How Dreams, Goals, and Habits Fit Together



It’s 2015, and it’s a fresh start.

As we wipe the slate clean, we look back at last year.  Maybe we had goals, maybe we didn’t. Maybe we hit our goals, maybe we didn’t.   Some of us made new good habits, and some of us made some new bad habits.

A few of us achieved our New Year’s Resolutions, and most us didn’t.  And some of us, gave up on trying to bother with goals and New Year’s Resolutions.

After all, the stats are stacked against us.

But they don’t need to be.  I think the solution is to think a little bit differently about how goals, dreams, habits, and inspiration work together.

In fact, it’s time to put it all together.

What You Need to Know About Dreams, Goals, and Habits

Before you set goals, you need to have dreams.  Without a compelling dream that inspires you with purpose and passion, your goals will fall flat.  They will have nothing that helps them hang together into a bigger story for you. The goals are just the stepping stones to your dreams.

To support your goals, you need a habits that work with you, or at least that don’t work against you.

You can think in terms of three types of actions:  daily habits, goals, and inspired actions.  If you just have a habits, you’ll never wake up one day on top of Mt. Everest.   That’s the stuff dreams and goals are made of.  Doing some of these amazing things in your life takes deliberate action and intentional goals.   But if you don’t have habits that support t you, you’ll most likely miss your  goals.  And, if you don’t have big dream to keep pulling you through all the thick, and thin, you’ll also have a tough time with your habits, your goals, and any New Year’s Resolutions.  And, at the same time, you need a way to act on inspiration, without relying all the time for lightening to strike.

So to recap, your big, bold dreams with passion and purpose pull you where you want to be, and what you want to look back on.  Your goals help you chunk up your changes into meaningful milestones.  Your  daily habits help you invest in the right direction, while learning and improving.  And when inspiration strikes, you want to have a simple way to turn it into results, or use it to leap frog your goals, or innovate in your habits.

How Habits Fit In

Some people don’t reach their goals or New Year’s Resolutions, because they didn’t build any habits.  They don’t have any habits to support them, and they take on too much change, all at once.

I had some extreme fitness goals last year.  What made any of my goals possible, was that I had started a few simple habits.  One of them was to wake up 30 minutes earlier, and do a 30 minute workout.   If I didn’t wake up earlier, then I wouldn’t be able to do my workout.  And, if I didn’t do my workout, then I wouldn’t reach my fitness goals.  I made working out in the morning a habit, where it was something I just did, like brushing my teeth.

I didn’t over-engineer it.  I kept it simple.  Over time, I found ways to make it easier and easier to just wake up and workout.

Another habit I added was adding green vegetable juice to my day.   Me and vegetables don’t get along, but I needed to add more vegetables to my diet to reach my fitness goals.    I turned it into a mini-habit, where in the afternoon I would hit the juice bar to get some think time, and to have a large spinach + ginger + pineapple juice.   I’m not sure how much spinach it is, but I see a lot of handfuls go into the making.  Related, I swap fries for salads, and I’m gradually adding more green goodness to my daily diet.

Because these aren’t really goals, and simply my habits, I focus on learning and adapting, and getting a little better each time.  It’s an investment that adds up in my favor, and it makes it easier for me to add goals to my life, because I have a baseline of successful habits supporting me underneath.

But Habits Aren’t the Only Game In Town

Habits are great.  They help us move in the direction we want to go.    But sometimes we have a dream.  A dream that’s worth fighting for.   We have an outcome that we want, and we want it this year (or this quarter, or this month, or this week.)

Sometimes we have a dream that takes concentrated effort, and we need to go above and beyond the call of duty of our everyday habits.

With the right habits, we can move in the right direction.  But without an inspiring dream, and without goals, we may not achieve the crescendos in our life.

How Dreams and Goals Fit In

A good way to think about dreams, goals, habits, and inspired action is “better together.”  The dream is the vision that inspires you.  It needs to reflect your passion and your purpose, and it needs to be actionable and believable.

You can have a dream for your career, a dream for your health, a dream for your relationships, etc.

Once you have a dream that you believe in and that can inspires you and pulls you forward, you can chunk it down into goals.  The goals are simply your meaningful milestones, or the stepping stones or the mile markers on your journey.  They are a way to see and feel your progress, and to funnel your focus along the way.

And, of course, when you have a meaningful dream, you can add habits that help support you.  After all, trying to achieve a goal, where there are no habits supporting you, is a setup for failure.  And, having habits without any goals or any dreams to inspire or pull you forward, may get lost along the road to good intentions.

In my experience, the habits that I stick with and invest with the best, and the ones where my big dream is pulling me forward.  I know that I can invest and learn in my habits while moving toward the end in mind.

Putting It All Together

Dream big so that you have a vision to hold on to and scenes in your mind that pull you forward.

Have a dream for the big areas in your life that you want to change, whether it’s your career, health, finances, etc., and make sure it reflects your passion and your purpose.  Also, make sure that it’s consistent with living your values and living the life-style you want to lead.

Have goals that help you chunk up your dreams into achievable chunks of change.  For example, if you know your dream for a year from now, then what might it look like at 6 months?  What might it look like at 3 months? What would a simple start be to make progress this month?

If you want to skip goals, then by all means do so, but at the end of the year, you may very well be disappointed if you try to look back on meaningful milestones or meaningful results.  Goals help you put a bow on things, and they help you appreciate and acknowledge your efforts.

Habits are a great way to move toward your ultimate goal, and to chip away at your dreams, by building your capabilities and confidence.  They also help you turn behaviors into automatic things that you don’t have to think about (you don’t worry about brushing your teeth, taking a shower, etc.)   They also are a powerful tool that support goals, and dreams.

As awesome as habits are, maybe the real thing to keep in mind is that you won’t learn the violin or become a doctor or find yourself on the top of Mt. Everest with habits alone.   And, by the same token, you won’t learn the violin, become a doctor, or make it up Mt. Everest, if you don’t have the habits that support you on your journey.

So once again, dreams –> goals –> habits.

You are free to skip any part of the approach, but now you know what you’ll be missing.

And, you can also use the right tool for the job.

Dream big for 2015.

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Image by eren.

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    • Thank you!

      This is the year where it finally clicked for me and the puzzle now fits together. I finally get why goals without dreams lack zest, and goals without habits are setup for failure.

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