Hopes & Dreams vs Goals & Intentions
What are hopes, dreams, goals and intentions, and is there any real difference between them?
Definitions for each of the above include:
Hopes - a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen
Dreams - a desired aspiration, ambition or ideal
Goals - the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result
Intentions - an aim or plan; determined to do something
Once defined, how might we measure the impact of each of these words / concepts in the role of individual and collective progress and achievement? Does each play a role in inspiring our actions, or is one more powerful than any other?
From Gallup research, we know that Hope is one of the 4 needs of followers from their leaders (alongside Trust, Stability and Compassion). Hope implies a brighter future, that tomorrow will be better than today or yesterday. Hope also inspires people to invest in their own development, and to commit to continuous and never-ending improvement. Even and especially during a crisis, Hope can be a powerful motivator to overcome adversity and create new momentum toward a more desirable outcome.
Dreams feel more difficult to define, as these are very personal to each individual. In principle, dreams are a visual / auditory / kinaesthetic / olfactory representation of a potential future state or event. In more practical terms, our 'bucket list' articulates what we would like to have, be, do or give back, usually with no prescribed deadline other than 'this lifetime'. Dreams may also include our 'wish list' for others in our lives, those closest to us, and even for our communities, countries and the planet as a whole.
Dreams may be limitless, with no boundaries other than the imagination. Dreams are unlikely to become a reality, unless we take focused and persistent action to make them come true!
Which brings us to Goals - perhaps better defined as 'Dreams with a Deadline!' Goals are tangible, achievement-oriented events or outcomes, with a specific deadline identified to accomplish the goal. SMART goal acronyms have been around for ages (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) and can be very helpful, but I have found the following questions equally powerful:
- Specifically, what's your dream?
- How will the future be different and/or better than the present?
- By when would you like that dream to come true?
- Why do you want that dream to come true?
Intentions turn Goals into Action - or short-circuit the goal-setting process by simply creating the energy and actions needed to make an outcome become a reality. The best example of intention in my life is my wife Fiona, who has rarely set or written a goal in her life. She wakes up with intentions, and immediately takes action to turn that intention into reality.
One morning, Fiona woke up and declared her intention to cycle the length of Great Britain solo from Land's End to John O'Groats. No false bravado, no ego, no fear - just a quiet confidence that she could and would complete her intention. Her actions spoke louder than words - every day for months, she committed to substantial miles of training, researching her route, planning our daily overnight stops, scheduling time off from work, and holding the intention clearly in her mind until completion, no matter what the obstacles...
Once the journey began, there were good days & bad days - crazy hill climbs, torrential downpours, beautiful country roads, crossing the border from England to Scotland (we lived in Edinburgh at the time), and arriving at the final day of the cycle. There was never any doubt that she would finish, even on the worst days. That was the power of her intention.
The trip had unforeseen consequences on us as a family. We got closer. I spent 15 days of quality time with our eldest son (then 2). I was in awe of my wife, who seemed to relish the physical and mental challenge. Perhaps deep down, this was her bigger intention.
Fiona's journey has since given her the courage to set another significant intention (Greatest Imaginable Challenge!) - to complete a PhD in Law over the course of 6 years while working part-time and looking after her crazy family. That new intention is nearly complete and will be a story for another day.
Hopes, Dreams, Goals & Intentions are all powerful concepts to shape and inspire human achievement. It is up to each one of us to find the right formula of these four elements to lift our spirit and create our legacy.