Some people are lucky enough to know what they want to do with their lives, and a select few are blessed enough to know exactly how to get there. I knew in grade school that I wanted to be a writer. I would write little skits and act them out with my Barbie dolls, or my friends when they were willing. There were phases where I wanted to be a screenwriter, then a journalist, then a publisher.
I knew I wanted my life to revolve around stories, but I didn’t know how to actually build my reality around my dream. I spent over a decade drifting from one lackluster job to another, searching for that magic moment where everything would become clear.
It’s easy to dream; it’s a lot harder to turn your dream into something real.
If you’ve done this dreamstorming exercise, you probably have a good idea what you want your life to be, but you might be less clear about how to make it happen. I’m going to give you a few actionable steps you can take to turn your dream into an achievable goal.
How to turn dreams into goals
The trouble with turning dreams into goals is that so few people know the steps to creating a real, actionable plan for accomplishing those goals.
It’s a bit like taking a road trip with no map or GPS. You could end up somewhere cool. More likely, you’re going to drive around aimlessly for a really long time and possibly end up at that creepy gas station from the opening scene of every backwoods horror movie ever made.
You don’t want to end up at the creepy gas station.
Goals keep us from ending up somewhere we don’t want to be; they help us get from dream to reality. A goal can be as large or as small as you need it to be. In fact, I prefer to set a large goal first, then break it into smaller, more achievable goals. This is how big things get done!
If you’re not sure how to turn your dream into a specific goal (or multiple goals), the best place to start may be with the S.M.A.R.T. method.
S.M.A.R.T. goals should be
- Specific – What, specifically, are you going to achieve?
- Measurable – How will you know when you’ve achieved it? What is your measurement for success?
- Attainable – Is this a goal you can reasonably achieve? If not, break it down until you get to a point where you can.
- Relevant – Does this goal fit with your larger goals and dreams? Will it serve you in the bigger picture?
- Time-bound – What is your deadline for achieving the goal?
S.M.A.R.T. goals keep you focused on the details so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Your goals don’t have to look like anyone else’s. Use this framework to build goals that work for you.
Keeping the S.M.A.R.T. method in mind, follow these steps to turn your dreams into goals:
Make it real
The first step is to shift your dream from something vague to a tangible goal.
For example, if you want to switch careers, get real with yourself about what that would look like. Do you need to go back to school and earn your degree? Take a course or seminar? Pursue an internship or entry-level job in your desired field?
If your dream is to get healthier, ask yourself, again, what does that look like? Do you want to lose twenty pounds? Establish a daily exercise routine or a healthier diet? Run a marathon? What are some things you can do to start making that happen?
Start brainstorming real steps you can take to get from where you are to where you want to go.
Break it up
Once you have a real goal in mind, break it up into step-by-step, bite-sized pieces. If you’ve decided that you need to go back to school, for instance, then you should start researching programs, applying to universities, and making a plan for securing the financing. Maybe you’ll need to look for housing closer to campus, or find a daycare for your kids to attend while you’re in class.
Plan it out
Aristotle once said, “Well begun is half done,” and he was absolutely right! Having an actionable plan in place is half the battle when it comes to accomplishing goals. Break your plan into the smallest achievable pieces.
Write down every step, and establish the time it will take you to accomplish each one. You may check off one task each day, each week, or each month, but make sure you schedule those deadlines into your calendar so you can hold yourself accountable.
Treat yo' self
Accomplishing your goal will provide you with a lot of fulfillment, but no one likes to keep plugging away forever with no reward. Decide on a few goodies you can sprinkle throughout your journey. Get a sweet treat from the local bakery or splurge on that fancypants coffee you always tell yourself is too expensive.
Rewards don’t have to cost anything, either: you can schedule a stay-in movie night with your significant other, go for a hike, take a trip to the local library, or set up an at-home pampering station for a spa day.
Every time you achieve a step toward your goal, reward yourself for a job well done.
Keep at it
As you work to achieve your goals, find ways to keep yourself encouraged and inspired:
- Seek out a community of people working toward similar goals (Facebook is great for this).
- Stick little notes of encouragement where you will see them, like the bathroom mirror, your car or workstation, and your planner or journal.
- Check in with your written goals regularly to make sure you stay on track, and if you do hit roadblocks along the way, simply rework your plan and get back at it.
Don’t give up!
I want to hear about your dreams and goals! Comment here or message me if there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey.