With a capital W, mind you.
There it is: the ultimate question. There’s a reason children repeat it to parents scrambling for an answer.
Why is powerful. Why gives you a reason. That final answer gives us comfort.
When you’re talking about goals, all other questions can be mechanically solved. We use our brains to answer the what, how, where, and when (and even the lowercase why).
But we use our hearts to answer Why?
What is how we label the tools to achieve our goals — these options or differences (what should I do?)
How is the way in which we approach these things we’ve labeled (How can I get it done?).
Why is always at the end of our road. It’s interior. It’s ours and ours alone.
What drives you?
Before we get to the act of setting goals, we have to understand who we are.
What emotional and mental elements steer your life? Are you driven to generosity? Are you expressive and intense? Do you use humor or optimism to uplift your family, friends, (or even strangers?) Do you value alone-time or prefer togetherness?
It all comes down to the way you navigate your day. Your NATURAL “code,” the one you can’t help but live by, says a lot about your Why.
The person who prefers the company of others might do it to bring joy to others and bring themselves joy. That’s a Why. The person who prefers time to themselves may be on an interior journey to understand themselves. Another good Why.
Everyone does something for a good reason (at least according to themselves). That’s why “Why?” is such an important question.
Dreams: Where Goals and Reasons Meet
Everyone has some kind of dream or aspiration. They all look different. You may not even recognize your own dreams because they don’t look like the “branded” dreams according to self-help culture. It doesn’t always look like a mansion, a collection of cars, and lots of adoring fans (though there’s nothing wrong with having that dream).
A dream is a goal that fills your heart with equal measures of joy and anxiety. It’s what your heart wants, not necessarily your brain.
It’s about you. It’s about your end-game — the thing your life is leading up to.
A Goal is different. A goal is a post toward your dream. It’s a measurable aspect that has some kind of reward or security built into it.
Someone’s goal might be to buy a home. That requires saving money, creating a plan, and finding the right home. Those are sub goals within the larger goal.
Someone’s dream might be to own a home. The dream is the final stage. It’s what you get when you’ve completed all the goals along the way. The dream fills them with joy. The Why can be anything. To move to a more populated or remote area, to have a family, to have more space for their hobbies — the list goes on.
The dream is that last snapshot of what it looks like to achieve what you’ve always wanted. That person can picture that new home: nights on the back porch with their loved ones and the smell of spices wafting out from the kitchen window.
So your Why creates your dream. The goals are the what and how that get you there.
The Painter Vs. Goal Fog
Lance’s dream is to be a recognized painter. He loves to create art and share his inner world with others (his Why). His knowledge of his driving force clears the fog a bit. He has some inner direction that will influence his outer actions.
Lance then goes a little deeper. He looks for a final moment, the end of his road, that will fill him with joy. He forms that snapshot moment — walking an exhibition hall filled with his works.
The place is packed with visitors. Everyone’s eyes are glued to the paintings in front of them. They are filled with joy and wonder at Lance’s work.
But how does Lance get there? It would be a miracle to fill an exhibition hall without doing the actual work.
So now Lance has that final snapshot and that driving force of the Why. That dream has appeased his heart. Now his brain can step in to do it’s share of the work.
To get to his packed exhibition, Lance has to first do the work. He wants to get it all done within 5 years. Giving himself a deadline increase the likelihood of getting things done. Now it’s time to work on his timeline.
Vision Boards and Timelines
If you’re like Lance, you’ve got your dream in your head. You can see yourself with the life you want. You can visualize yourself enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Now you’re going to put that goal somewhere that it can outright bother you every morning and night — on a vision board.
A vision board is a favorite tool of mine. It’s a place to gather visual cues that relate to your final goal. They can be abstract or concrete or somewhere between.
Making a vison board is a great first step because it solidifies a habit of dreaming — of remembering where you want to be. It’s like an obnoxious, well-meaning friend calling me every day to ask how my plan was coming along.
For years, my dream was to visit Africa. I made a vision board years ago (long before my first trip there) packed with photos. They included the people, the landscapes, the wildlife, etc. I hung it up in my bathroom. It was impossible to avoid.
Once you’ve got your vision board, you can work on your timeline. First, you’ve got to be honest with your goals. Set up a deadline that works for you. Don’t be too strict with yourself, but don’t give yourself TOO much time.
This is where believing in yourself comes in handy. It’s important to know your actual limitations, instead of the ones you just imagine you have.
Once you set a viable deadline, you’ll be writing goals down for years and months.
Here are two example plans:
5 Year plan:
5th year: Your final goal / Where you want to be
3rd year: Where you want to be
(First half of year)
(Second half of year)
1st year: Where you want to be
Having a big picture plan like this can help you discover where you want to be at any given point. Then you do the same thing you did before — work backwards.
Start month-by month if you can. Set goals that will help you reach your yearly and quarterly milestones. Keep this big-picture sheet printed out somewhere on your wall or on your desk at all times.
Like your vision board, it should be somewhere you can always refer to it to check up on your progress.
Keeping a weekly and monthly planner will help you stick to these bigger goals, but that’s a separate process.
I hope this article helps you on the path to your dreams. Happy planning!