Goals are Richer Than Dreams, by B.B. Robinson, Ph.D.

Many people ring in the New Year by making resolutions – goals they hope to accomplish over the course of the following 364 days.

Some people lump “goals” into the same category as “dreams.”  While both can be lofty, goals are what you strive for while dreams are less concrete and are rooted in simply hoping for something.

That being said, dreams should not be discounted.

Dreams are often the beginning of great things.  Dreams are integral to our collective history.  For instance, in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a very famous and influential dream.  That dream – equality for all – was embraced by our society and significantly advanced the cause of civil rights.

Similarly, citizens in the 13 colonies dreamed of independence from English rule and blacks who were enslaved dreamed of obtaining their freedom.

These dreams, however, were successfully coupled with a strong set of goals.  Dr. King organized and advocated for equality at both the legal and societal level.  Our Founding Fathers declared our freedom from colonial rule, won the revolution and established a lasting democracy.  The abolitionist movement, guided by the likes of ex-slave Frederick Douglass, led to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Unfortunately, all too many young black Americans today simply dream.  The dream of having the celebrity of rap music stars – along with all of their bling-bling – or of sports icons and their multi-million dollar contracts.  There does not seem to be much recognition that only a few people can reach such a plateau and those who do have had a plan.

It is more important to focus on goals rather than dreams.  History tells us that the most successful dreamers, such as the ones men-tioned previously, also had a systematic plan – a list of concrete goals – they followed to achieve those dreams.

Think practically.  Instead of idly dreaming, consider form-ulating specific goals.  Once these goals are formed, then they can be organized into a strategic plan upon which action can be taken.  In other words, get beyond the dream and get a plan.

Look inside.  Identify your special dream – your truest wish.  Is this a dream without which you cannot live if it goes unfulfilled?  Transform the dream into an obtainable goal.  Pursue the goal unyieldingly.  

Unfortunately, it is possible to let our dreams ruin us.  This could be seen in the recent movie “Dreamgirls.”  In the story, talented people experienced crippling – and sometimes fatal – pitfalls in their quest to achieve their dreams, largely due to the fact that they let things get out of their control.

Unlike the movie, however, our dreams do not have to unravel into nightmares.  Rest assured, you can fulfill your dreams by translating your hopes into goals and then turning those goals into reality.  Contrary to the movie, this can be done without destroying your life or the lives of those around you.

But, if you insist on holding onto dreams alone, consider some words of caution.

Avoid becoming too enamored with your dreams so that you fail to recognize reality.  Do not dream a dream too long and know when to move on.  Finally, recognize when your dreams have been achieved, and then resolve to formulate new ones.

As for the rest of us, let’s face the realities of a world that recognizes those who set goals, plan and become achievers – not dreamers.

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B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21.  You can visit his website at www.blackeconomics.org. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.

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