Dreams vs Goals: 21 Differences & Strategies To Succeed (2024)

“A dream is something that doesn’t let you sleep”. There’s hardly anyone on this planet who doesn’t aspire to a loftier goal. We have our own aspirations, be it for the coming day, month, or year. But do you call these aspirations your DREAMS or GOALS?

Finding your mission is often the first step towards nailing down a goal. Check out this video by the School Of Life channel to know all about finding your mission.

Let’s dive right into it.

Dreams vs Goals
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20 Differences and Strategies For Dreams And Goals

DREAMS and GOALS are often misunderstood for what we want in life. While this is true to some extent, there’s a thick line of demarcation between the two. In this article, I’ll help you differentiate between dreams and goals and also lay out strategies that’ll help you achieve them.

All that you see while you are asleep are your dreams but all that you want for yourself aren’t strictly speaking your goals. Here are ten points that separate Dreams vs Goals:

#1 Goals Are Realistic

“I will go from unemployed to making a million dollars a month by the end of this month” can NEVER be called a goal. The reason? It is too wishful and far, far away from reality. Goals, on the other hand, are realistic meaning that any reasonable person will look at them and say that they’re achievable.

#2 Dreams Inspire, Goals Transform

The dopamine release from a happy dream will surely feel good but it won’t affect your life positively. You might feel optimistic for a certain amount of time after a dream but that eventually fades away. Goals require action and, when you’re working on your goals, you learn new skills, imbibe experience and knowledge and get better every day.

#3 Goals Take Work to Accomplish

Dreams stretch your imagination but goals stretch your mental and physical capabilities. All you need to dream is a comfy bed and a pillow. Goals are more demanding. Goals have a cost, dreams are free. You need to put in the time, work, and diligence to achieve a goal you’ve set for yourself. 

#4 Everyone Dreams But Not Everyone Achieves

Dreaming is a biological process. If you’re someone who dreams, you’re not any different than the other 7 billion human beings on the planet. However, how often do you meet successful people? Dreams are action-oriented and the majority of people just sit around waiting for their dreams to manifest. The people who take steps (albeit small) to reach their goals are the ones who achieve.

#5 Goals Cease to Exist

If you’re a goal-oriented person, you’d know that setting goals is like making a to-do list. Once you complete a task, you strike it off the list. Goals give you an endpoint; somewhere to stop. Dreams, on the other hand, are limitless. You can be dreaming of a penthouse today and still be dreaming of it in a year. 

Related: Best Free Printable Goal Charts & Templates

#6 Goals Inspire Action

Goals are basically stuff you want to achieve within a specified period of time. You work on your goals every step of the way until those steps end at a higher level. Even if you fall short of a certain goal, there is some progress you’d have made. Dreams do not result in anything, except, of course, wasted time and lost opportunities. 

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#7 Goals Are the Result of Conscious Thoughts

No one has a choice when it comes to dreaming. It’s a built-in mechanism in the human body. However, it’s completely opposite to goals. Goals are born only when you sincerely want something and are willing to bring about the required changes in your life.

#8 Goals are Measurable

If you precisely know that you want to be earning X amount of money within X amount of time, you have a goal in place. When aspirations are vague and cannot be quantified, they are called dreams. Goals are planned to a T and are executed accordingly. 

#9 Goals Are Time-bound

You begin the process of achieving a goal with the end in mind. Unless you’re aware of the time horizon, you cannot plot an accurate graph for your goals, which makes them vague, much like a dream. If you say you want to lose 10 pounds in a month, the end of the month becomes the endpoint for your GOAL. But if you say that you’ll lose SOME weight in a FEW days, it’s wishful thinking!

#10 Work is Needed Even to Set Goals

Unlike a dream where all you need to do is sleep, goal-setting is a concept of its own. Before you even start acting on your goals, you need to sit down and plan how you’re going to do it. This includes zeroing in on the most effective route to take amongst all the options available, the daily/weekly progress you should be making, and the time it should take you to do it. 

Having discussed the points of demarcation between Goals and Dreams, it’s time I tell you how to achieve the goals/dreams you’ve set for yourself.

#11 Know The “Why” First

WHY do you want to do a particular thing? Is it because YOU want to do it or is there external influence? Is it even something that you really, really want? What do you aim to accomplish by the fulfillment of those goals? Answer these questions and you’ll know whether the goal is worth your time.

#12 Write Your Goals

Tons of business and life coaches will stress this point. Numerous researches have shown that people who write their goals down on a piece of paper (both long-term and on a daily basis) have higher chances of achieving them than those who don’t. Ideally, you should write your goals at least thrice a day — once when you wake up, once during the day, and once before you sleep.

#13 Grade Your Goals

In addition to writing your goals, you need to put them in proper order. The goals with the most urgency (it can be with regards to either time or need) should go on top. Other criteria for goal gradation can be ease of achievement, the time required, effect on personal growth, etc.

#14 Visualization

Visualization is a mindfulness technique where you use your subconscious mind to attract the things you want. It involves imagining that you’ve already reached where you’re planning to go. A few minutes of visualization at the start and the end of the day will do wonders in the pursuit of your goals. 

#15 Break Down The Goals

“A million dollars in a year” sounds like a reasonable goal but it’s vague from the time perspective. What do you do for the first and the second month? How do you plan to make that amount of money? Generally, you should have one capstone goal and several sub-goals that’ll support it.

Related: Spiritual Goals To Thrive

#16 Build Habits 

You can plan and write your goals all you want but it’s your habits and your discipline that’ll ultimately decide whether or not you achieve them. Good habits put you on the path to success. They ensure that you make small but continuous improvements.

#17 Commitment

There will be days where you don’t feel like working on your goals anymore, or they’ll stop making sense altogether. Here is where commitment comes into the picture. You need to constantly remind yourself that you’ve set those goals for a reason.

Goals vs Dreams
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#18 Periodical Review of Goals

This is especially true for long-term goals. The environment within which you function keeps changing and you need to constantly adapt both yourself and your goals to suit the environment. Review your goals at regular intervals to see whether there’s a need to either include or exclude any part/s of it.

#19 Criticism & Accountability

There’s no hard and fast rule to goal-setting. Be open to criticism and always stand accountable for your goals because you’ve consciously constructed them after considering several permutations and combinations. You can always tweak your goals if they don’t work in their current state. 

#20 Don’t Let Others Set Your Goals

Referred to as the “Demonstration Effect” in Economics, it means the human tendency to desire what people around us already have. If someone has a nice car, that automatically shouldn’t become a goal of yours; it’s a dream. Also, neither your parents nor your friends should tell you what your goals are. Surely, they can advise you but YOUR goals are yours alone!

FAQs About Dreams And Goals

A topic as wide as Dreams vs Goals is bound to tease out several questions. Here I answer the most frequent ones:

What Is A Dream Without A Goal?

A dream without a goal is a wishful thought, a facade, or a mirage. It’s no better than an 11-year old proclaiming that he wants to become a pilot with no plan whatsoever on how he’s going to do it.

Related: A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish

How Do You Have Dreams And Goals?

You don’t need anything special or out of the blue to see a dream. Dreams come to you whereas you reach out to goals. Dreams are nothing but your subconscious mind at work. Goals, on the other hand, need your conscious thoughts and actions. You need to have a clear understanding of why you want to do what you want to do. Only then will it be called a goal.

What Is The Difference Between A Dream And A Smart Goal?

A smart goal is a goal with all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted. It is usually meticulously planned and all its elements are achievable with a reasonable degree of hard work. It is flexible and capable of adapting to changing scenarios. A dream is devoid of all such practical elements of planning. 

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Dreams Vs Goals Quotes

Here is a list of quotes that clearly distinguishes between dreams and goals and hints at how you can achieve those goals.

  • “The distance between your dreams and reality is called action.”
  • “Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan.”
  • “If you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you choose.”
  • “Some see a weed, some see a wish.”
  • “Dreams and wishes are not goals until they are written as specific end results on paper.”
  • “Daydreaming allows you to build a brand that will be consistent with your goals and dreams.”
  • “Yet dreamers are not often doers… merely dreaming about the future makes people less likely to realize their dreams and wishes (as does dwelling on the obstacles in their path).”
  • “Good thoughts are no better than good dreams unless they are executed.”
  • “Many times people back away from things they want to do, from the dreams they have nurtured, because they cannot envision a clear way to bring those goals to reality.”
  • “You can never be happy living someone else’s dream. Live your own. And you will for sure know the meaning of happiness.”
  • “It may take a few more attempts or many attempts but success is only achieved once dreams are put into action.”

Dreams And Goals Examples

The following examples will give you a clear picture of the difference between dreams and goals.

  • “I will earn lots of money in the coming year” is a dream. “I will start a business tomorrow and keep on increasing my revenue by 20 percent every quarter in the coming year” is a goal.
  • “I want a muscular body” is a dream. “I will hit the gym every morning for two hours each and change my diet accordingly” is a goal.
  • “I want to become famous” is a dream. “I will work on my artistic skill such that it gives me the due recognition in X amount of time” is a goal.

What Are Your Goals Or Dreams In Life?

Are you a dreamer or a goal-setter and achiever? What currently occupies you, is it a conscious plan or a vague hope? I’m excited to read how that’s been working out for you in the comments.

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.