Most people you ask, will tell you that they have goals in life. As sentient beings who are able to plan and anticipate the future, we usually have certain aspirations, expectations and desires about things to come. Upon closer inspection however, the goals most people formulate are not great goals. To be more precise, they are not even goals. They are just dreams.
Who doesn’t want to be wealthy, healthy and in a good, nurturing relationship? Those are often the three main areas people seek out to improve in their lives. Whether they succeed or not, depends on their definition of how wealth, good health and good relationships look like.
Often blinded by advice about how to acquire wealth (usually limited to copying the behaviour of billionaire role models, such as getting up at 5am, reading a lot of books or ‘hustling’) you will hear people setting themselves goals such as ‘I will be a millionaire by next year’. There is a whole industry out there encouraging people to make positive affirmations, believe in the ‘law of attraction’ and ‘frequency vibrations’ and wealth will be automatically delivered by the universe.
However, what most people who have actually acquired wealth will tell you (regardless of their belief in the law of attraction or vibrations), is that a belief without a plan or a realistic pathway, is not likely to bring you the wealth you desire. You can of course rely on fortune, as many people indeed do, but luck is a capricious factor outside of your control. No law of attraction or vibrations will lead you to wealth unless that belief if coupled with consistent action and a clear plan broken down in individual steps.
Likewise, you can’t improve your health if you solely rely on your unconscious somehow taking care of it, unless this is coupled with a positive lifestyle that takes physical exercise, self-care and optimal nutrition into consideration. Furthermore, you will not create your ideal relationship if you focus on ‘connecting to your authentic self’ while ignoring the feelings, personalities and behaviour of the people you want to attract.
What are the main differences between a dream and a goal then? To start with, as discussed earlier, a goal consists of a step-by-step plan which will take you from A to B. We often talk about SMART goals in that respect. Goals have to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. If you want to be wealthy, you will need to know specifically how much money you want to earn and when by. You also better define how you are going to earn this money, how you will measure progress towards your goal and whether this is achievable within your means (no matter how well you plan and hustle, starting a small business and expecting a turnover of a million within a year is always going to be an uphill struggle).
Another important element that should be incorporated into a goal, is alignment to your values and identity. Becoming wealthy by setting up a business which pollutes the environment or bankrupts poor people will not bring a sense of accomplishment, if your values are ethical or your mission is to improve the world. Likewise, you might set yourself the goal of writing and publishing a book in a year’s time, but if you don’t self-identify as a ‘writer’, none of this will happen.
Dreams are free, and they help us to explore what is possible, without worrying about whether what we want is also achievable or realistic. They give us license to believe that something which is not there yet, can be made possible in the future. However, without a clear plan which is specific, measurable and which takes our current reality into consideration; without alignment to our values and identity, all will be left down to luck and the dream will just remain a dream.