Once you’ve taken the step of acknowledging your dream, how do you turn your dream into a goal (or series of goals) that you can actually take action on? (Check out the link below for a free printable template for creating “SMART” goals.)
Creating a Goal to Bring Your Dream to Life
Continuing on our Dream to Done mini-series, it’s time to start getting a little more practical, and discuss what it means to turn a dream into a goal.
The Difference Between a Dream and a Goal
A dream and a goal are two different things. One way to look at it is that dreams provide a destination; while goals come with a roadmap. Dreams require imagination; goals require action. Craig Jarrow on Time Management Ninja has written about 10 differences between goals and dreams. I encourage you to read and think about Jarrow’s article, but among other things, he says that:
- Goals are something you’re acting on, while dreams are something you’re just thinking about.
- Dreams are free, but goals have a cost.
- Goals produce results, and dreams don’t.
- Goals have a finish line, and dreams never have to end.
- Dreams can inspire you, but goals can change your life.
Dreams live in the clouds, but by turning a dream into a goal, you’re bringing it down to earth where you can take specific action to make that dream come true.
What does it take to turn a dream into a goal?
What steps do you take? What decisions do you make?
Step 1: Get clear on what you really want
The first step is to really think about what you want. When you consider your dream — like writing a novel, starting a business, having the perfect wedding or party, or taking an around-the-world trip — in order to start the process of turning that dream into a reality, you have to know what it is you want.
What does success look like to you? Really take the time to think about this.
Journal about it.
Create a vision board and collect images or ideas that capture the outcome of the dream you have. You can do this in Pinterest or on a big piece of posterboard using pictures cut out from magazines.
Be as specific as you can. For example, if you want to travel the world, where will you go? How will you travel? Who will go with you?
Having a clear picture in your mind of what outcome you want is the first step to creating an actionable goal.
Step 2: Identify your compelling reason
The second step is to know why you want it. It doesn’t need to be a high-minded socially beneficial reason. It’s not why you think you should want it, but why you really want to do it. It must be something compelling or strong enough to keep you going when things are tough or boring.
Why do you want it? We need to think about the why because everything is driven by how we are going to feel. Dig deep and think about what you expect to gain by accomplishing this goal.
Note: Pursuing a goal because you think you’ll somehow be happier then than you are now might lead to disappointment. Happiness comes from within–the thoughts we choose to think–not from our circumstances. We can be happy about accomplishing something we’ve worked toward, but that should not be our sole motivation for doing it.
Step 3: Identify the potential obstacles
Once you get a clear, specific image of the outcome you want, and you dig deep within yourself to find the compelling reason for that outcome, then you’ll want to think about what obstacles will come when you try to reach this goal.
Obstacles can be both external or internal. Maybe you have a lack of support, or you are a single mom and you have many responsibilities. Look at those external responsibilities. While it is important to recognize them, you don’t want to get discouraged by them, because our next step is to learn how to deal with those obstacles.
After identifying and listing the external obstacles, consider the internal obstacles. They can often be the hardest ones to deal with. The internal obstacles can be things like fear of failure, fear of success, lack of self-confidence, distraction, or competing goals that might draw you away from accomplishing this one goal.
Do you have other goals that are competing with this main goal? Maybe you are artistic, and want to create a business selling your paintings, but you have a competing goal of achieving financial stability, so you spend time at your day job instead of pursuing painting.
At this stage of the goal-planning process, we are considering the obstacles that stand between us and the goal, and we want to make a list so we can see them all and have a clear understanding of what obstacles might get in the way.
Step 4: Brainstorm strategies to overcome the obstacles
The next step is to develop strategies to overcome each of the obstacles. Perhaps lack of knowledge is one of the obstacles. In this case you will want to ask yourself: Where will you learn what you need to know? Do you need to find a mentor, take a class, or read a book? Consider the resources you need — money, time, space to work in? Where and how will you get those resources?
As another example, if the people in your life aren’t supportive, will you sit down with them and share why their support is essential, or will you look for support elsewhere?
Make a list of what you need to learn, do, acquire, and assemble to overcome the obstacles and accomplish your goal.
Step 5: Turn those strategies into tasks
Those strategies become the projects you need to complete in order to achieve your goal. Break it down into small, discrete tasks. Those become your to-do list.
Be aware of the difference between a project and a task. A task can typically be done in a single session in a single location. For example, cleaning the master closet is a project with a series of tasks. Some tasks for that project might be figuring out where to get boxes, actually getting the boxes, buying hangers, gathering cleaning tools, etc.
Step 6: Write the goal as a SMART goal.
Once you’ve identified the goal, then make it a SMART goal:
- Specific: For example, if you want to take a special vacation with your family, think about when, where, and who.
- Measurable: You need to know if it’s been achieved or not, once you accomplish it.
- Achievable: Your goal must be within your ability to do.
- Relevant: Is it relevant to you at this stage of your life, and consistent with your values?
- Time-bound: Set a deadline, or set aside specific time to work on the goal. (More about this in the next episode.) Schedule some time to work on the projects that form the road map to achieving your goal. Put it on your calendar. If it’s not on our calendar then it’s not a priority, and then it is just a dream and not a goal. As someone has said, someday is not a day of the week.
What do you think?
What dream are you ready to turn into a goal? Please share what you have in mind, and how you will actively take steps toward working on it. You can share in the comments section below or in The Productive Women Community Facebook group, or email me.
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