Goals vs. dreams

In today’s culture, we talk about and put a lot of meaning into our life goals. We use these aspirations to orient our lives and how we move through them.

On one hand, I’m a big fan. Goals can be focusing and grounding. It can be empowering to hold a vision of what we can be and do and then set out to realize it.

But goals also bring problems and limitations.

When we get too focused on goals, our lives can become all about the future. They distract us from simply being in, experiencing, and attending to the present moment. We reserve fulfillment and satisfaction for those few moments just after we’ve achieved a goal. We spend most of our time in discontent, doubt, and struggle because we haven’t yet accomplished what we’ve set out to do.

And “goals” often come from a place of ego. They are often our mind’s attempt to fill some hole within us or get some external validation we’ve been yearning for. Goals often represent something we think we should be or what we need to do to be good enough, lovable, or worthy.

I like replacing “goals” with “dreams.” This simple shift in language can open up worlds.

First, I have a sense that my “dreams” may very well not come to pass. I don’t expect to realize them or need them to feel fulfilled and content.

Second, where I usually construct goals from a place of ego, like sleeping dreams, I think of life “dreams” as arising within me. I don’t choose them. They choose me. I don’t create them. I catch them. When I come from the paradigm of goals, I am often trying to control what my life is about. When I come from the paradigm of dreams, I open myself to what life is calling me into.

What a relief! Maybe I don’t have to be constantly striving and struggling to feel fulfilled or complete. Perhaps I can simply listen to the mysterious call of the universe within me and move myself toward it, without any need or expectation that I ever arrive.

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