post it noteNo matter who you are, how many kids you have, or what you consider your job to be, there is stuff you need to get done. And stuff you want to get done.

I’m not talking about the daily things we have to do like loading the dishwasher or taking the dog to the vet. I’m talking about the big things. The life-changing, dream-come-true things. The things that matter to you, in your heart of hearts.

You know that stuff is out there. You know you day-dream about it. Maybe even try to work on it sometimes. But the truth is, it’s just not happening.

Why?

Believe it or not, it’s probably because you don’t have a goal. Yeah, I can hear you saying “But I do! I want to open my own store or have a clean house or get in shape.” Yup, I’m still saying the problem is you don’t have a goal.

Why aren’t  those goals?

Most of us have lots of dreams. And ideas. And those are great. But dreams and ideas aren’t goals.

Take some of the examples I just mentioned. Like getting in shape. That sounds like a legit goal…. until you really dig into it.

What’s “in shape?” Is it a certain jean size? A certain number on the scale? A distance you can run?  Or something else entirely?

Or how about opening a store. What kind of store? Where? Online or brick and mortar? Where? Sometime soon, or someday in the distant future?

Dreams and ideas are wonderful. They’re starting points for change and growth. But when we mistake them for goals, we get into trouble, because we can’t pin them down or figure out how to start — or even know when we’ve arrived. So we flounder, making false starts and missteps, and end up feeling like failures. Then we give up or pack our dreams away for some day in the distant future.

But the truth is, we’re not failures because we never had a clear way to measure success. We never set a real goal.

So what’s different about a goal?

A goal is a clearly defined destination. Just like in a race, there’s a place designated as the finish line.  It’s marked with paint or a ribbon or a sign. And you don’t have to guess whether you’ve reached it or not.

People who make their dreams come true tend to be like those people in the race. They have a finish line defined before they start running.  They know which direction to run. And if they make a choice to leave the race without crossing the line, they can see why and where and how that decision was made. And if they break veer off and head somewhere else, you can bet they have a new finish line in mind. And they know exactly where it is and what it looks like.

Turning dreams into goals

So how do you make that leap? How do you take those big dreams and figure out what the goals are inside of them? The answer is in the details.

If you’re dreaming of opening a store, write a goal that includes a where, when and what. For example, “Open a children’s bookstore in suburban Austin by 2015.”  That goal directs your next steps. You now know that you need to look for a location for your bookstore. You’ll need to research costs and look at your finances to see how you can have the needed capital by 2015. You’ll need to decide how large or small notes on scrap of paperyour space will need to be, and what your bookstore will include (a reading space? seats for parents? Space for speakers or special events?)  You’ll need to order children’s wholesale book catalogs.

A side note: As I was writing this, I came across a post about goals from mompreneur blogger Stepfanie from Stepfanie’s Desk.  Her post reminded be sure you include family goals in the equation. Your family is a critical piece of your ultimate success…and of course, your happiness. Including them makes it more likely you will have things in place to move forward. Not including family goals might result in unrealistic or frustrating personal goals.

Having a goal takes you into the race, and gets you moving. Without it, you’re just a spectator, watching other people race by on their way to winning.

Tools for goal setting

There are some great tools out there to help you get started on redefining dreams into goals. Give a couple a try, and see what works for you. If none of those work, look for others. Or just use good old paper and pencil and write it all down, with the details. Once you have the finish line in sight, the road to success will be much easier to see…and follow.

Resources:

SMART Goals Worksheets from the Small Business Information section of About.com

GoalMigo interactive online goal setting tool (this one lets you share it with supportive friends to keep you on track)

Week Plan, a goal setting a tracking tool based on the 7 Habits of Highly Sucessful People by Stephen Covey

Workshops and speakers at MomCom 2014