Years ago, I took a Leadership and Executive Development course and our homework was to write down our dreams for our career and life. This is easy, I thought, I know exactly what I want to achieve. These were things like the next step in my career, my weight loss target, my ideal income over the next three years and getting my kids into a good college.
After typing my list, all of a sudden it dawned on me that these weren’t dreams, these were goals! So what is the difference between dreams and goals, anyway?
Dreams live on the emotional right side of the brain; goals live on the rational left side. Dreams are bigger, more visionary and are not bound by the rational.
One of my dreams as a professional speaker is to give a keynote speech at the annual conference of the National Speakers Association. Could that be considered a goal? Sure. But what makes it a dream is the vision I have of presenting in front of an audience of several thousand people, including some of the best speakers in the world. I can almost feel the thrill of standing there. This dream speaks directly to my heart.
A goal for my professional speaking career would be more rational and easily broken down, like doing 50 professional speeches this year. That speaks to my head and is a logical step toward my bigger vision goal.
Yes, dreams can sound like goals and goals can sound like dreams, in fact they can be one in the same. To discern between the two, ask yourself: Was this idea born from my heart and imagination or from my head and rationality?
I wondered if other business professionals were also more focused on goals rather than dreams, so I started asking them. Time after time, when I asked, “What are your goals?” they spoke quite precisely about their income goals, retirement goals, goals for getting their kids through college, goals to reach a certain level in the corporation, or goals to purchase a boat or a second home. When I asked, “What are your dreams?” however, more often than not they were at a loss for words.
Fast forward to a dinner conversation I was having with a friend who is a high school guidance counselor. As we discussed the distinction between goals and dreams, she caught me off guard when she said, “That’s what drives me crazy about some of these kids. They have big dreams but they don’t have any goals. They dream of being actors, veterinarians, professional ball players and CEOs, but they aren’t creating any goals to get there.” Wow, high school students have the exact opposite challenge of business professionals. They have dreams but lack goals.
So what happens between the time we are 18 to the time we reach 38, 48 or 58? At what point to we trade in the dreams that speak to our heart for the goals that speak to our mind? When did the “real world” make us so practical?
I encourage all of you high achievers in the goal-oriented business world to step back and ask yourself some important questions:
Are you still in touch with the dreams you had as a younger person?
Are the goals you have today aligned with your dreams of earlier years?
Do you ever get the sense you are on a fast train to the wrong destination?
If you were to start dreaming again today, where would your heart take you?