Goals, Dreams, and Settling

Dreams (as I'm defining them today) are what you want to have happen. Goals are what you make happen.

Dreams are as big as you're imagination. Goals are what you can accomplish today.

Dreams come first. Goals are how you get there.

Say your dream is to own a big house on the ocean. How do you get there? You can't say, "I'm going to own a big house on the ocean by the time I'm 30." Not without a plan.

Your goals are the plan. Get a good job -- one that leads to better jobs, better salaries. Save money. Make a budget. These are goals. They can get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

If you mix up dreams and goals, you're in trouble. Dreams are sometimes out of your control. If your goal is to be married by the time you're 35, then on your 35th birthday you might find yourself settling for someone less than ideal. You can't control who you meet, whether or not you fall in love, whether or not they're the perfect person for you.

But you can make goals -- small, accomplishable things that are under your control, that will make that dream more likely. Don't date jerks. Don't kiss on a first date. Don't marry anyone who hates Star Wars. Stuff like that.

Like my dream is to get published. It's a dream, not a goal, because it is largely out of my control. What I can control is how much I write, how well I write, how much time I take with my query letter, how many stories and novels I send out. So my goals are along those lines: write X words a day/month/year. Revise my query letter at least Y times. Query N agents within M months. Write Z short stories this year. Find Q more letters for variables. These goals won't ensure I get published, but they will improve my odds. More importantly, they are entirely within my control.

And I don't put a timeline on my dream. If I said, "I will get an agent before my third novel" or "I will be published before I'm 40" then I set myself up for disappointment. It's entirely possible I will never be published, simply because it's out of my control. If I put a timeline on it then, just like marriage, I'll end up settling.

So I won't. I'll keep trying, making new goals and hitting them, as long as it takes. But I'm not going to settle on my dream. Hopefully you won't either.

So I'm curious: what are your dreams (as much as you want to talk about them here, of course)? How are you planning to get there?


Asea said...

Dream: work in sustainable development in a rural community in Central Asia.

Goals: learn Russian (tick), get experience teaching (tick), get a Masters in Economics and/or a PhD in International Studies (to do), learn Ozbek/Kazak/Farsi (to do), find an organization to team up with (to do)

Also? Write stuff along the way. :-)

Adam Heine said...

I had no idea, Asea. That's super cool!

Asea said...

Well, I don't tend to talk about it much on my book blog. ;-)

I love what you're doing in Thailand. (I do follow along on your other blog, I just haven't commented there.) If I were married I would want to do something like that. I'd at least adopt.

Cindy Heine said...

Is that why you made me watch Star Wars when we were dating? :)

Adam Heine said...


Lisa K. said...

My dream is to be a successful novelist. I strive to constantly keep and meet goals, whether it's to finish novel revisions or to send out queries or to submit short stories to build credits. I think goals are so important to have if you want to achieve your dreams.