Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Complex Relationship Between Goals, Dreams, & Fantasies

Recently I was in conversation with a family member about their co-worker's small business idea, with whom he was working with to try and create--or inspire--a plan of action. Me being me, I had a ton of questions: What was the coworker ultimately trying to accomplish? When did the he want to reach his goal? Would it be a side business or replace his current job? How was he planning to define success in regards to the goal? By the end of the conversation, my family member stated although he had raised similar questions, his coworker never provided any real in-depth or insightful answers. What they mostly spent time doing was just talking about the idea. Finally, I asked my family member, "Is this what your coworker really wants to do or just what he thinks he wants to do?" The reply: "At this point, who knows."

Oddly, I had these same ruminations recently when I fell down the rabbit hole of the new BET series, "The Impact Atlanta." The unscripted reality series offers a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of Atlanta's top influencers and--although I doubt I'm its target audience--was surprisingly enjoyable for me to follow the cast of Generation Z hustlers--Jayda Cheaves, Ari Fletcher, Lakeyah, Dess Dior, and Arrogant Tae--as they navigated trials and tribulations around family, mental health, business management and, not surprisingly, social media gossip and feuds. Fan favorite--and one of my own--was Tae, née Dionte Gray, a Chicago native celebrity hairstylist and wig guru, whose mastery with all things hair have landed him such high profile clients as Nicki Minaj, Teyana Taylor, and Lala Anthony. 

The Impact's premiere season storyline for Tae primarily focused on his desire to open his first brick-and-mortar hair salon, which he wanted to be the first of a chain. The audience was allowed to go along when he and his assistants/friends looked at a vacant space, which they all quickly rejected due to size and safety. More interestingly, however, was hearing Tae share his hair salon dream with friends and family, which was met with everyone being both encouraging yet somewhat exhausted as if they'd heard this narrative from him before and repeatedly--because they had!
In fact, many of his friends seemed more confident in the idea than he may have realized he did at times based on their exasperated responses of "You just need to do it already!" which was often countered by an equally exasperated Tae stating, "I know. I just need to find the right spot." However, with a booming business and entertainment industry that has put Atlanta prominently and popularly on the map the past three decades, I'm sure Tae's friends, family, and now the viewing audience were all thinking the same thing: "There is no way you haven't found a single, suitable spot yet." And then it hit me: this was most likely not Tae's dream or even goal, but perhaps a mere fantasy that was much more enjoyable in theory than it would ever be in reality. But here's the gag: there's nothing wrong with that. The challenge is in being able to recognize the difference so you can either set yourself on a course of action or simply set yourself free.

One of the best quotes I have ever heard, which I use and rely on until this day is, "The difference between a dream and a goal is a timeline." Others have simplified it by saying, "A goal without a plan is just a wish." Said even plainer, don't just talk about it; be about it. In whatever form, I can not express how valuable those words have been in my life in helping me accomplish much of what I have; words that I now find myself sharing with my nieces and nephews as they set off into their own adult lives. In other words, if you're going to reach any goal, you need to set a time you want that goal to be accomplished--a month, a year, five years from now--and begin to work backwards in charting a course for how to get there including what sacrifices may need to be made, what it will cost (literally and figuratively), who you may need to engage to help you, what classes you may need to take to better understand how to get there and, just as important, how you will celebrate your win when you do.

Furthermore, you have to be able to define what success looks like for yourself and by yourself, and not how it looks to others. If your goal is to get a law degree for your own "bucket list-self satisfaction," that alone can be success, and not necessarily starting your own law practice as others might suggest. Perhaps you're a chef who enjoys serving a small roster of catering clients. However, it's sure not to be long before someone will proclaim, "You need to open your own restaurant" when you know the running a large business is not your joy or even your strength. That's because the dreams others have for you are often nothing more than fantasies for yourself. 

Everything that sounds good is not necessarily good for you, and everything doesn't need to come to fruition or be taken to the next level. Sometimes fantasies are needed just to give your mind a joyful reprieve from reality, the same way watching your favorite movie does. Yet, frustrations are sure to arise if you haven't done enough honest soul searching to figure out what category your thoughts belong, for nothing will put you more in turmoil--and a wasted spiral of time--than chasing a dream your soul already knows should remain a fantasy. However, once you decide what your thoughts truly are, you can boldly and confidently set off to put your plan into motion or simply take comfort in being exactly where you are, despite what the world may say.

At the end of the Impact's first season, I was convinced even if Tae finally opens his salon, it will be successful but that is most likely not where his joy will be. The joy Tae exhibited each episode doing the hair of clients and friends out of the comfort of his home or theirs, told me everything I needed to know: he had already found his true joy. It was in the connection he made with clients-turned-friends and in creating head-turning-looks for music videos, magazine shoots, and red carpets. Anything more he obtained would simply be for show and, of course, more money but not necessarily more joy. So as we approach midyear when many of us stop to reassess our new year resolutions, let's be honest about what we say we want. Let's truly assess the difference between dreams and fantasies and whether either truly belongs to you or are being projected onto you by others. But, if you find the dream simply won't let you go and continues to call out to you without ceasing, get to setting that deadline and crafting a plan of action that will help you reach it. Timelines will shift, hiccups will emerge but, as author Norman Vincent Peale stated, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

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