How to Define Your Dream and Plan Goals

By Carolyn Edlund

Want to make your dream a reality? Get granular by defining what you want, and how to get there.


To Do List


I heard some good advice the other day at a women’s networking breakfast. This is valuable for entrepreneurs launching their businesses or just dreaming of making a successful career.


Do you have a dream such as “selling more work” “making lots of money” or “being a full-time artist”? That’s all good, but in order to actually make this happen, you need to understand what those dreams look like. Visualize yourself and your situation when it’s complete. See yourself winning the race, not just running it. How does it feel? You can get as detailed as you like, as you imagine yourself having completed your goal, enjoying the fruits of your labor.


Then, put some numbers on it. How much work do you want to sell?  Five paintings a month? $1,000 worth of jewelry per week? $100,000 worth of artwork this year? Thirty percent more than last year?

Likewise, if you want to show your work in exhibitions, define how many and on what level you plan to do this. If you are looking for freelance jobs, how many per week or month do you want? If you are planning a body of work, how many pieces are in it? How many hours would this take?

Set Goals

Make sure your goals are achievable. Setting goals that are unrealistic will just lead to frustration. Break down your plan into a quarterly, or even monthly basis.

Then work backwards. What needs to happen this month? Which tasks do you need to complete by the end of this week? What can you do today to work on your goal?

I’ve always found that last part to be very important. Start your efforts now.  Even if all you can do today is make a detailed list, or a couple of phone calls, it gives you momentum to work on your goal, and follow through. Each day do more work toward achieving it.  Measure your progress. You can make adjustments if things take longer or go more quickly than planned.

Knowing that you have started working on your dream, and that you know what the results look like are very motivating. Stay focused and see what you can achieve this month!


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  1. Good advice. Tomorrow never comes – if you put off getting started until tomorrow, you never start. Setting a fixed goal for each day is great; a few pages written each day over time soon becomes a novel. Little by little you reach your goal. To all this I would add that you avoid being rigid; be ready to pounce on the unexpected opportunities that will reveal themselves if you are watching for them.

    • Duncan, that’s a very good observation. As things evolve in your efforts to reach your goal, you will find that new doors open and sometimes you change your goals altogether. It’s exciting to put plans into motion and see how they can expand into great opportunities you never expected!

  2. I guess the trick is to navigate between what you’re working at while being ready for your ship to make a stop from time to time at the uncharted island paradise that can appear on the horizon if you keep a sharp eye.

  3. I enjoyed your “dream” article. I spent the last 25 years in the banking industry and only pondered the ideas my dreams to run an art gallery and work on my own paintings as well. Hanging those paintings in the gallery is a dream I have worked towards for some time. What has occupied most of my time is working on 2 inventions I have had in my heads for the last few years. Three months ago, I finally put down all the ideas and drawings on paper and I can’t tell you how motivating it was to see it. I have since filed for a provisional patent, hired 2 people to make prototypes and am ready for a little field testing and work on the final approval of the patent. It is a long path, it has great ups and downs but it has been exciting and uplifting. What’s truly amazing is how many business leaders, networking contacts and family wish to be a part of the feedback regarding the field testing. I agree with you. Think it out, write it down and get started! Don’t think rejection, think of YOUR vision and dreams.

    • Kimball, That’s great! It’s never too late to get started. I’m glad you have supportive family and network contacts who want to be a part of it.

      Sometimes entrepreneurs encounter “helpful” friends and family who discourage them because they fear the unknown or don’t believe in the dream. It’s important to be able to screen out those comments and focus on people who want to see you succeed and truly believe in you.

  4. I have a no nonsense approach to life and if something is not working I will change it. There are a few things that I simply have to put up with and get on with my life. The real trick is knowing which is which. There is no point in complaining about them either, I can’t change them, those are simply my health issues.

    Procrastination is no great help either while you construct your grand master-plan. Change your life and getting on with it, don’t  procrastinate. Just start with but one small step and get on with being that artist you always wanted to be. Just get on with it. Make that one small step now.

    A life-coach I could help you to achieve your goals and also help you to become an artist. Aspiration can help you to see clearly what your goals are and the direction in which you want to travel to become that artist hidden within you.

    However by taking appropriate, positive action you can motivate yourself to get your life moving in the direction of becoming that artist. Remaining motivated on your journey towards this achievement of your goals may be the difficult part. But one day you will realise that you are now that artist you always wanted to be.

    So what’s stopping you? Lack of motivation, not enough time, lack of confidence, paralysed by fear? Clearly the answer is: that the only thing holding you back is you. Aspire, Act, and Achieve… you will be glad you did as you change your life to that of the artist that you have always wanted to be.

    Perhaps you need to be pushed through your fears, pushed to build up your self-confidence to get you motivated to find that artist within you.

    Life as an artist is about the journey of development always seeking ways to maximise your art endeavours.

    The road of self-development in being an artist is one of being constantly faced with making choices. The decisions we make are based on how we perceive the options in front of us. Just do it, be bold.

    All too often we are diverted or delayed in travelling the path of being an artist. All of us could perceive the journey as being too difficult or too scary. Instead we take the “path of least resistance” and not bother in trying saying only “I paint”.

    Unfortunately the path of least resistance very rarely takes us to becoming an artist. However the first step in being an artist is you simply say “I’m an artist.”

    Meltemi is an artist, he has the best job in the world. I’m glad I made that decision too.

    • Meltemi, I see you view your career as a work in progress, and it is that way for all artists. It can be a challenge to accept change while staying true to yourself and your art.

      • You are quite right life as the artist, life as the promoter of my art business and life in general has and will always be a work in progress…The meltemi Zen principle is yesterday’s whatever was good, today’s will be better and the ultimate whatever just prior to the departure to St Peter or other gate-keepers will be the definitive and the finest unfinished work…

  5. Business plans and art don’t mix easily- for good reason. To attempt unreasonable things, unexpected, uncompromising, and interesting art then sit down and conform? It is hard to work on a plan if your are not obsessed with your work. It will always be a difficult relationship to impose on art and artists.

    Unless, of course you are talking nice sunset paintings which look like a beginners version of Turner, half rate Impressionistic doggy/park paintings, or other salable abstract expressionistic try outs done in 1/100th the time of De Kooning.. thats up to you, and if you enjoy devouring ‘truer’ art. : D

    • Matt, That’s very true – it is difficult for many artists to also be a businessperson. They require very different skills. Luckily there is a very supportive network of artists and art lovers out there, and with the internet, it’s easy to get great input and feedback.

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