No matter who we are or where we’re at in our lives or careers, we’ve once upon a time dreamed a few dreams or set a few goals. Chances are, some of what we’ve accomplished so far has come from one or two ideas put into action. Opportunities sometimes present themselves in no order or without much effort, however, personal happiness and a sense of fulfillment are almost always the products of visions that have been recognized and acted on.
Having dreams and goals are crucial when it comes to personal development, however, the two are not necessarily interchangeable. Speaker and positive thinking coach, Chuck Gallozzi separates the two by saying:
“Goals show commitment; dreams do not. Dreams are what we would like to have without doing any work.”
This is not to say dreaming is a waste of time, but instead we should be setting our goals based on what we dream our ideal self or life to look like. By extracting smaller ideas from complex concepts, we are implementing personal changes that can lead to positive outcomes.
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, a good portion of our life goals come from the time we spend actively dissociated from our reality. According to a study conducted by Harvard University, the average American spends nearly half of their waking hours daydreaming. In fact, the study concluded that our minds wander about 46.9%, with most of it occurring during working hours. While excessive daydreaming, known as maladaptive daydreaming, can seriously interfere with human interactions and constructive thinking, setting professional goals or dreaming up a new destination to explore can give us something to work for in the moment. If we spend our hours at the office daydreaming about a work-from-home position that allows us flexibility and more time with our family, having this idea in the first place can be a sure sign it may be time to consider a new role or simply discuss flex opportunities with an employer.
The key with daydreaming is to use it as constructively as possible. Daydreaming is often used as a form of escapism from stress or unhappiness. This can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment in how our time is being spent in the now. While fantasizing about a slimmer physique, a larger salary, or fewer responsibilities can deliver an instant wave of pleasure, it is often followed by sadness and a feeling of personal failure when we come back to reality.
Out with Doubt
When it comes to designing the framework for my aspirations and goals, I’m known to be overly aggressive. I set the bar high, and can say with certainty I simply. never. settle. Whether it’s a professional position I desire to obtain, a fitness record I want to set, or a destination I want to immerse myself in, I don’t stop until I’ve devoured every morsel of my vision, or until my course changes direction and I’m manically planning the next great adventure.
No one will argue that ambition is a beautiful thing, but sometimes it can be hard to put the wheels in motion and make your dreams a living and breathing reality. This is where doubt comes creeping in, saying “you’ll never have enough money to move to Hawaii,” “you don’t have enough experience to write a book,” “that marathon will take years to train for,” and we sink back into our day-to-day routine, putting dreams back on the shelf.
Instead of letting doubt dictate your life, seek a resolution; a middle ground to settle your mind while you work towards your vision. Be practical with whatever tools are already in reach. If a week-long backpacking trip is where your mind wanders to day after day, begin researching areas of interest and setting aside money to purchase the necessary gear. If downsizing or relocating to a new neighborhood remains on the brain time and time again, discuss the logistics of such a decision with your family to see if a transition is truly feasible. Those abstract, out of reach thoughts for the future may be much closer than you think.