How to Navigate Your Dreams and Goals

How to Navigate Your Dreams and Goals

January 14, 2019 0 By Linda V. Lind

If you have done my New Year Meditation© part 2, you will know, there is a question – or maybe I should say “kind reflection challenge” – that asks the meditator to define the difference between “dreams” and “goals”. I did the same thing in part 1, only the themes there were “excuses” and “reasons” – as I talked about in Jane Fonda – On Your Left!.
Today I am going to share my point of view of the differences between dreams and goals and how you can put those things into play in a time of progress, be it personal or professional. As always, I would love it if you’d share your additional thoughts in the comments.

This post is a part of DANCING JANUARY.

With DANCING JANUARY I chose to celebrate new beginnings and make breaking bad habits (if you’re on that wagon) a little more fun. So at the bottom of every post in January, you will find some music that is supposed to invite you to dance UGLY in your living room (or dance amazing, if you are a pro) – our goals, no matter their focus, are always more easily achieved, if we are having fun. So, no smoking, increasing confidence, be better at saying no, weight loss, gaining followers on Instagram – no matter your goal – or if you even have one – I hereby invite you to come and dance with me.
WARNING:
I dance like I’m being attacked by wasps!

The Aristotle Way


My first theoretical encounter with the concepts of dreams and goals came in the high school Philosophy classroom, where my mind was constantly being challenged and amazed. The guy was called Aristotle and to most people, he’s just a white statue in the Old Greek department of the museum. And I don’t blame people for that – after all, the guy lived from 384 BC to 322 BC, so he doesn’t exactly pop up on the first branches of anyones family tree.
To me, however, he became a quite significant figure, for the simple reason that – also studying Psychology – I found so many parallels and influences in the modern world as we know it.
Preparing for this piece, I did some additional research and found that when I googled “dreams” and “goal” and theories about these concepts, I got a lot of hits from modern day thinkers. Which kind of annoyed me, because that is not where it all started. In his Nicomachean Ethics, which among others concerns the acts and virtues of man, he offers thoughts on “choosing” and “willing” which is essentially the first time the difference between dreams and goals are put to paper.
I have added additional links at the end for curious eyes, but in it’s essence, to Aristotle, making a choice first a foremost requires a desire, a “willing” (or as we call it in this post “dream”). However, choosing requires willing, but willing does not require choosing.
To Aristotle the order is very simple: willing -> choice -> action.
You first have to have the willing, the dream, from where you can (or can not) make a choice. This choice inevitably leads to some sort of action, to secure the realization of ones willing.
In addition to this, choices cannot be things that are impossible. You can’t choose to be the tallest man on the planet if you are 5ft8 – or POTUS if you are not American. Choices have to be about something you yourself have power of and control over.
Willing, desire, dreams concerns possible AND impossible matters. You can dream about being a lawyer or getting a car – both possible and achievable. Or you can dream about being the world champion of martial arts and be the living image of The Black Widow from Marvel – not so achievable or possible. Dreams can – contrary to choices – be about something outside your own reach of power.
Also – you can dream about being healthy but you choose and make goals on the means to reach your goal.
This concludes the trinity I wrote before to:

Willing -> Choice -> Action -> Goal

Connecting the millenia

Granted, it can seem pretty dry (coughing dust kind of dry!), when you try to look back on ancient philosophers and the way they choose to formulate their ideas and visions – but let me try and put this in a more modern setting that is more familiar to you and I.

When you have a dream, it can be either realistic or unrealistic.
When you have a goal, it (if you have a sound reasoning) can only be realistic.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming, because they fuel our ambitions, they push us forward. They can, however, also make us doubt ourselves and feel like failures. Focusing on the latter for a second, because if your dreams make you feel like a failure, it is likely due to one of two options; either it’s just not realistic and in failing to accept that, you are judging yourself on terms that you could never possibly live up to in the first place. Or there is a glitch in the choice/action/goal process, which can be caused by a lot of things – executive dysfunction being one of them. ED can occur in all settings, but are known to be dominant with e.g. autistics (like myself) and ADHD (just a few examples).

So how do you know, when something is realistic?

Looking back at Aristotle and taking his deliberations a little backwards, defining realistic dreams means that you can yourself – or with the help of friends – achieve this with tools you already have and/or tools that you are able to get.

So dreams that does not live up to these standards, should not be something to convert into goals, nor should you evaluate your own worth by your lack of success in these areas.

In my case: I dream of being able to live off of writing, one way or another. That is not entirely in my own hands. So my goal is to get a life where I write as much as possible, learn as much as possible – with the dream in mind, and maybe one day my skills will meet the opportune moment and the right luck and the right people.

The goal is always – or it should be – realistic. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure. I mean, you don’t set yourself a goal to gain 20 K followers on Instagram in one week. Face it, unless you are a Kardashian or the likes and just opened up an account, it won’t happen. I’m exaggerating to make a point here.

We’ve just been through a New Year’s Eve, complete with resolutions and people being like “I don’t make resolutions, because they don’t work” (myself inluded!) – but really: it either says something about your resolutions (they are not realistic) or they say something about your decision-process (you don’t – for whatever reason – hold yourself to your own goal).

Let’s look at that for a second…

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The Words That Shapes Us

As said, we just went through the New Year season with all the resolutions and thoughts on changing and improving and what not. Before we take a look at our resolutions and self-promises, there’s one very important thing I would like to draw attention to:

Words matter!

We have heard this in settings of people being offended or discriminated, and while we all nod in agreement, very few actually turn this agreement, this knowledge, inwards.

The words you use about yourself and your endeavors matter too!

This was brought to me, in my previous non-smoking attempt about 3 years ago, where I sat in front of a mentor who told me this:

“You have to carefully consider your words. If you say, “I’m going to try to quit smoking”, you are giving yourself a way out. You are not really making an active decision. On the other hand, “I will quit smoking”, obligates you on a completely different level. Mentally you have already given yourself a head start.”

This mentor also told me to stop saying “if I succeed” and constantly corrected me by saying “WHEN – WHEN you succeed”.

During my Happy October last year, I wrote Day of Selfindulgence and told you to …

(…) place yourself in front of the largest mirror in your home, preferably a full size, but we don’t all have that, so settle for the largest you DO have. You, my fair Lady, are going to praise and adore yourself OUT LOUD to the point where Narcissus comes off as a selfdeprecating dimwit.

Yours truly, Day of Selfindulgence, October 5th 2018

This sort of leans on the words of that mentor (and a lot of psych professionals), because words also work as a mediator, as enablers. With words you can to some extend start shaping your foundation.

For instance, if you have set yourself a goal for 2019, that requires a little more self esteem, than you feel you have, praising yourself and giving yourself some credit for good work and stuff can actually give yourself a push in the right direction.

I mean, don’t get me wrong; you are not going to land your dream job or dream deal just by telling yourself you look gorgeous and that you’re talented. This is not a fairy blog…

I am saying though, that you telling yourself that you look gorgeous, you’re talented and whatever other goodies you are, will – with practise – actually make your back a little straighter, your gaze a little clearer and your ‘psass’ stronger.
That might actually be the little difference, that little edge, that does make you land that deal or get you called in for the final interview.

One lovely lady, Natalie Hawes, posted this at Instagram and since it relates to this, I thought I’d give you guys the opportunity to read it as well…

You can find her at Instagram on a_mothers_trend or go straight to her blog over at Amotherstrend.co.uk where you will read her words on having confidence as a woman with a body that changes. I will encourage you to check out her “About” page, because she has some pretty beautiful words for mothers outthere, that might feel they have lost some of their beauty.
A little hint: you haven’t! But Natalie says is way better than I do, so pay her a visit. ;-*

With that in mind, let’s take a look at our resolutions or aspirations, the dreams and goals for 2019 or just in life, shall we? I am beginning to think I’m a bit of an overachiever, because I can’t seem to settle on the seemingly recommended 1-3 goals at a time.
I have made a sort of checklist, you can take your dream(s) and goal(s) through – for further explanations or examples, you just click the bars.

Are you ready?!

Be Your Own Mentor

What is/are your dreams?…

Even if we have a sense of what our dreams are, sometimes it can be could to get them down on paper and “taste” them.
In my case I could write: finishing my book “Break Down” in 2019, read more books, eat healthier, exercise more, run 5 kilometres, make a living of writing, getting my first real jobexperience since my break down in ’17 – among others!

Divide those dreams into realistic and unrealistic groups…

Like I wrote earlier, look at each dream you have and ask yourself if you can be the mediator to achieve the dream yourself (or with the help from your friends and family). It is not so much a question of how long it takes, but if your dream requires something beyond your reach, it isn’t realistic in the terms that you can set it as a goal – which is the purpose of this.

In my case it would look like this (I will get back to the unrealistic part later – I promise – we are not killing darlings just yet!)

Realistic

  • finishing my book Break Down in 2019.
  • Read more books
  • Eat healthier
  • Exercise more
  • Run 5 kilometer laps

Unrealistic

  • making a living out of writing
  • first real jobexperience since 2017 in 2019

Make some choices…

If your “realistic” column contains more than 2 or 3 things, or they will require a lot from you, it’s important to prioritize. I have set the timeframe for 2019, so looking at my column, it seems doable – but also like something that requires a lot of work with myself – which always means there might be relapses and set backs.
So I need to make room and allowances for that.
Also I can see that three of them are rather unspecific. What does “more” stand for?

So knowing that I must make room for relapses, I can set specifics to the three taking this into account.
Reads more books becomes: I want to read at least one book per month.
Eat healthier due to high intake of sugar becomes: I want to get sweets down to 200 grammes per week and have at least 4 fruits/vegetables a day (today I am almost down to none!)
Exercise more becomes: I want to exercise at least 3 times a week for half an hour.

Now, having made my realistic dreams for 2019 specific, I have something to work with.

Set into action….

As soon as dreams are specific we can start thinking about HOW to get there.
This very often requires subgoals. Not many dreams can just be activated and then it’s ON from day one – if that were possible, it would be stupid spending so much time just dreaming about it, right?
I am not going to go over all of my own examples here, but let’s look at e.g. eating healthier.
At the moment I am using my Feel Better Tracker that I talked about in Jane Fonda – On Your Left, to get an idea of what my patterns are. This is what I do in January and from there I’ll see where my focus should be. Actually, already at this point, I know my soft spot will be cutting down on the sweets. I can eat the fruits and veggies, if I remember to buy them – but keeping my hands off the sweets is a task that it going to take some work.
So right now, I need to figure out my weekly average, and when I know that I can start making specific subgoals, also using some of the other printables from the On Your Left-post.

What I do, when setting subgoals, is setting an expected deadline and taking the time to consider if I will meet any obstacles and which possible personal strengths I have that I can deploy to counteract.

The goal – the eye on the target…

From the point you set your subgoals and start executing the action, you should slowly but steadily see yourself getting closer to that goal.

I am pretty adamant that you don’t only celebrate the big goal, but that you remember to celebrate the subgoals too. After all, even the subgoals are little steps in the right direction.

What seems to work for me is having something visible to remind me and keep me focused. It can be a picture of a cherished item, it can be saving up the cash you’d usually spend on cigarettes, a can be something as simple as a list, with the main goals and the subgoals.

I have chosen to do my dreams/goals sort of simultaneously, but due to that allow for a prolonged period of time. My current mentor once made an actual chronological timeline with me, where I would plot in stuff like getting started with the dentist, quit smoking, start running (that slipped) – and it helped my mind and the kind of brain I have (the autistic one) to actually have a feel for it and not stressing. If my idea of running the things simultaneouly doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to the timeline.

What works for you might be something entirely different.

But once you get there – congratulations! If it’s a change of habits – stick to it.

But what about the unrealistics…?

If you are human, a normal living breathing person, it’s safe to say, that you will have something in the “unrealistic” column you made, that you are not quite content with just letting slide.
And neither should you for the most part. Now, what does that mean? Didn’t I just say that… yeah, well, unrealistic dreams just need an extra filter.

And that is what this section is about:

Take a close look at your column of unrealistics. Ask yourself with each one, if you can refrase the dream to become realistic and maybe even raise the chances of reaching the original dream in the end.

As said, I dream about making a living off of writing, one way or another. I always have and I always will. For many years I put that dream and writing itself on hold, because they were deemed unrealistic, phantoms of fairytales. Re-emerging into writing through blogging, I discovered HOW much I have missed it. It was like finally being able to breathe and it made the original dream come alive again.

So imagine my discontent in finding out that it was categorized as “unrealistic”!

Now, this could either be a pretty smart thing to do or just me being incredibly stubborn – I guess the answer to that depends on the success rate of people doing it this way.

“I want to make a living off of writing” becomes: I want to write steadily and frequently and I want to scedule the ideas for books I have in my head to be executed over the course of the next 5 years.

None of this relies on luck or getting in contact with THE right publisher etc. It doesn’t rely on hitting a nerve of a zeitgeist that takes my writing on a roll. It ONLY relies on whether I chose to stick to my deadlines or not. Failing, I would only have myself to blame.

Take a look at your own unrealistics… can you make some of them be realistic?

The new realistics….

Once you have refrased the unrealistics, you can do above mentioned procedure again.

Remember prioritizing and sceduling as you set the subgoals and goals. If you have a lot of dreams that you are working on, it can be easy to drop a ball every once in a while. Is there any of your dreams, your goals, that would take a lesser hit than others, if you dropped the ball? Anyone, that would be easier to pick up and continue with?

Knowing this from the get go will ensure that when you hit those periods of high pressure where the day does not have hours enough, you will know which goals to go easy on or put on pause for a while.

But take your new realistics and treat them just like you did the original realistics.
No reason at all they should just be parked in an “unrealistic” column, when there is something to do.

Evaluation…

Those of you that are familiar with me – or those of you that has gotten through to this part of the post, will not be surpriced when I say that my organisational skills are pretty – well, face it, some would say compulsive. How this is, with my co-existing executive dysfunction, I don’t know. Maybe I breathe lists, planning, analysing the way I do, because of the executive dysfuntion, because it’s how I counteract.
I don’t know.
But I do know that I have a very precious and healthy habit – I often evaluate. Myself, my reactions to situations, my progresses, people’s behaviour, things being said…the list goes on.
Goals is of course no exception. Just like a company yearly evaluates progress and concept and values, we, when aiming for desired goals, must also occasionally pull over, shut the engine down and pull out the map (GPS is just cheating!) and re-assure ourselves of the directions.
If you have put a deadline on a goal – evaluate AT LEAST halfway, so you can make adjustments in time if needed.
Any unforseen obstacles? Did you get unexpected help? Has your goal – or your dream – changed since you started? Has something happened that has made the dream irrelevant?

So plan ahead, when you want to evaluate, scedule it on your phone and make it remind you a few days ahead.

Then you evaluate, conclude, correct if needed – and you put that car back in gear and head for the road.

Because, my dear – of course, you’ve got this!

Some of you might remember that previously I mentioned that you could have a glitch in the choice/action department.
I have not yet found a way to successfully counteract that myself, so my advice on this area will be scarce.

I will say though that having executive dysfunction – and if you know that you have it – you need to be kind to yourself. The glitches are not your fault. They are not caused by laziness, not by not wanting it enough or what ever else we an think of to hit ourselves over the head with.

If you are in doubt of whether you have it or not, there are tests that can be made.

To me though, working out lists, diagrammes, scedules and what not has increased my success rate – but not to a level, where I would say that “this is the answer of answers!” – besides, we are different, and what works for me might not work for you.

I would love it if you would share one of your dreams with me in the comments. If you know how to achieve it, I’d love to hear it. If you suffer from executive dysfunction and found something that works for you, do share – it may not work for everybody, but it might for somebody.

Links for the curious in the bottom, some dancing music coming up (and since this is written at a point where I personally struggle, I’ll try and find something very fun and optimistic for you) – and next time, I’ll be reviewing a book on blogging for beginners written by the ever so sweet (and incredibly talented) Sarah Leigh from lifeitornot.com. So hit that subscribe button, so you don’t miss that post.

Take care

LUV YA :-*

On executive dysfunction

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_dysfunction

PDF Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle via St Marys

https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/files/Nicomachean_Ethics_0.pdf


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