One of my teachers in high school had a poster on the wall that said, “If you can DREAM it, you can ACHIEVE it.” Honestly, it didn’t make much of an impression on me at the time—other than giving me something to look at while she lectured. But now when I look back, I think that poster was only half right.
You definitely need to start with a dream; otherwise, you wouldn’t ever have a goal. But like author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
I believe in dreaming big. To be fair, I believe in dreaming small, too. I believe in dreaming any damn thing you want to dream, and then going after that dream in a big way. But when you do, I suggest that you plan small.
Planning small is really what you (hopefully) do whenever you have a major project. Essentially, you:
Let’s say you want to run a marathon, but the only time you ever go for a run is when someone is chasing you (i.e., basically never). Your goal is achievable, however, if you break it down into doable chunks. For instance, your mini-plans might include:
Breaking up the big plan into these smaller strategies not only keeps you from getting overwhelmed, but they give you clear benchmarks you can keep moving towards.
While I am a fan of setting goals of any size, I do recommend being SMART about the type of goals you set. You’ve probably seen this before, but SMART stands for:
The marathon goal—assuming it’s something you want to do—fits this pretty nicely. But what if your goal is something more nebulous, like “I want to live a healthier lifestyle?”
You can still make that work, but it’s going to take some more thinking, particularly when it comes to making your goal specific. You might start by asking yourself why you want to be healthier. Is it because you want to have more energy? Lose weight? Feel stronger? Each of these may point you towards a slightly different goal, and subsequently, a slightly different plan.
You know what you want to do, why you want to do it, and even how you’re going to get it done. So why is it so hard to stick to your plan?
The best answer I have for you is because you’re human. Goals can feel like they’re a long way off, and you (like most people) have more pressing needs to take care of in the here and now. Plus, change—even good change—is scary. Take that marathon example again. Sure, it would be great to finish 26 miles, but will I be able to do it? Will it hurt? What if I fail?
I can’t tell you that you will for sure achieve your goal, but I can give you some ideas for sticking to your plan. At the very least, these will get you a long way towards success:
This last tip is so important, I think it deserves its own section: Be flexible. Your goal isn’t written in stone. Neither is your plan, for that matter. I’m not suggesting you give up on your dream just because things got tough. But desires change. Injuries happen. Life can sideline you and there’s not much you can do about it. It just means you may have to adjust your plan, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Remember: If you can dream it, you CAN achieve it. You just have to put in the work.