Do you ever find yourself staring out the window, thinking about the future? Maybe you're in your office waiting for the clock to strike quitting time. Maybe you're at your child's martial arts practice counting down to the final bow. Either way, while your body is present, your brain is elsewhere.
You're probably daydreaming, thinking about all the activities you'd love to do in the future and all the amazing things you want to accomplish with your life. Maybe you dream about starting your own company. Maybe you'd love to write a book one day. Maybe you want to retire at age 50 so you can travel the world in a sailboat. Maybe you want to lose weight so you feel better and look amazing.
Whatever it is you dream of accomplishing, you'll never actually achieve your dreams.
How to Achieve Your Goals and Dreams
Did that sound harsh? It's not that you can't do anything you set your mind to; it's that until you translate your dreams into goals, they won't happen. If you want it bad enough and you work at it regularly, you can achieve anything you want (the laws of physics and state permitting).
First Understand the Difference Between a Goal and Dream
Before we go any further, let's discuss the difference between a goal and a dream. The two terms are not interchangeable.
We all start out with dreams. They are what allow us to think beyond our current circumstances and imagine a life filled with possibility and excitement. Dreams are incredibly important! Without them, we would be firmly planted in reality, unable to glance into the realm of "what could be" and never striving for anything more than "what is."
The challenge comes when you stop at dreams. You sit in your living room or in your cubicle and dream of the moment when someone shows up at your door with a check for a million dollars. You dream of the day when your first shipment of books arrives, making you an author. You dream of the article that announces your business as the best company to work for. You dream of running a marathon in your size 6 workout pants.
You dream... yet you don't actually do anything to achieve it.
Why? Because you haven't committed that dream into a goal. Dreams are undefined. They are like mirages in the desert. You see them up ahead, yet you can't actually touch them. It's not until you create a goal, make it a priority, and work towards its completion that your dreams will become a reality.
Frame Your Goals in a Positive Light
Make sure that all of your dreams and goals are framed in the positive. At some point, you've likely been taught that the brain skips over the words "don't," "not," and "no." If you haven't, let's try a quick experiment.
Don't think about a cat wearing sunglasses.
You're thinking about a cat wearing sunglasses, aren't you? Of course you are because our brains refuse to register those negative words when we're talking to ourselves. Whenever you put one of your dreams into words, make sure to use positive language. Here's an example:
"I want to retire at 50."*
"I don't want to work the rest of my life."
*Bonus points: "I will retire at 50."
Once you've framed this statement in the positive, spend some time visualizing it. Find a place where you won't be disturbed for a few minutes and take a few deep breaths to settle yourself. Close your eyes and picture your dream as if it's a reality.
- Where will you be when you reach your goal?
- What will you be doing?
- How will you feel?
- How will other people react to you?
- What will you wear?
- How will you talk?
Really set the scene and put yourself in it.
Repeat this process as often as possible. The more you see yourself achieving your goals, the more likely it is that you'll succeed. Why? Because you're training your brain to see the opportunities available. When you see the opportunities, you're more inclined to make the decisions that will get you closer and closer to your goal.
How to Set Goals That Are 100% Achievable
Goals are not for the faint of heart. In order to turn your dream into an achievable goal, you'll need to adopt the right mindset. In fact, your dream may be so big that you'll need to break it down into smaller goals that you can tackle one at a time.
For example, let's say that your dream is to be the next Oprah. You can set that as a goal... However, there's not much you could do today that would make you Oprah tomorrow (name changes aside). Instead, you could set smaller goals like "Take media classes at the local college," "Host a local television show," "Start my own book club," "Apply for jobs on network television." Eventually, as you accomplish each of these goals, you'll get closer and closer to your dream.
What Is a S.M.A.R.T. goal?
Going after your dreams and achieving your goals can seem like a daunting task. If not done properly, you could become frustrated or disheartened, or you could lose your focus and veer off track. Thankfully, there's a system to make goal setting (and getting) much easier. This is called SMART Goal Setting, and it was created by consultant George T. Doran in 1981.
In order to stay focused and achieve your goals, they must be:
Exactly what do you want to accomplish? If you don't know what success will look like, how will you know when you're there? When you create Specific goals, you'll want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you want to achieve this?
- What does successfully achieving this look like?
- Who will be involved?
- What are you looking to accomplish?
- When would you like it done by?
- Where will it happen? (If applicable)
The clearer you are at this stage, the more likely you'll be celebrating your accomplishments.
Whether you are reaching for a personal or professional goal, you'll need to identify some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). How will you measure your progress? What numbers are you looking for at the end of the goal? These could include the pounds you lose during a lifestyle shift, the number of words you write it each day in your book, or the number of customers you bring in with your new business.
While you can dream as big as you want without any reality standing in the way, once you switch into goal mode, you'll need to ensure that your desired outcomes are attainable.
This may sound discouraging… at first. Just because you can't do something right this minute doesn't mean that you don't have the ability and opportunity to learn and develop the skills necessary to reach your goal.
You'll need to identify what's standing in your way and what you'll need to learn or do in order to overcome the roadblock. Once you've identified the challenges, you can break these down into more achievable actions. Without these steps, you're still focusing on a dream.
Is this what you really want? Sometimes, you'll come up with a dream that's exciting and outlandish... and it has absolutely nothing to do with your business or your life. Goals that are more in line with the larger vision you have for your life are more likely to be accomplished. This helps to weed out the "It would be cool if..." dreams so you can focus on the goals that will get you where you want to go.
While Specific touches on the time frame you'd like to achieve a goal in, Timely goes into more detail. When do you want to achieve this goal by or how often (frequency) will you do something?
There is a danger to giving yourself too much time and a danger to giving yourself too little. For example, if you want to write a book, you'll need more than two weeks to do it. On the other hand, if you give yourself 10 years, it won't become a daily activity, and you run the risk of losing motivation.
Perhaps you want to get into shape. How many times a week will you go to the gym or for a run?
Select time frames and frequencies that are reasonable and then determine your schedule based off of your desired end date.
Steps to Achieve a Goal (Successfully)
Congratulations! You've taken one (or more) of your dreams and turned it into a goal using the SMART goal setting system. You're on your way to achieving your dreams. Setting the goal is only the first step of the process.
1. Set the Goal
What do you want? Make sure it's SMART.
2. Commit it to Paper or Enlist an Accountability Partner
When you write your goals down and/or share them with someone, they become real, and you'll be more likely to stick with them.
3. Determine What's Standing in Your Way
You're bound to hit roadblocks. If you identify them ahead of time, it will be easier to destroy them. This could include learning the skills you're missing, scheduling time to work on your goals in your already busy schedule, or even communicating with the people in your life who may question your desire and your commitment.
4. Take Action
What do you need to do to achieve your goal? Do you need to draw up a business plan for your new venture? Sit down and outline your book? Clear all of the junk food out of the pantry so you can lose weight? Whatever is required to reach your desired outcome, get started.
5. Reward Yourself Along the Way
Some days will be a success; others won't. Celebrate the good days, and when you have those off-days, don't beat yourself up.
6. Learn From Your Mistakes
Maybe you've reached the end of your timeline, and you didn't reach your goal. Or perhaps, you reached your goal, and it didn't have the outcome you were expecting. Rather than giving up, figure out what went wrong. Did you do everything in your power to accomplish the milestones, or did you go "half-in" to avoid failing or looking foolish?
It's important to be honest here. Shaming yourself for not reaching your goal or blaming others for you missing the mark won't get you any closer to your goal.
Identify what could have been done better and set a new goal, taking everything you've learned into account. You are not the same person you were the last time. The new you is completely capable of achieving your goals.
7. Set a New Goal
Look at you! You just set and achieved a goal. Now, don't stop there. What else would you like to accomplish? Go back to that list of dreams you have, commit to making one of them a goal, and start the process over again.
Dreams are such an incredible part of the personal and professional development process. They allow us to see life through the lens of possibility. Identifying your dreams is just the first step. You'll need to translate them to goals, apply the SMART principles, work through the process, and dedicate yourself to realizing the opportunity you once only dreamed of.
Turn your dreams into goals and your goals into achievements.