Is that a dream or a goal?
“[Evander Holyfield] said that his coach at one point told him, something like his very first day, ‘You could be the next Muhammad Ali. Do you wanna do that?’ Evander said he had to ask his mom. He went home, he came back and said, ‘I wanna do that.’ The coach said, ‘Okay. Is that a dream or a goal? Because there’s a difference.’
“I’d never heard it said that way, but it stuck with me. So much so that I’ve said it to my kid now: ‘Is that a dream, or a goal? Because a dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve. I always looked at my stuff that way.
A particularly powerful method of goal-setting uses the clever acronym SMART to guide the process of turning big dreams into reality. Once you’ve come up with a goal, check to be sure it meets the following criteria:
Specific – Be clear and concrete about what you want to accomplish. It’s much easier to work toward a specific goal (lose 12 pounds) than it is to work toward a vague one (get in shape). When working on this aspect of your goal, visualize what you and what your life will look like once you’ve accomplished it. That will help you to define exactly what you want to achieve.
Measurable – Set a goal that allows you to measure your progress toward achieving it. Ask yourself the following question: How will I know that I’ve accomplished my goal? Some people find it helpful to break the main goal down into small, measurable objectives. For example, if your main goal is to start a business, you can break that down into all the progressive steps you’ll take along the way: create a business name, register the business, set up the tax ID, etc. Making your goal measurable is an important way to keep yourself on track. The bonus is that you can celebrate along the way as you attain each of the objectives that brings you closer to success!
Attainable – Make your goals realistic. One of the biggest pitfalls to success is making the goal too big. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, so take some time to think carefully about your goal and be sure it’s reasonable and realistic. If you’re in your mid-30s and have a passion for baseball, it’ll make much more sense to set a goal of becoming a little league coach than aiming to become a star MLB player. Improve your chances of making your dreams come true by factoring reality into your plans.
Relevant – Set a goal that means something to you. Working toward your goals, no matter how big or small, takes work. By setting a goal that you’re passionate about and truly want to achieve, you’ll be more likely to stay motivated along the way. When the going gets tough, you can remind yourself of how much you want to reach the finish life and find the energy to keep going.
Time-Bound: Set a deadline, and commit to it! Putting time stamps on your goals is a way of holding yourself accountable and making sure you stay focused and on task. You may need to do some research to find out how long you can reasonably expect to have to work on your goal before you can accomplish it. If you don’t set a deadline, you won’t be nearly as likely to stay committed and keep the wheels in motion. Check in with your deadline every now and again to be sure it remains realistic, and use it as a way to stay motivated.
Motivational coach Zig Ziglar reminds us that “a goal properly set is halfway reached.” Setting a goal is just like eating an elephant. Bit by bit, bite by bite, you make possible what at first seemed impossible. You get a little bit closer to living your best life. You’ve got what it takes; now get SMART and turn those dreams into reality!