Working toward a dream can take a lifetime. And sometimes it’s only in retrospect that it becomes visible. Achieving dreams cannot be planned nor expected.
But setting an objective and working to achieve it is manageable. Achieving it cannot be expected either. That is true for immediate as much as long-term goals.
An important difference between dreams and objectives is one that should exist: Objectives should be more explicit than dreams. If they aren’t, they are still dreams.
But objectives rarely will be enough to make them happen. They need to become actionable. That’s what plans help to do.
To be able to establish a plan, however, the objective needs to be reasonably specific. But it is the planning that will help to create more clarity on the objective as well as on how it can be achieved.
In his essay “Managing Oneself” Peter F. Drucker suggested a helpful measure for establishing plans. According to him “a plan can usually cover no more than 18 months and still be reasonably clear and specific.”
Today, 18 months might actually be too long to still allow for somewhat predictable plans. Independently from this, one’s ability to establish a plan will also depend on one’s experience and understanding of how the desired objective can be achieved.
Thus, some plans may have to span even shorter time frames.
As Drucker describes, it is a balancing act. The objective should address a result that is hard to achieve. But that is entirely subjective. Aiming at results that cannot be achieved or only under the most unlikely circumstances is foolish according to Drucker. And that is much less subjective. Most of the time it can quite easily be determined.
Also, according to Drucker, plans should help to achieve visible and measurable results. The achieved results should make a difference and be meaningful.
Simply put, this could also be failing to carry out the plan. Especially if that result is used to review progress toward the overarching and longer-term objective. If the result shows that it is not possible it is a gain of time. And if the result confirms progress toward that objective, it is an opportunity to realign short- and long-term objectives.
It’s ok to aim far beyond the currently visible. But the journey can only be done within the visible. Step by step.