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Dreams and Goals

by Chuck Gazzolli

Before delving into the differences between dreams and goals, I need to start with a couple of definitions. What are goals? They are our plans or intentions for the future. They represent what we are trying to achieve and are conscious decisions we make. Our goals can be long or short term, and examples include plans to go to college after graduating high school (long term goal) or to go shopping this afternoon (short term goal).

What about dreams? Well, I’m not referring to the experiences we have during our sleep. Rather, I’m talking about our wishes, hopes, and desires for the future. Unlike goals that are plans which include the dates they are to be completed, dreams are what we claim we want to do, be, or have ‘someday.’ Why do I say dreams are what we claim we want? Well, if we really wanted them, wouldn’t they be goals? Wouldn’t they be plans that included deadlines?

Goals show commitment; dreams do not. Dreams are what we would like to have without doing any work. Would you like to be rich? Of course you would, everyone would. That’s why so many people play the lottery; they have a dream of striking it rich ‘someday.’

Yet, when seen in a different light, dreams can be very positive, for they can be our aspiration or burning desire to achieve something. For example, when a young boy, Tiger Woods had an aspiration to be a great golfer, so he practiced every day. It is with this sense, aspiration, that I’m referring to when I use the word “dream” in the remainder of this article.

Returning to goals for a moment, they are very helpful because they provide a roadmap, clarify our thinking, help us prepare for obstacles before they occur, generate enthusiasm and give us a sense of purpose. But goals have their weaknesses, too. Did you make New Year’s resolutions this year? If so, how many did you carry out? What went wrong? You see, plans (goals) are not enough if they fizzle out; they cannot help us if we don’t follow through.

But if our goals are what we want, why do they sometimes turn to dust? Well, here’s the problem. No matter how carefully we consciously plan, it is our subconscious that determines where we are headed. Imagine taking a taxi and instructing the driver to take you to a certain area downtown. The driver takes you to a different area, stops the cab and says, “Here you are; you can get out now!” And you say, “But I don’t want to be here. Why did you take me here?” The driver answers, “I decided the other area isn’t safe enough for you, so please get out here.”

The passenger in the cab is our conscious mind and the taxi driver is our subconscious. Our subconscious isn’t guided by our goals or conscious instructions; rather, it is guided by its beliefs. For example, if it believes wealth is harmful for you or you don’t deserve it, no matter how many goals you set for wealth, they will all end in failure.

The beliefs held by our subconscious were formed by childhood experiences and remain in place until they are replaced by experiences that lead to new beliefs. For example, if a child was constantly belittled, mocked, and scorned, its subconscious would believe that it was unworthy. If later in life many people were to encourage, inspire, and praise the child, the new experiences would create a new belief of worthiness.

The key to solving our problem of unwanted subconscious beliefs lies in that our subconscious cannot distinguish the difference between real or imaginary experiences. Let’s look at an example to see how we can apply this principle.

Tom is a high school student afraid to speak in public. Embedded in his subconscious is a negative belief that is responsible for his lack of confidence. He doesn’t have to uncover or understand the original childhood experiences that cause his problem. All he has to do is set aside ten minutes a day to imagine being a successful public speaker. By repeating this daily, his subconscious will interpret these imaginary experiences as real ones, and start to change its belief about being a poor speaker to that of being a great speaker. Once this new belief is in place, Tom will easily be able to speak in public. Perhaps haltingly at first because of lack of real experience, but he will be able to speak, and will grow more skillful with each try

Our imagination is powerful, and always more powerful than rational thought or will power. It can become our greatest ally or worst enemy. Mary imagines that everyone in class will laugh at her when she speaks. No amount of logic will be able to dispel her fear. Notice the difference between Tom and Mary. Mary’s imagination is unplanned, undirected, and uncontrolled. It is in charge, ruling over Mary.

But Tom’s imagination is now directed and controlled by him. He sets aside ten minutes a day to harness its power.

Willfully directing our imagination is called visualization or imagery. We can also call it day dreaming. But there are two forms of daydreaming: conscious and unconscious. Unconscious daydreaming is unintentional; it is not planned; we unwittingly drift into it. This is the most common form of daydreaming. It is also dangerous because we may be daydreaming about negative experiences, such as people laughing at us. And our subconscious will interpret these imaginary experiences as real ones, reinforcing our negative beliefs, and keeping us in a rut. It is clear, then, that we need to be aware of our daydreams and use them constructively.

Since the success of goal-setting depends on our subconscious beliefs, we need to pay more attention to dream-setting (the practice of visualization to reinforce our goals, change our beliefs, and reach our dreams). Because of its importance in reaching our goals, let’s explore how to visualize:

How to Practice Visualization

(Imagery, Directed or Conscious Daydreaming, or Dream-Setting)

1. Pick a time and place where you can spend ten minutes uninterrupted.

2. Choose one goal or dream to work with (for example, “I want to lose ten pounds in six weeks” or “I want to be able to speak with confidence before audiences of 500 or more people”).

3. Relax, breathe slowly, close your eyes.

4. Practice seeing yourself in your mind’s eye with your goal already accomplished.

5. To help you imagine future success and how you will feel, ask yourself the following questions: “What would it be like if I were to achieve my dream? What would be different? What would I be doing? How would I feel? What would I see, hear, taste, feel, smell? Why would I be happy and excited? After imagining your success for five or six minutes, ask yourself, “How could I make this even better?” Now for the remaining four or five minutes, imagine even greater success.

6. Do this daily (ideally, at the same time each day), until you achieve success.

After a few weeks of practice, you should start experiencing spontaneous change. That is, without any planning on your part, you will start to make changes that will bring you closer to your dreams. This is a sign that you subconscious has accepted your visualization sessions as real experience and brought its beliefs in alignment with you goals.

A note from Rotary eClub One’s Program Chair:  Mr. Gazzolli has given us much to think about. Next month, in Part II, we will go beyond goal-setting to an in-depth discussion of dream-setting. 

Reprinted with permission.

© Chuck Gallozzi
For more articles and contact information,



Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It by Bob Goff

Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want — Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible By Brian Tracy

Goals: How to Get the Most Out of Your Life by Zig Ziglar

Burn Your Goals: The Counter Cultural Approach to Achieving Your Greatest Potential By Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert

Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D.

Self-Discipline: How To Build Mental Toughness And Focus To Achieve Your Goals By John Winters

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