A Goal is a Dream With a Plan. And Other Fairy Tales.

By Jeffrey Gitomer

Do, or do not—there is no ‘try.’

My mother never went to Europe. She talked about it, dreamed about it—even opened a travel agency at age 55. Never got there. She died 15 years later, having never achieved the goal. Oh, she achieved plenty of other goals. But not that one.

I went to Europe for the first time at age 20. One of the things I wanted to do there was study French. It’s a beautiful language. Romantic, expressive, cultural. Never did. Tried, never did. I’ve been to Europe 30 times, France 20 times. Never learned the language. Oh, I know a few hundred words, but can’t converse or understand conversation. 

Unmet goals. Got any? Personal goals start as thoughts and dreams. Business goals may have those attributes, but often business goals are handed to you by a superior. Sales goals, sales plans, sales numbers, pipelines, funnels, and various benchmarks for you to achieve for them.

You then make a goal to achieve their goal. And many salespeople do. But many (most) do not. Management will refer to those who did not meet their goal as “weak.” That way they don’t have to take any blame or responsibility for their “weak” people.

Meantime, you have your goals. Whatever they are: visit Europe, speak French, go on a vacation, buy a house, get a new car, take off weight, stop smoking, get married, get divorced, have a child, get your child out of the house—you have your own personal goals.

Goals are met or unmet, achieved or not achieved for reasons other than the old definition about goals that has always bugged me: “A goal is a dream with a plan.”  That statement is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. It tells you you’ll never achieve your goals unless you make a plan. I don’t get it. I make very few plans, and I achieve tons of goals.

Lots of goals are not “dreams.” Did you dream your sales quota? No, you were sent an email or given a sheet of paper. No dream there. My first trip to Europe was never a dream. It was an opportunity, and I took advantage of it. No dream, no plan—just an airplane ticket, a passport, and some money. Some of the elements that define the dream, goal, and achievement process: 

Thinking. Ideas pop into your head. Write them down. 

Dreaming and daydreaming. Thoughts make (let) your mind wander to desire, possibility, and “what if.” I love to daydream. Don’t confuse daydreams with pipedreams. You will never win the lottery. 

Observing. Looking closely at the world and your world to see what it is that you really want to be, do, and have.

Opportunity. Recognizing it, seizing it, taking advantage of it. 

Risk tolerance determines outcomes. If you perceive the goal is too “risky,” you’ll pass. If you wanna achieve, you gotta risk. 

Desire. Your level of desire determines length of time to achievement.

Want. Want it bad? Like desire, your level of “want” will determine the length of time to achievement.

Need. Need is a stronger circumstance than desire or want. Your need-reality will generate your level of achievement action.

Intention. Intentions precede actions. If you don’t intend to, you won’t achieve, even if you want to.

Dedication. If it’s a business goal, you have to dedicate the time to study and prepare. If it’s a personal goal, you have to dedicate small amounts of time to steadily achieve. 

Persistence. The sister of dedication, it’s the stick-to-itiveness that pushes you to achievement.

Action for the day or the moment. Plans change, actions are in the NOW. Take some. An apple a day. 

Skill set. Maybe your skills are precluding you from achievement. Maybe you need to study, practice, or enlist the aid of others. 

Love of what you do, or what it is. Love breeds passion. Passion breeds action. Action breeds achievement. 

Self-belief in every aspect of the process. You must believe in yourself before you can believe in the achievement of your goals. Think you can. 

Mission. If your goal is different from your mission, it will lack the passion to become a reality.

Visibility. Post it where you can see it. Keep your goals top-of-mind—top-of-mind’s-eye. I have my goals on my bathroom mirror. Do you?

Serendipity. I have defined it before as, “God’s way of remaining anonymous.” But it’s more than that. Serendipity is that moment when chance and opportunity collide. And it’s at that moment when you are challenged to grasp it, and make yourself and your loved ones better off. You reached for the brass ring, and you caught hold. 

Note well: If you get what you want, you had better be ready. Ready to capitalize, ready to grow, ready to take advantage of, ready to share, and ready to enjoy—but not over-indulge.

About the author

Jeffrey Gitomer is author of The Little Red Book of Selling and The Little Red Book of Sales Answers.
P     | 704.333.1112
E     | salesman@gitomer.com