We all have big dreams and goals for various parts of our lives, from business to personal growth and relationships. We want to improve our lives in some way. We dream big, and we set goals. But what distinguishes a dream from a goal? How can you turn your dreams into reality and achieve goal-setting success?

While the terms “dreams” and “goals” are often used synonymously, there are significant differences between the two. In this post, we’ll dive into those differences and the one strategy that will help you turn your dreams into achievable goals. Just think how different your life could be a year from now if you start taking action on your goals today!

Key Differences Between Dreams vs Goals

Dreams live in your head and use your imagination. Dreams are wishes and hopes. They are aspirational.

Goals are more focused; there is a strategy and plan. They are something that you are actively trying to achieve.  Goals are the pathway that directs your actions to make your dreams a reality.

What are Dreams?

Dreams live in your head and use your imagination. You may experience them through thoughts and images in your mind or through emotions and desires. You might talk about them, write about them, envision them happening, but you don’t have an action plan. You are not taking tangible steps to bring them to fruition.

Dreams are aspirational. They are wishes and hopes, not tangible. Dreams may motivate you, excite you, spark new possibilities and actions for your future. Dreams are the place your goals originate from.

For example, you may dream of running your own business or living somewhere more exotic for a long time- but you aren’t doing anything to make these dreams tangible in any way. There is no plan, actionable goals, or a conceived way to achieve them.

What are Goals?

Goals are more focused, with a specific outcome. They are tangible. There is a strategy and plan to achieve them. They are something that you intend to achieve or are actively working on completing, whether it is a short-term goal or a long-term goal.

Goals are specific, measurable, and attainable. They tend to sit at the forefront of your mind, directing the actions you are taking in life on a daily basis to make your dreams become your reality.

Dreams vs Goals:11 Significant Differences Between the Two

1. Goals Require Taking Action

The best way to have what you want in life is to take action. Dreams are the vision. But without action, they will always just be in your imagination. Goals are the pathway to fulfilling your dreams. Goals have actionable steps that lead to your desired outcome.

2. Goals Have a Timeline

Goals have some sort of time frame. You can have short-term goals and long-term goals. Each goal needs some kind of timeline to achieve them. Dreams are often “someday” or “one day.

3. Dreams are Creative and Infinite

Dreams don’t need to be realistic or achievable like goals. Dreams have endless possibilities; nothing is off-limits in the dream world. Dreams allow you to get lost in the wonder, the endless possibilities. Dreams allow you to release the responsibilities and realities of your life.

4. Dreams Reveal Innermost Desires

Dreams can tell you a lot about what you really want in life…and what you don’t want. If you often dream about having a new home or running your own business, you would want to explore how you might begin to turn that into a goal and make it happen.

5. Dreams Inspire Goals

Dreams often inspire goals because there is a desire to turn your vision into your reality. Dreams have limitless possibilities, but we can take the idea of “anything is possible” to think in creative ways. Allowing the space to dream can also allow the space for innovative solutions to turn your dream into a goal.

6. Goals are Realisitic

Goals have to be realistic and possible to achieve. While you want to set big goals for yourself even if they seem nearly impossible on the surface. But when you break down that goal into actionable steps you find it is achievable.

For example, someone that has a goal of saving $12,0000 in one year may seem impossible at first glance. But when they sit down and look at their monthly and weekly income and budget, they realize they could save $231 each week by not dining out for one year. They realize the goal of having the $12,000 they need towards the downpayment on a home is of more value to them in their life plan than the ease and enjoyment of dining out regularly.

7. Goals Push You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Goals are meant to challenge you, to push you beyond what’s comfortable. Goals often push you out of your comfort zone are by challenging habits such as changing diet, spending habits, daily routines, or sleep habits. Goals may also require you to step up and advocate for yourself and use your voice more. They might require you to have conversations with a boss or to ask for something you want. Goals might require you to push yourself further on a workout or stay up later studying or working to meet your desired outcome.

8. Goals are Measurable

Goals have a way of being measured. They use criteria, standards, or timelines to gauge whether they have been achieved or not. Using data or monitoring your progress can tell you how you are progressing on your goal.

For example, if you are training for a marathon, you are taking data regularly as to your distance and pace to help you achieve your goal of running a marathon. Other goals, such as working on a new business, may include a checklist of tasks to accomplish regarding your business plan. Goals need to have some sort of gauge to show if it was achieved or not.

9. Goals Produce Results

One significant difference between goals and dreams is that goals produce results. You can dream all you want, but if you stay on the couch watching Netflix all day, your dreams won’t come true. Goals are goals because they require you to take action to get results. Taking action gives you a different result than you started with.

10. Goals Move You Forward

Goals move you forward by requiring you to take action. Actions help you move forward toward the desired outcome you want. Dreams don’t require action, which is why they often stay as dreams in your head.

The thing to remember about goals is they always move you forward, even if it’s one small step at a time. Even if you don’t reach your goal in the timeframe you want to, or you flat out fail in achieving your goal; you’ve still moved forward in life. You are still one step closer to getting what you want in life. Failure is still a way of moving forward in life. Success is born out of failure and getting back up. It’s doing nothing that keeps people stuck- dreams don’t require you to take any action.

11. Goals Open the Door for New Opportunities

Goals push you out of your comfort zone and require action. New opportunities in life often come when you take action or put yourself in new and different situations. I like to think of these as secondary gains, the great things that come along as a result of achieving a goal that you didn’t necessarily anticipate or expect. A common secondary gain as a result of achieving your goals is that many people feel more empowered and confident in that area of their life. This only helps them feel good and supports them in accomplishing other goals in their life.

How to Turn Your Dreams into Achievable Goals using SMART Goals

Successful people know that turning their dreams into reality doesn’t happen overnight. Your dreams become your reality as a result of your hard work, setting clear goals, and going after them consistently on a regular basis. SMART Goals is the method that will help get you there. This structure helps break goals down into actionable steps to help you cross the finish line and attain your goals.

SMART Goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/Actionable
  • Relevant/ Realistic
  • Time-Based

1. Be Specific in Your Goals

The first step in designing your goals is to be as specific with your goal as you can. Start by looking at one area of life and then one aspect in that area you would like to change. For example, if you want to improve your finances- what part do you want to improve specifically? Saving more money or earning more money? If you choose to make more money, how do you plan to make more money? The more specific you get, the more clear you become on what you want and how you can create the right path to get there.

Example: I will earn $1000 more each month in commissions by adding one new account to my workload.

2. How will you measure Your Goal?

The next step is to decide on how you will measure your goal. There are many different ways you can measure your goal. It could be an increase or decrease in measurements such as money, time, or distance. If your goal is more subjective or difficult to measure, try a rating system such as a scale of 0-10.

Another reason to have a system to measure your goals is so you can track your progress. Achieving goals is very much about the journey and the daily habits that help you get to that desired end result.

No one runs a marathon in a day or starts a business overnight. Tracking progress also keeps you motivated and focused, particularly for goals that take weeks, months, or years to achieve. You can track your progress using pen & paper or by using a phone app- there are phone apps designed to help people track all kinds of goals.

3. Is Your Goal Achievable?

One of the keys to reaching a goal is to make it an attainable goal. While ambitious goals are always great to have, they also need to be achievable. You want to set goals you know you can make happen. You want to challenge yourself and set yourself up for success at the same time. You want to ask yourself- “Do you have the capabilities to achieve your goal?” and “How will you achieve your goal?”

4. Your Goals and Actions Should be Relevant

You want to create goals relevant to your overarching goals in life. The life you desire for yourself and those you care about is the driving force to helping you achieve them.

A relevant goal is about getting to the “why,” what does that goal mean to you, and why is it important to achieve it? Your goals should always be relevant to your overall life goals.

5. Goals Are Time-Based

Goals need to be anchored in a time limit with clear deadlines of when they will be accomplished. You can structure your goals to have a daily, weekly, monthly, or longer-term end date. Long-term goals should have short-term milestones that can support you along the way so you can monitor your progress and stay on target. This will be unique to your goal, what actions you select to achieve your goal, and what you feel you can realistically commit to.

Key Takeaways

Dreams live in your imagination. Turning your dreams into goals that you take action on doesn’t have to be a New Year’s resolution of any sort. Today is a great day to get after it! Goals require action and help you create a better life for yourself.

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Author Biography

Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach with a background in Energy Medicine and a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to, heal trauma, overcome their past and use it to fuel their future. You can learn more about her own healing journey here.