Why Setting Goals May Prevent You From Reaching Your Dreams

I read an anonymous quote the other day on Facebook that simply said, “You’ll never achieve your dreams if they don’t become goals.” And while I understand the intent of this statement is to underscore the importance of setting tangible goals and remaining focused on attaining them, I couldn’t disagree more with the quote itself.

In fact, I would put forth that embracing this quote will actually thwart you from successfully achieving your coveted end results.

Now, in some ways we are simply being playful with semantics as we embark upon the debate of goals vs. dreams, but to delve a bit further into the realm of the universal laws, we rapidly see that the process of setting goals undermines the very intent of their acquisition.

To set a goal, in and of itself, is to illuminate the “lack thereof.”

So to say your “goal” is to drive a fancy sports car is in effect focusing on the lack of that tangible object in your life. And to further set your sights on daily activities that will bring about the acquisition of that fancy car is to continue to focus incessantly on that which you do not currently possess.

In contrast, to “dream” of that fancy sports car in effect puts you in the driver’s seat (pun definitely intended) as you feel the wind in your hair riding the highway of life – embracing the feelings and emotions you associate with being the owner of that prized possession. Feels totally different, doesn’t it?

And in your “dreams,” as you feel the cool leather seats envelop your body, wrap your hands around the powerful steering wheel and shift into high gear, your reverie does not include pulling off to the side of the road to check off your ‘to do’ list for the day, does it? To the contrary, you are in the zone, at one with your dream – reveling in the moment.

But the astute reader could wisely challenge me at this juncture and raise the notion that sitting around “dreaming” all day about being in that sports car isn’t going to make it magically appear in the driveway, now, is it?

Well… yes, and no – and here’s where the rubber meets the road! (Yes, another shameless pun.)

An Introduction to Milestone Mapping

As an Intuitive Life Coach, as well as in my own personal life, I am a huge proponent of staying focused, organized and mapping out plans for milestones that we seek to accomplish. But at the same time, once we set our sights on a target – I am equally in favor of letting the universe take the wheel. But make no mistake, this is not a prescription for passivity – to the contrary, it’s all about action – inspired action in fact.

The technique that I have found to be most successful in accomplishing results is something I call Milestone Mapping. And it came about as a result of my need to stay organized, yet at the same time, my utter disdain for flowcharts and linear ‘to do’ lists.

We’ve all seen flowcharts that start at the top with a topic or a “goal” and then branch out ad nauseam into a million (or so it seems) infinite legs of action items, steps or yes/no scenarios. But the very nature of a flow chart is a downward path – and metaphysically speaking, spiraling downward is direct contrast to the nature of the universe. Likewise, a ‘to do’ list follows that same symbolic, linear descending direction.

Next came Mind Maps – credited to Tony Buzan in 1996 as a means of note taking and brainstorming. In Buzan’s model, this technique encourages a non-linear approach to learning or mapping out a projects and enhances creativity as a means of sorting out a complicated idea. But a Mind Map, or spider map as it is also often termed, focuses on what exists – so it never quite fit the bill for projections into the future. And that’s where Milestone Mapping comes in.

Similar to a Mind Map, Milestone Mapping begins in the center with a topic, concept, or “goal,” if we may use that term loosely now based upon our understanding of its inadequacies. But that’s where the similarities end.

When creating your own Milestone Map, you will illustrate your coveted “prize” in the center of your diagram – you can do this with words, illustrations, a colorful picture if you are so inclined, or even chicken scratch will do – there is no right or wrong way to begin as it is representative of your internal being, without formal constraints to impede your progress.

Consider this first step as “setting your intention” with the universe – and as you put pen to paper, embrace the feelings that are associated with already having attained the milestone you are seeking.

Next, draw 3-5 lines emanating out from the center of your intention (spider legs if you will). These lines will be labeled with your “perceived” initial milestones that will be required to bring about the successful realization of your intention. These milestones can be tangible or physical stages or they can represent emotional and mental accomplishments – and likely, it will be a combination of both.

After you have completed this step… STOP!

Yes, that’s right – for this moment in time and space, you simply stop.

And the reason is, if you haven’t already guessed, is that unlike a Mind Map (which fills up the page with that which exists) you are going to be logging events as they happen, in real time.

You see, this is both the beauty and effectiveness of Milestone Mapping – you are the creator of your own reality as you proceed along the fabulous journey of identifying an intention and embracing the realization of the delicious steps along the way as you head toward the pinnacle of your intention. But unlike other techniques, you are not pre-determining the path you will take – that is up to your higher force and how you interact with the universal laws at work along the way.

So as you proceed in filling up this beautiful blank page, you will be logging the milestones as they become apparent to you and each time you add to the white space, you will practice the art of allowing and embrace receiving the gifts that the universe sends your way.

Even if there is a perceived “detour,” you will be able to visually identify how it ties into the bigger picture and accept its existence as part of the journey, instead of meeting it with resistance as you may have previously had the tendency to do.

Each time you reach a particular milestone related to your central “dream/goal/prize” (we can now see that it really doesn’t so much matter what you call it) you will return to your diagram and record its existence.

But more than simply recording it – you will also allow yourself to be engulfed with feelings of warmth and appreciation that you are one step closer to the realization of your target – thus allowing events to unfold as they are meant to.

Now however, you have removed the significance and urgency of the time line – thus reducing the resistance that often thwarts progress and leaves people feeling uncertain about the entire “ask, believe and receive” process.

So congratulations! You have now discovered the powerful, secret key to the art of remaining “in the moment,” and appreciating the experiences you have along the way by acknowledging and showing gratitude as it happens. And through embracing this technique, you are no longer endeavoring to pre-determine “how” you will arrive – you are simply at ease in learning to enjoy the journey along the way!

31 Responses to Why Setting Goals May Prevent You From Reaching Your Dreams

  • Stephanie, I LOVE this article! Being a ‘language geek’ myself, I appreciate very much the distinction you make between goals and dreams…and more importantly the energetic difference! I’m a huge proponent of keeping a Success Journal and this is totally in line with that practice. Your process really does allow for dissolving urgency and resistance. Thank you for shedding light on the subtle but essential distinctions you make. I would love to share this post on my http://www.AscendingMasters.wordpress.com Blog Let me know if I have your permission to do this. Thanks!
    Jan Masters xxoo

  • Shelley says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    This “milestone mapping” sounds very interesting & appealing to me. Where can I learn more about it?

    Thanks for sharing this idea.


  • Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I am definitely going to read your older tips on goal setting.

  • Liz Powell says:

    Hi Stephanie

    Thank you for this great post! I’ve been exploring different ways to achieve “goals” recently and you’re absolutely right – dreaming that we already have something is far more potent and positive than thinking about a goal we lack or haven’t achieved. Also love the idea of the milestone map being organic and not simply linear. It’s much more visual than a list – especially if used with colour, pictures or even objects. How much more exciting to have a milestone map, and write in the dates and details of the milestones when we’ve achieved them!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Best wishes


  • Hi Stephanie.

    As usual, thank you for the great post, as a newbie in my path to well being, for me is very important to have a clear perception of what each term means. I have to tell you though that the idea of Stop and wait for the universe to unfold my task is a little scary, it feels like what about if I can not identify what is being showed? but, coming from you, I think it is worth to give it a try. thanks a lot and I will let you know how it goes. Ruth.

  • Dawn Blatt says:

    I would like to learn more about this milestone mapping if it includes believing in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

  • ngih thomas says:

    This “milestone mapping” sounds very interesting & appealing to me. Where can I learn more about

  • Nanette says:

    The concept of Milestone Mapping is pure genius — the perfect marraige of intention setting and markers of success without all the potential negative trappings of goal setting gone wrong.

    I love this and can’t wait to try it out for myself, and to share the idea with a group of young adults I’m currently teaching, who are hungry for suggestions for ways to map out a success plan without the trail of disappointment that comes from a history of not achieving goals.

    Also, I’d love to include this post or article on my blog at http://wisewellwomen.com. May I have your permission?

    Wishing you well–

  • Jeff Hopp says:

    This is an interesting concept. It seems to me that the key component with goals or dreams is setting your intention. Your strategy may be useful for people who avoid setting goals because they are afraid of the negative feelings that can come from missing your time line.

  • Lily Jensen says:

    Wow Stephanie!

    You have SUCH a gift with words and clarity. This is a tremendously valuable article. THANK YOU for sharing these very important distinctions!

    WOO HOO!


  • Scott says:

    Very interesting approach, I am creating my milestone map now. Thank you.

  • Hi Stephanie,
    This is really interesting and I like how it feels. I especially like your quote – To set a goal, in and of itself, is to illuminate the “lack thereof.” Would love to see you illustrating the flow of how this map develops over time in a video.


  • Katherine A. Andrean-Gellert says:

    What a welcome relief from all the hype over achieving your goals and becoming a millionaire overnight! I have a few personal goals I need to clarify for myself. Thinking about how I’ll feel after and while attaining them is a great means of motivation. It also helps me to relax, and, once I’ve made my intention clear, to ‘let go and let God’. I’ll get to work on my milestone map soon, or knowing that famous last word, now!

    Thank you for sharing this.


  • Kathy Dobson says:

    Wow what a concept Stephanie 😉
    Embracing the “now” has never been so easy to understand…
    There truly is a reason for everything and the sooner we let go and “go with the flow”
    the sooner real “Peace” arrives in our souls.

    The resistance we all put out against whatever it might be that comes our way is exactly the stumbling stone in front of us…and we created it!

    By using your Milestone Mapping idea, the avenues are left open and we learn to embrace our dreams as they are revealed in every moment.

    Thanks Stephanie…you are such an inspiration to the world!

  • Terri says:

    Oh my, Stephanie! I’m still tingling with appreciation for putting those words into the universe! They really fill the void that leads to inaction for me. THANK YOU!

  • jawahar says:

    this article is the first milestone in my milestone mappling.
    thank you so much.

  • Barry says:

    Sorry, maybe I’m just having a mental block right now – but I don’t get it fully. So, you start in the middle with your goal or prize or whatever you want to call it. Then you draw various ‘legs’ or ‘veins’ out from that, right? These can be all the various ways you think you can achieve it, right? What then – as you ‘progress’ you add extra veins to the existing veins, so in other words working out all the time from the centre? Thanks in advance for your reply/replies.

  • Barbra says:

    As I read your article, I felt lighter and lighter and lighter. Perhaps it will indeed be a light and present method for moving into areas I dream about. I plan to try it out. Thank you for taking the time to write this piece and to share it.

  • Daryl Sanderson says:

    I love this idea! I don’t know why but I’ve always resisted the practice of goal setting. Lately I have learned that a goal with a timeline just enforces the Universe’s Law of Attraction. By putting your goal into the future, the Universe abides by always keeping it in your future. Taking the when and how out of the equation allows for the infinite possibilities that are “out there” for each of our goals and dreams. With the proper injection of feeling like you already have it, combined with your “allowing it to come in” and a “knowing” that it will, sit back and watch your life change! Daryl.

  • Hey Stephanie! Awesome post! Wow! I have to agree with some of the other comments about how you have explained this in a very clear, concise manner that people can use and apply! I really like how you make mention of how by doing the milestone mapping, you are staying in touch with the emotion and having the unwavering faith to trust the process and allow the Universe to do what it’s gotta do! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  • Gosia says:

    Dear Stephanie,
    Thank you for sharing your Milstone Maping concept. It’s excellent information and I’m sure it could help many people on their journey to live the life of their Dreams,, It is vital to take holistic approach and live in the moment with clear vision where we want to arrive and let go off ‘HOW’ and open the flow. Milstone Map is one of the great tool to eliminate resistance and embracing your journey, Knowing your big ‘why’ and awareness is also vital. I will use your milstone map myself and share it with my team as currently we are working on Goals setting for 2012., thank you so much, Gosia

  • Greg Govero says:

    You made it easier to keep the dream alive even before I’ve had the dream- by writing it on paper.

  • Suresh says:

    This mind mapping can help evaluate the progress made from time to time , it can also help evaluate the progress also.

  • Mary says:

    The concept of Milestone mapping is great and would like to use it to attain my dream of owning a car of my dreams. Please advise on how I can achieve this dream. Many thanks, Mary

  • lavina says:


  • Laurie says:

    A different take on the subject and very useful. Thank you for sharing this idea.

  • nancy says:

    This article is sweet and amazingly well put out done thankuou! It makes sence to me 🙂

  • Hi Stephanie,

    First time in your site and I really think I can learn something from here.

    Stay cool!

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