What’s the difference between goals and dreams? Are they simply different words for talking about what’s essentially the same thing, or is there a distinction between them when it comes to creating the future you want?

The language you use to describe what you’re doing matters. Knowing what your aim is can give you access to different tools and behaviours that can help you get to where you want to go.

But first, let’s get clear on what we mean when we talk about these two concepts.

The difference between goals and dreams

Goals are commonly used in a work context, or when we’re talking about something specific.

You might have come across the acronym SMART used when talking about goal setting. There are variations on what the different letters stand for, but an often-accepted definition is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-sensitive

Examples of goals might be…

Run 5km by October

Increase business profits by 50% this quarter

Teach my daughter to tie her shoelaces independently by the time she starts school

Dreams, on the other hand, tend to have a more abstract feel to them.

They might not be something you can write down or describe in words – your dream might be an image, a feeling or a very broad idea of something you would like to experience in your future.

Your dream might be…

To have my own business doing work I love

To travel somewhere adventurous

To feel true soul connection to my partner

Why distinguish between goals and dreams?

The difference between these concepts is pretty clear, then. While a goal is something that’s straightforward to describe and plan for, a dream is something less tangible. You’ll know when you get there, but you might not have a clear sense of exactly when that will be or what the steps are for you to achieve it.

Many of us have been brought up in a society where goals are considered to be superior to dreams.

Perhaps you were told by a teacher or a parent that you “daydreamed” too much, or that you needed to make your dreams more concrete.

In the workplace, we’re often encouraged to set realistic, measurable targets – and of course, it makes sense to be able to define when we’ve achieved certain outcomes and to be able to track our progress.

But does that really make dreams inferior?

Dreams vs. goals: The PowerTypes insight

The 5 Women’s PowerTypes™ are powerful role models of female leadership that enable us to access our inner resources and step into our most powerful selves.

When it comes to goals and dreams, we see two PowerTypes come to the fore: The Queen and the Sorceress. Here’s how they can help you get clear on what you’re aiming for.

Setting goals with the Queen

Call to mind an archetypal queen: serene, regal and authoritative, she steers her realm by making decisions for the good of all. Queen is the PowerType we call on when it’s time to set clear goals that will define our activities over a period of time.

Just as the Queen of a kingdom manages her resources, setting clear priorities for her court, her army and her treasury, so you can use your own Queen energy to guide your decisions.

You might choose to set boundaries in service of your goal – for example, agree that your partner will take care of the evening chores three nights a week so you can make progress with your running schedule.

The Queen is a powerful decision maker; she trusts her intuition but she also takes advice from her wise counsellors. So if your boss suggests that your goal of doubling your team’s sales figures isn’t a realistic one, you’ll take their advice into account. And your big vision and sense of clear-eyed certainty will motivate others around you to lend their energy to help your goal.

Dreaming with Sorceress

Sorceress is the PowerType we turn to when it’s time to dream.

It’s important to note that no one PowerType is prioritised over the others, so your connection to your Sorceress is in no way more or less important than your Queen. Instead, we recognise the need to be able to draw on the PowerType that’s most appropriate for what we’re trying to achieve in any given moment.

The ability to dream, to intuit and to feel what might be possible for the future is absolutely as important as your capability for planning and preparing for goals.

The Sorceress “feels” into her visions and is able to see possibilities that might not be open to others, or which might even feel impossible. She’s attuned to nature, and tends to spend time on her own connecting to her inner vision and trusting absolutely in the gifts or insights it brings her.

Your Sorceress might guide you to connect with a certain person, invest in a specific workshop or say “no” to an opportunity that for some reason doesn’t feel “right”.

Learning to trust these visions and stay open to the ways in which they might become a reality can be a challenge for those of us more used to rolling up our sleeves and making things happen – but it’s a skill that the most powerful leaders are often able to use.

Dreaming in action

Jen Le Marinel, a One of many Certified Coach, describes why dreams are so important:

We all have dreams. Some are big, some are small. Some seem impossible, some are forgotten, some are buried deep inside, lost under the pile of stuff that everyday life throws at us. But somewhere, there’s that spark, that every now and then gets fanned, and it flickers. Nurtured, it grows, ignored, it dies down…

Jen’s taken many courageous steps on the path to bringing her dreams to life, and one things she’s learned along the way is that giving appropriate value to your dream allows you to balance your efforts to achieve your goals along the way.

Once you’re on the right path, and living the dream – I mean, living by the VALUES of that dream – you’re actually already there. The achievement of the ultimate dream doesn’t feel so urgent, as you’re already living in alignment with what that dream will give you. And the best bit….when you’re on that path, the ultimate dream even begins to speed up towards you!

It makes sense, doesn’t it – there’s no point putting your energy towards reaching a certain goal if it’s not ultimately leading towards a dream that feels good to be moving towards.

And as Jen has learned, being able to dream – and trust that dream – can lead to a life that you might never have imagined if you had only permitted yourself to stick to those “manageable” or “realistic” goals.

TODAY I’m now considering some steps that could potentially lead me to my “out there” dream in a matter of months. A place I never dreamed I’d reach at all, let alone so soon. It’s not going to be easy and I don’t even know for sure that the time is definitely right, but I do know that if I hadn’t started “living the dream” a couple of years ago I definitely wouldn’t be living the dream today.

Knowing how to balance your Queen and Sorceress – your dreams and your goals – is the key to unlocking your fullest potential – and having the impact you’re ultimately here to make.

Are you more of a goal-setter or a dreamer?

Do you tend to break things down into practical steps, or are you more of a big-picture dreamer? Remember, neither of those is better or worse than the other – and most of us tend to find one comes more naturally, while the other requires more conscious cultivation.

Let us know in the comments below.

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