Want More Success? Ditch Your Dreams (Yes, Really)

I hear you. You want to make some changes.

But you have some hesitancy. Hesitancy can be a killer.

You even have some fear of the unknown – if you’re willing to admit it. So you stay quiet about your dreams and goals. What will people say about you? What will your friends think? What will happen to your reputation if you fail to reach your goal?

There are three components you’ll need to map a path forward.

  1. In life, you don’t get what you want. You get what you are.
  2. If you’re unsure of who you are, your dreams and goals will never become a reality.
  3. For your dreams and goals to become a reality, you actually have to have dreams and goals.

How do you achieve a goal you can’t see?

Could you shoot a three-pointer if I blindfolded you at the three-point line? Absolutely! You’d miss a few, but you’d nail it on your other attempts. What if I took the blindfold off, but removed the hoop from the backboard?

No hoop? No goal. No achievement. It’s a simple equation.

But there’s an even bigger headache lurking for you.

Your dreams and goals are wrong

I’ve heard too many clients get swept up by the romantic, almost ‘Disney’ definition of a dream. And it’s not just creative or entrepreneurial types that I’d put in that category. Even high-profile executives create childish narratives like “I’ve always wanted to live in French Polynesia and sell hand-churned gourmet ice cream from my beachside parlor” and consider that narrative “their dream”.

But they speak high-school Spanish, not fluent French. And they vacation every year in Florida, at a timeshare apartment complex that they’ve been going to for twelve years now. And since they don’t exercise, they try to avoid ice cream when they’re filling their SUV with groceries at Costco. Or they cave to the gallon low-fat cookie dough ice cream because a quart of the gourmet, organic product is too expensive. And they’re trying to lose weight. Sound like anyone you know?

I dare you

I dare you to ask ten people to share their definition of the word dream. See which direction their answer goes. Don’t judge their response, but listen for the tone with which they share their definition of the word.

You’ll probably get two groups of roughly equal size.

One group will suggest to you that a dream is defined as an achievement or a state of being that is longed for and “achievable”. An aspiration like owning a business is a great example.

The other group will use words and phrases like “wild fantasy” or “unrealistic hope”. An example might be playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Next season. But the person in question has never skated.

Now before you rush to the comments section to say “playing for the NHL is totally possible”, let me draw your eyes back to the word “unrealistic” in the paragraph above. A contract with a professional team is possible, sure. We’ve all seen the movies of the miracle turnaround of misfortune. But realistic? No freaking way.

Therein lies the debilitating distraction of dreams in the context of performance, achievement and coaching. It’s why I so often see “dreams” holding clients back. Yes, you read that correctly. And you’ll see that for yourself when you complete your dream definition experiment. Your interviewees will tend to define dreams as realistic or unrealistic. Aspiration versus fantasy. Pragmatic versus whimsical.

My dirty secret

My bold advice to clients is to abandon the term dream altogether, because even if you have a clear understanding of your goal as realistic, many of your supporters won’t. And you’ll be tempted to put resources into articulating the achievability of your dream to someone other than yourself. Doing this saps energy from your progress. Your inertia will slow or even stall completely.

Dreams are too hard. Goals are too easy

Here’s a way to wrap both terms into something that’s easily understood. It will help you not only define your aspiration, but stay on track to achieve it.

Turn your goals into Stretch Goals.

Turn your dreams into Stretch Goals.

With this single shift, your focus will sharpen toward desired achievements or states of being that are currently out of reach, but truly within the realm of achievability. Out of reach, but achievable. That sounds like a beautiful stretch goal, wouldn’t you agree?

This sounds too easy. But the power is in the simplicity. Oh, but wait. What happens when your stretch goal is achieved?

Yep, you create another one. And another.

As every stretch goal is achieved you get bolder and stronger. The dots connect. And before you know it you’ve achieved a dream.

Oops. Did I say dream?



Photo credit: Spencer Stanton

About me

Boyd Falconer

Boyd Falconer

People have described Boyd Falconer as a secret weapon for navigating success. He specializes in coaching executives, entrepreneurs, athletes and celebrities.

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