Dreams vs Goals: 5 Key Differences You Should Know

A lot of people talk about dreams and goals like they are one and the same. But nothing could be further from the truth! In this article, we’ll dive into the key differences between dreams and goals, plus provide you with tips for becoming a goal-getter.

hand placing star on top of goals stack
dreams vs goals: key differences you should know

Dreams vs Goals: What Are They?

Dreams pass through your mind. They consist of desires, images, thoughts, and emotions. Dreams are what we want and hope to achieve in life. Think of dreams of being non-tangible aspirations that remain in our imaginations. They can range from reasonably attainable to unlikely fantasies.

Goals on the other hand are tangible plans. When we set goals, we are setting out a series of plans that will help us achieve them. Sometimes we set short-term goals, and other times we set long-term goals.

Let’s say I want to travel the world and visit 15 new countries over the next 5 years, and I envision what it would be like. However, I don’t have concrete plans to do this. This would be considered a dream. I can, however, convert it into a goal by developing a plan for achieving it.

Dreams vs Goals: 5 Key Differences

Here are some key differences between dreams and goals to keep in mind.

1. Action

Dreams require no action at all. When we dream, we don’t have to do anything whatsoever. However, when we have a specific goal in mind, such as losing 10 pounds or retiring by age 50, we have to create a plan we must then stick to in order to achieve our goal.

Action is the main difference between goals and dreams.

2. Deadlines

Goals always have deadlines, regardless of how near or far in the future they are. For example, if I dream of having $5,000, but no deadline is set, then that is simply a dream. However, it’s a goal if I say I want to save $5,000 in 60 days. Be it a short-term or long-term goal, there will be a deadline attached to it.

3. Sacrifice and Effort

The only thing a dream requires is imagination. Goals involve sacrifice and effort. There is an element of giving something up and work that goes into realizing your goals.

For example, If I have a fitness goal to become a competitive bodybuilder in 100 days, then I will have to sacrifice a lot of time doing recreational activities, so I can focus on what it takes to become a competitive bodybuilder.

Also, dreams don’t require any investment. If I have a goal of starting a business and taking it to six figures in sales by the end of the year, then I will need to invest time and money into my business. The converse is also true. If you’re not actively working towards something, it’s just a dream.

woman standing on fitness equipment achieving her goals
dreams vs goals: taking action

4. Imagination & Capabilities

When I dream, I can imagine whatever I want and I can stretch my imagination as far as I wish. I’m not limited by what I can actually do because it’s just a dream. With goals, my capabilities and skill level matter. They are big factors as to whether my goal will ever be realized. Additionally, you have to develop new habits and skills to expand your potential.

5. Reality

Perhaps the biggest distinction between dreams and goals is that only one can exist in reality. Dreams live exclusively in our minds. Goals exist in reality. They are things we actively work towards. We don’t achieve our dreams. We turn our dreams into goals and get to work.

Are You A Goal-Setter Or A Dreamer?

You are a dreamer if you like to let your imagination run wild with thoughts of doing “something” “one of these days”.

You’re a goal-setter when you give your dreams a test run in the real world. If you are someone who creates a plan and takes specific steps towards getting what you want, you’re achieving goals. Goals are the real-world things we do to turn our dreams into reality.

Related Post: Are You a Visionary or a Realist?

You’re most likely a dreamer if you get lost in big dreams but take no action. If you’re constantly thinking about the type of future you want to create for yourself, but have no intention of taking action, then you’re more of a dreamer than a goal-setter. Remember, goal-setting is all about action.

woman raising hands on mountain from dreams vs goals
transforming goals into dreams

How Dreamers Can Learn To Become Goal-Setters

Writing out goals and creating a plan for achieving them is the first step to becoming a goal-setter. I suggest writing down any goal/goals you can think of, regardless of how small or large they are. Dreamers should set at least 3-4 goals that they want to reach, and they should jot down a deadline for achieving them.

Small steps make all the difference in the world. Start by writing down small daily goals you’d like to accomplish. By doing this, you will feel like you’re getting stuff done. Eventually, you’ll be a step closer to achieving your bigger goal/goals.

Finally, you have to take action and put in the work. There will be times you want to give up, but goal-setters usually have a “why” that helps them push through difficult moments.

Set goals and determine your “why” for wanting to reach them, and then remind yourself of your “why” whenever you take action or want to give up on your goals.

With some time, effort, and resilience, you’ll slowly start become to goal-setting, high achiever you always dreamed you could be!

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