Great Stories, Vision

The Strategic Advantage of Dreams

With an organizational tagline like “Dreams become Action” I take notice of anything I come across that talks about the value of dreams. Most often it’s something like: the difference between a dream and its fulfillment is strategy and discipline. That’s good stuff. This week I’ve stumbled across what seems like a meaningful distinction between a dream and  goal. And I think it has strategic importance even though it is counterintuitive. Dreams tell us when to abandon our Goals. Here’s what happened… For probably 30 years I’ve imagined myself running a marathon. Getting back into running the last couple years has made that seem much more possible. After a series of injuries in 2012 I’ve made some good progress this year so I decided to go for it and signed up for the Road To Hope Hamilton Marathon coming up on November 3rd. I increased my training and, even though I knew it would be tough to be fully prepared, spread the word that I was running. Committing to the event motivated me to get out the door several times when I would have preferred the couch to the roads and trails. The thing is, even with my best efforts, I’m just not fit enough to run the way I want to. I’ve gotten my training runs up to 25km, but that’s still a long way from the 42.2 of a full marathon. I kept telling myself I was just doing it for the experience, that my finishing time doesn’t matter, that the big idea is just to do it even if I end up walking a lot in the second half. But, while that was taking me towards my goal, it wasn’t my dream. For me, the dream of a marathon has always been to run it well, have fun, finish strong, and to have a time I can feel good about. I finally admitted to myself that struggling for 5 hours in November just isn’t what I want this to be about. I could succeed at the goal of finishing a marathon, but there’s no way I could approach the deeper emotional satisfaction of my dream. So today I’m changing my registration to run the half marathon, which I feel confident I can do fairly well. This has me wondering; how often do we as individuals or organizations push hard to accomplish a goal only to find it an empty experience because it doesn’t truly reflect our deeper dreams? A goal is important, actionable, and motivational, but a dream (when dreamed well) has a powerful added factor of emotional engagement that defines the real objective. Confusing the two is bound to leave us confusingly unsatisfied. Have you ever sacrificed a goal to pursue  a greater dream?