Dreams Vs. Goals
I’ve taught classes before on goal setting and the difference between a dream and a goal. I’ve talked about specific, measurable goals and making sure that you are engaging it as a “I’m doing this” (goal) rather than a “it would be nice if” (dream). A goal is something that you know when you’ve arrived. You shouldn’t make a goal that says “I want to make more money this year” because what you mean by “more” is unspecific. It could be one penny more than last year and the goal would technically be complete – but I’m betting that isn’t what you meant when you set it.
Part of making a goal specific is what makes it achievable because in creating the specificity, you also give yourself a clue about the “how” to get there. And if you break that annual goal down into monthly specific goals, then you can chart your progress as you go and keep yourself motivated to stay on course.
Recently I’ve Been Thinking About My Goals
A couple weeks ago, I posted this on Facebook:
Yesterday I was asked what my goals are. I said “getting married”. He said – what other goals do you have? And I realized I didn’t have any. And then I thought about it. I rarely have goals. There is rarely anything that I want strongly enough to set a goal for it. And yet I have many accomplishments, so this lack of solid goal-setting doesn’t prevent me from achieving.
Then he asked me how I kept myself accountable for my goals and I was confused. When I set a goal, it’s usually about becoming someone new: “be a top national trainer in real estate”, “become a wife”, “be a world traveler”. So when I decide to do those things, I instantly become that new person. There is no need to hold myself accountable to being that person – I just am. I think that’s why I don’t set other types of goals really – they are just “doing” goals and I’ve never had trouble doing things. It’s the “BEING” part though that really changes things.
Do you set “doing” goals or “being” goals? (Assuming you set goals at all.)
It’s Loud In My Head
To that same end, I was talking with my fiancee the other day and told him that he’d be exhausted if he spent a day in my head. He tends to float along (his word, not mine) and respond rather than taking decisive action in a particular direction. And I can do this too at times – especially when I don’t know what I want. But the moment I WANT something, I’m off like a shot. My head is constantly keeping track of the list of “to do’s” and planning them against the current timeline to make sure everything gets done. My brain is like project management software on steroids. It can be exhausting to thing about it, but boy do I get stuff done.
Desire Isn’t Bad
Now I know the Buddhists out there are going to be thinking “you have to let go of your desire!” But I disagree. Desire is what makes us strive for more, it’s what allows us to reach for greatness. Without desire, we have nothing other than pain to motivate us towards change. Desire isn’t the problem, it’s when we become fixated on desire that it bogs us down. It is the attachment to achieving it that can cause pain.
Commitment vs. Attachment
There is a difference between commitment and attachment. Most goals will never be achieved without a level of commitment. Commitment is what keeps you moving forward when things get hard and when obstacles place themselves in the way. But how do you keep commitment from becoming attachment?
If Your Life Changed Completely, Could You Let It Go?
I think I’m uniquely suited to this question because of my upbringing. My mother was military, so we moved every year or two throughout my childhood. Wherever we were, my goals were to make friends quickly (or I’d never have any), do well in school, get comfortable in my new city/town as quickly as possible so that I could relax and feel like I belonged, and to try out a new personality (this was something I did for several moves – it was a fun self-exploration to see who I could become when no one held any expectations of me).
Each time we moved I was COMMITTED to those goals. But, I wasn’t so attached to them that when we moved again, I had to hold on to the past. In fact, I often didn’t keep in touch with the people I had left behind because I was busy moving forward. Any goals I had in place when the next move came got dropped or reevaluated based on the new circumstances. This is how I stayed unattached. And my life is like that now still. When my life circumstances shift, I check my goals and my commitments to see if they are still valid. If they aren’t, I let them go. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t committed to them when I was pursuing them, it means that they are no longer relevant. That’s non-attachment in commitment. Think about your goals, could you let them go if your life suddenly changed so as to make them irrelevant?
Don’t Place Your Self-Worth On Your Goals
One of the reasons people become attached to their desires is that they place the weight of their self-worth on their goals. They say to themselves “if I don’t get here, I’m a failure” or “I will be unlovable if I can’t accomplish this”. Sometimes the thoughts are conscious, sometimes not, but if you’re feeling overly attached to your desire, you might want to see if you’ve done this.
What’s Your Big Why?
I was recently asked what my “Big Why” was. (What is the big thing I’m working towards that motivates me to get up in the morning and work hard towards my goal.)
I have some things that I would like the universe to line up for, like living a year in Europe – each month in a different country, having a substantive conversation on the nature of human evolution with the Dalai Lama, going into space, etc. These are more like dreams I intend to have come true, right now. They aren’t at the “it would be nice” level (I don’t really bother with those), but they are in the “I’m setting my intentions for these things to show up, but I’m not taking active action towards them because they aren’t realistic in the face of my current life situation.” If any of them became suddenly important to achieve, I would change my approach towards them and find a way to get there. But they aren’t yet.
What are you setting your intentions on?
The Super-Big Why
And then I have my “Super Big Why” which is something that I won’t ever see come to fruition in my lifetime, but which I work towards nonetheless – which is the spiritual evolution of the planet. This is not going to be super-motivating because the goal’s fruition is well past my lifetime. But it is something that I keep in the forefront of my brain and is part of my decision making process as I move forward in my life.
The Daily Big Why
Then there’s my daily big why. Many people think about their goals as being things they want to accomplish. For me, the daily big why is about who I want to be and how I want to engage my life. My life is a big adventure and when it is staid, I feel bored and uninspired. But when big things are happening and my life is shifting, I get to see myself and those around me more clearly. I get to feel alive. I get to consciously choose a path through whatever is shifting. It’s so much more gratifying than sitting in front of the television. I get to engage the adventure of life. That’s my daily Big Why is to engage the adventure of life. (And, yes, this includes the adventure of snuggling up with my honey and watching TV sometimes. I don’t mean that you can’t have down time. I’m just saying don’t get stuck there.)
Are you an adventurer? How do you approach life?
The “Work Towards It” Big Why
And yet, here I sit on a Saturday morning still typing an hour after I started and wondering what my “work towards it” Big Why is. For this, you need excitement – something that makes you get all revved up to get there. A change you feel passionate about, a dream you a ready to make a reality, a purpose to serve. I’ve been ripping my life apart and putting it back together again systematically for the last 15 years, each time getting closer to what I want. I feel like I’m on the cusp of being blissfully happy. (It’s the cusp, because while I already have everything I want in my life, the planning of the wedding and now we’re talking about moving too, has added more stress than I would like to my life.) But once I’m blissfully happy, how do I keep myself there? What’s my next hurdle, my next thing to get excited about? I’m sitting with that question this morning.
I’d love to hear what you’re excited about. Perhaps it will spark something for me too! Feel free to post that, or an answer to any of the bolded questions I’ve asked above in the comments section below.