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Dreams vs Goals: The Differences that Matter


Do you know the difference between dreams vs goals? While dreams and goals may be often confused with one another, there are several differences. Just waiting for your dreams to come true on their own will never happen.

Dreaming can be fun and exciting, but you’ll be waiting a lifetime without one key puzzle piece to make those dreams a reality.

What is a Dream?

A dream can be described as a series of images, thoughts, desires, or emotions that pass through your mind.

It’s a wonderful thing you can create in your imagination, most often related to your future. It’s something you wish and hope to achieve someday. It’s aspirational rather than tangible.

You might dream of being your own boss or travelling the world and going on Instagram-worthy adventures. Dreams can light you up. They can get you excited for the future, or place you in far off lands or exciting circumstances. They allow you to make what seems impossible possible.

What is a Goal?

A goal is something tangible and concrete — they are plans you intend to achieve. They can be long-term or short-term.

For example, you might have a goal to start your own company by the age of 35. Your goal for the week is to get up every morning at 7:00am. Goals are attainable and specific. If you need some suggestions for what kinds of goals to set for yourself here is a list to help you.

Dreams and Goals are Not the Same

Dreams and goals are confused with one another quite often. Many think that goals are like dreams in that they’re what you want to accomplish “someday.” This is why so many people never accomplish their dreams — they forget the part of taking action!

Without goals, your dreams may just stay wishes, hopes, and thoughts, without any chance of becoming a reality. Goals are the path you take to make your dreams a reality.

Let’s look closer to see what the difference between dreams and goals are.

Clearly set goals for each day, month, or year.
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Pointing Out The Differences

1. Goals are something you’re acting on.

Dreams are something you create in your mind that can take any shape or form, while goals are based on taking action.

With goals, a lot of focus and attention is needed. Dreams, on the other hand, don’t need that kind of focus. You can sit for hours and dream without doing a single thing about it. You can dream up one thing on Monday, and something else completely on Tuesday. But for goals to be achieved, the action you take needs to be specific and consistent.

2. Goals have deadlines.

Dreams don’t have an “accomplish by” date. Yet, because goals are something you actively work on achieving, there tend to be deadlines associated with them. For example, “I want to have my book written by June 30th” or “I want to be a millionaire by the time I’m 40.” With goals you tend to set very clear deadlines; meaning once you achieve that goal, you have crossed the finish line and can cross the goal off of your list!

3. There is a price for having goals and it requires hard work.

Dreams are completely free and only require your imagination in order to be created. Goals, on the other hand, will need some sort of investment, like fees for courses, time spent at the gym, or training to start your own business. The best part is that as a result of your hard work and investment, goals produce results, while dreams don’t.

4. Dreams stretch your imagination.

Goals are based in reality. Dreams are able to stretch your imagination allowing you to create whatever your mind wants to, while goals stretch your capabilities (character, strength, getting you out of your comfort zone).

5. Ultimately dreams can inspire you.

Dreams can help you envision a better life for yourself, while goals will help the world around you change by taking you further towards making your dreams a part of your reality.

Are You More of a Goal-Setter or a Dreamer?

These four simple questions can help you see if you are more of a goal-setter or a dreamer.

1. Do you find yourself thinking of your future in more specific terms? Rather than thinking up “someday”, you set yourself a solid accomplish-by date.

2. Do you write down what you desire to accomplish in order to make them stick, and place them where you can easily see them on a regular basis?

3. Do you allow yourself to go on exciting adventures in your mind’s eye?

4. Do you prefer getting lost in your big dreams, letting them grow and change as you do? Do you allow your thoughts to wander and create a future for yourself far from your reality?

Goals are tangible, specific, and measurable.
Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Practical Tips for The Dreamer and Goal-Setter

1. Visualize

It helps for you to see what it is you are dreaming of and want to make a reality. Take a few minutes each day to close your eyes and visualize your dream playing out moment by moment. If your dream is to help build schools in underprivileged areas, visualize yourself arriving to the area, meeting the other volunteers, building the frame of the school. Walk your mind through every aspect and moment of the experience. Practice seeing yourself as already having accomplished your dream.

2. Nurture Your Dreams

Let your dreams grow! Dreams are incredibly important for your well being and need to be nurtured in order to grow, develop, and come true. Blowing off your dreams for being too silly or too big is a surefire way to make sure they never come to fruition. If your dream is to travel the world, buy yourself a travel guide, make a Pinterest board of the places you want to see, and open a savings account for your big trip. Plan it out as though it’s going to happen.

3. Best Practices for Dreaming

Give yourself the time to dream. You may get so caught up in your day-to-day life that sometimes you don’t have the chance to just sit and dream. Try to schedule a few minutes a day to let your mind wander and dream. Breathe and let yourself relax. Don’t worry if you haven’t done this in a long time, your brain knows exactly what to do. You may find yourself defining your dreams and becoming more clear as you continue to give yourself more and more opportunities to dream.


All those ideas you didn’t think could become a reality are possible when you attach those dreams and goals together.

Earn the degree that will help you get one step closer to your dreams from University of the People — a tuition-free, high quality, and 100% online, US-accredited university. Here at UoPeople, anyone, anywhere can achieve their dreams with us.