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.
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:
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
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.
LUV YA :-*
On executive dysfunction
PDF Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle via St Marys