In my quest to build a platform for my work I have found myself chatting with a cornucopia of people from across the globe. More than a handful of those people that I have chatted with have been young woman – late teens into their early twenties. Quite a bit of my work speaks to them, especially Heroines of History. So we chat about that, we chat about literature, we chat about what they’re studying in school and what they want to do once they’re out of school. Without fail these young women open up and tell me the career that they long for and then type something along the lines of, “Well, that’s the dream.” I can feel the longing dripping from the screen. It’s not like they are saying that they want to be a princess, bring peace to the Middle East or eradicate world hunger. Instead their dreams are to own their own business, or be a publisher. To these women I always have the same response, “You are using the wrong word.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, words are incredibly powerful. Make sure you choose the correct one. To these women I say that that is not a dream. That is a goal and the first is much different than the second.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, a dream that one day America would live up to those sacred words put down by our forefathers that this nation was founded on the belief that all men are created equal. MLK Jr. knew words. He knew the power behind them and he chose carefully. He did indeed have a dream, not a goal. A dream implies that something is unrealistic; something that you hope for even though you know it is unattainable. A goal implies something that you work toward, something that can be achieved. Martin Luther King Jr. did not have a goal because he knew that what he wished for was not attainable in his lifetime. He knew that it was unrealistic to think that he would cross that finish line himself. But that didn’t stop him from dreaming; didn’t stop him from acting and moving forward so that one day his dream would become someone else’s goal and the race would finally be run. That is a dream. An admirable dream, and one that I hope we can achieve some day.
When a young woman tells me that her dream is to publish young adult novels I can’t help but tell her that she is using the wrong word. That is not a dream. That is an attainable goal. A goal that she can work towards and achieve in her lifetime, and she doesn’t need luck or well wishes from me. Instead, I wish her patience to stay the course, because any goal that is truly worth achieving takes time. I wish her perseverance to push through the hard times and never give up. I wish her the insight to recognize opportunities when they appear and most of all I wish her the courage to go after those opportunities, or create her own, with all of her heart.
This is what I tell young women. Learn the difference between a dream and a goal. Dreams are to be enjoyed, never stop dreaming. But goals are to be achieved, and the only way to do that is to work like you’ve never worked before.