Dreams v’s Goals, is there a difference?

We all daydream, we all have aspirations, but what is it that turns those dreams into goals, and is there really a difference between the two? 

Throughout the many stages of our lives we dream of what our future could be whether that be work based i.e. better office, higher salary, greater responsibility; it could be personal i.e. new home, gym success, better car; or perhaps it’s recovery after injury, university achievements or even to look after our mental health and well-being…the scope and potential of our dreams are limitless.

On the other hand, goals can be specified verbally, internally (in our minds) or in writing.  People may be very specific about their targets, actions or deadlines, but for some they are not.  For example, you might want to lose weight or get fitter. The intention alone is not enough, goals need to be SMART to be effective.

So, let’s clarify.  Dreams are based solely in the mind with no action attached to them, whilst goals can have clearly defined action plans and a defined deadline.  However, the two are intrinsically linked.  In creating your goal(s), you must first have a clear vision of your dreams; a high definition glorious technicolour vision that encompasses all your senses when you call it to mind.  Something that gives you that fire in the belly drive and ignites your passion.  Stephen R. Covey (author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) has a saying “begin with the end in mind” and that is exactly what you are doing with dreams and goals.

It is important to note that effective goal setting is so much more than simply writing in a book or telling others what you want. It takes time, effort, commitment and should follow some basic principles:

  • Take your time and focus on one or two goals at any one time to prevent feelings of overwhelm.
  • Use the SMART system (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) to help plan and set deadlines for each goal.
  • Allow for a degree of flexibility and review your planning regularly to keep on track.


“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible” … Tony Robbins


What are the benefits of goal setting?

 The benefits of goal setting are many, each enhancing our lives in a different way.  I have set out some of the main benefits below:

  1. CLARITY: We live in a hectic world juggling a multitude of roles and tasks, but not all are adding value to your life. Understanding what it is you want, what’s important to you and what gives value to the end goal will help you set more effective goals.  The greater clarity you have, the easier it is to action plan your steps to success.
  2. FOCUS: Two ways effective goals improve your focus a) they help determine which task you should be completing and b) help you to say “No” to tasks which add little or no value. Your time is valuable and limited, so it’s wise to make the best use of it on the tasks that work towards your goal. We are all guilty of what I call the Butterfly Syndrome where we get distracted by other ideas / ‘must haves’ or ‘should do’s’,  so we flit about from thing to thing, generally wasting our time with each distraction.
  3. MOTIVATION: Setting shorter term tasks which are achieved in less time give a quicker sense of achievement. This is turn, keeps you motivated for the longer-term tasks.  That fire in the belly passion will keep your energy fuelled as you continue to achieve and see how far you have travelled on your journey.
  4. ACTION: ANY action is better than inaction. You can only move forward towards your goals by taking action.  Break the whole journey into small easy manageable tasks, then write down your journey milestones & work your way forward through your plan.
  5. RESPONSIBILITY: You must be honest and accountable to yourself. Accept that the results of your actions (or inactions) are yours and yours alone.  If things don’t go as planned, take positive action; so instead of blaming others, review your planning and take the necessary steps to get back on track.  Be honest about your choices and the consequences of those choices.
  6. MEASURES PROGRESS: Goal setting works to measure and evaluate your progress and achievements as your journey progresses.  You will be able to see where improvements are needed in yourself, your planning, timings etc. or if you are on track or even ahead of the plan.
  7. HELPS OVERCOME PROCRASTINATION: We procrastinate for many reasons including fear, distraction and avoidance, all of which can be either conscious or subconscious. By understanding your reasons for procrastination and in setting clearly defined goals, you will spend less time on unproductive tasks thereby keeping a focused eye on tasks with greater value and the achievement of the goal.

By making our goals realistic, well thought out and planned, we can in turn be more organised, have greater productivity, experience higher levels of motivation, and have less stress.  Even goal setting for the simplest of objectives can make us feel more in control of our lives and mental health.

So let your dreams and passions fire you up and get goal setting.




2 thoughts on “Dreams v’s Goals, is there a difference?

  • April 24, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Now I love setting goals and then creating a plan on how to make them happen. It wasn’t always the case and let’s say I was a bit flighty when it came to putting them in place, let along taking action. SMART goals certainly helped me.

    Having a sprinkling of accountability helps me out too. Otherwise, I’d be like, ‘No I didn’t say that. Did I?’

  • April 24, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve realised recently that I have always had dreams rather than goals and this has worked for me and I have so far achieved everything I wanted. (Some of that wasn’t great but that’s another story!). It worked until I set up my own business and now I very much need goals to make sure my dream comes true. It helps me stay on track and do the hard stuff.


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