. At that point, it’s a wish, a dream of what could be. Many of us have dreams of fame and fortune or perhaps recognition and status. Dreams are what could be, if only . . . .

If all you want to do is fantasize about what could be, then by all means, keep dreaming. Otherwise, write down your goal. Think about what it will take to achieve it and break it into pieces. What needs to be done first, second, third, and so on. How much time will you devote to the tasks you must perform to reach your goal? Unless you write it down and follow through with your intension, the goal will remain a dream.

I know this because I have been dreaming of writing a book for almost 30 years. When I finished my dissertation, I knew that I wanted to write more. I knew I could do it. I also knew that it took time and effort. Then I started getting sidetracked with work and family. Writing a book seemed frivolous and unnecessary. I was a little scared of the idea, too.

I thought of all the “what ifs” I could conjure up. What if I fail? was the biggest, hairiest “what if” of them all. If there’s anything I (and a lot of other people) don’t like, it’s the thought of failing at something. It’s not the actual failure that stops me. I avoid failure whenever possible because I can’t stand the thought of attempting something and failing at it. Instead, I just don’t do it. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this tactic. I am a perfectionist, and this perfectionism has kept me from trying things if I don’t know the outcome in advance.

How does this relate to goal-setting and achieving goals? You can set goals for yourself, but if you don’t take the steps needed to achieve those goals, they remain dreams, unfulfilled and untested. At some point, you need to let go of the rope keeping you tethered to the dream and start working. Yes, it can be difficult. Yes, you might stumble and even fail. But if it’s something you really want, how will you know you can get it if you don’t try?

Some people love the challenge of the journey, some like the destination. It really doesn’t matter which you prefer. It helps to have someone or something to help you get where you want to go. You might choose to have a navigator or coach to accompany you to keep you on the right road and on track. You might work with someone to go through a goal-setting exercise that helps you map out the process for achieving your goal. You then have something to refer to often as you work. How you get there is your choice; getting help is not a weakness.

If there’s anything this “stay at home” time has done for me, it has given me the time to consider what I really want to do with my time and talents. The book is still singing its siren song to me. I’ve listened and felt the fear of crashing on the rocks. This time, though, the fear is of not writing the book. What or who will I be if I don’t move forward with my dream? I considered that, then got some help. I committed my goal of writing this book to paper and plotted the steps I need to take to finish. I signed up for an online course to help me focus my work. I want to publish the book, so just typing it on my computer, while a start, is not enough. I need to learn how to work through the process, too.

This is my example of setting a goal and creating the process for achieving it. Whatever it is that you want or need to achieve, it’s still work. You must determine if the reward of accomplishing the goal is great enough to sustain you through the work of completing the necessary steps. If goals are given to you as part of your job, can you align your individual goals with the job and get it done? I don’t have clear answers for that question. Each person needs to determine how to respond to the necessity to accomplish someone else’s goals. (In the workplace, good leaders bring people along on the path to the organization’s goals. In my opinion, imposing goals on staff without buy-in leads to dissonance and dissatisfaction.)

For many people, goal setting seems like second nature. We do it regularly. We are taught to plan for the future. End-of-year meetings in businesses are filled with planning for the next year. Why not take the time at each opportunity of a new task or project to really plan the process and work steadily toward achieving the goal or completing the project? Such planning brings clarity, stokes enthusiasm for the project, and can turn dreams into achievable goals.

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