A Dream vs. A Mission and Why You Need Both

I don’t know what to do next.

I can’t even imagine where I’ll be in 10 years.

When people ask me what I want for my future, I go blank.

Sound familiar? It happens to the best of us. We can’t see our future. We aren’t confident in our next step. We are at a loss.

This happens for everyone at some point. For those that have been on a clear path of achievement, it’s hardest to grapple with. Things have come so clearly up until now – what happened?

First, even knowing that you have a problem is a HUGE step, so congrats! Nothing will change without awareness. While awareness of the issue is great, an understanding of what the issue is will lead to the clarity you need on how to fix it.

SO – here goes.

All of this awareness only happens when you take the time to reflect. Daily. That consistent reflections provides an intellectual understanding of what you’re struggling with so you can solve the problem. After all, you can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, right?

→ Pssst – if all the reflection in the world hasn’t helped you clarify your problem, try this! A quick assessment and personalized debrief with yours truly to show you what’s holding you back so you can start moving forward again! ←

When you don’t know what’s next and can’t see your future, you need to know what’s missing – is it the dream or the mission?

The Power of a Dream

Dreams are WONDERFUL, aren’t they? I often sit and daydream about where my future might take me, the type of life I’m building, and exactly that moment when I’ll know I’m actually going to get there. It’s fun. I can see my house, what I’m wearing, the big smile on my face, and I can actually feel that excitement in my body as I dream.

That feeling is an important part of a dream. Try this:

Imagine you’re sucking on a lemon right now. Just a lemon wedge straight in your mouth. No sugar, no salt, no tequila (thank god!).  

What happened? Chances are, the back of your mouth started to pucker (mine is as I’m writing this!), you started to salivate, and you had to swallow a few times to get the sour “taste” out of your mouth.

That’s because our body reacts to imaginary thoughts in the same way it does to reality. That’s right. Our body doesn’t know what’s real and what’s fake. Crazy.

This is good news and bad. The bad news is that when your head is clouded with negative, self-defeating thoughts (like, there’s no way I’ll get this right, or everything is going to go wrong), your nervous system reacts with unnecessary stress. Because, you don’t know that and it might not go wrong. If you need a primer on how to get rid of those thoughts, start here.

But – the good news is, we can hack it! So, when you dream – and I mean really dream and imagine yourself in your ideal job, future, emotional state, house – you name it – your body reacts in a positive way! And that reaction is setting a biological footprint in your nervous system as a destination.

I know this may sound woo-wooey, but consider why so many athletes visualize before a performance. Science has concluded that the same parts of the brain that light up when something is actually happening light up when you imagine it.

The brain is a big hurdle, so this gets you one step closer to achieving your dreams!

But beyond physiological “practice,” dreams also provide direction. The first session I ever had with a coach, she asked me where I wanted to be in 10 years. I had a very specific vision that I outlined for her without much thought and she was shocked. It turns out, most people don’t know what they want in life!

Without knowing what you want and where you want to land, how do you know what to do now? You have no direction. This is a big problem with people these days, and dreaming can alleviate that if you’re able to get specific about it.

If dreams are so great, why do you need to do anything else? Turns out, there are limitations…

Limitations of Dreams

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – JK Rowling

While dreams are great at providing direction and clarifying what you want out of life, they provide little energy. And while society is in a place right now where people feel brave enough to dream big, I see a lot of people with big dreams flounder and eventually give up.

Why? They have no mission.

A mission – versus a dream – gives you drive and energy. A mission is action oriented; it’s the how behind the what of your dream. The mission makes the dream a reality. If you stop at the dream, you will be left with only a dream. If you continue on to develop your mission, you’ll make that dream a reality.

A good mission statement is practical, drives your actions, and helps you make decisions that will help you achieve your dreams. It should incorporate your values (the rules and principles you’ve decided to live by) and the impact you want to make in your life.

While the dream is about the future, the mission focuses on what you will do today to achieve that dream.

How to Get Both

Hopefully it’s clear why you need both. A mission with no dream leads to a flurry of unfocused action. A dream with no mission will always be a dream.

If you can see your future clearly, but aren’t sure how to get there, you need to develop a mission statement. While there’s no right way to do this, your mission statement should follow these rules:

  • Align with your values
  • Be action oriented
  • Be the meter by which you gauge how to act
  • Drive toward your dream
  • Be concise, simple, and focused

If you’re having a hard time articulating the future you want, start here to get you in the right mindset for dreaming. If you spend all your time dreaming without the right mindset, your dreams will fall flat and won’t support you for long.


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