Dreams vs. Goals

“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward achieving it” – Anonymous

My son started his sophomore year of high school today.  For me, it’s been a day of reflection because I’m realizing how quickly these next three years are going to go by and how soon my son’s years of dreaming about playing college tennis are going to either become his reality or not.  I’ve got to admit it’s kind-of taking my breath away.

Lately, I’ve been talking to several different people about my son and his tennis goals.  I’ve been listening to lots of different advice about the best way for him to achieve those goals.  I’ve been trying to reconcile the advice with our time and money constraints to come up with a Plan (yes, with a capital “P”).

One of my son’s goals is to play Kalamazoo before he exits the juniors.  When I shared that goal with a higher-up at USTA, I was told that playing Kalamazoo is a dream NOT a goal because my son has no control over the performance and rankings of the other boys in his age group and, therefore, can’t control whether or not he gets into the draw.  This person told me that goals are things you can control; dreams are the same as wishes and are not within your own control.  Hmmmm . . .

I beg to differ.  As the quote above states, once you begin taking steps toward achieving your dream, it becomes a goal.  And, my son is taking very specific steps toward Kalamazoo.  He has added another fitness component to his workouts.  He has tweaked his tournament schedule so that he’s playing higher-level and stronger opponents in preparation for The Zoo.  He has altered his school schedule slightly to allow him more flexibility in terms of on-court time.  He maintains an on-going dialogue with his coaches so that they’re all on the same page about where my son is in his preparation and where he needs to amp up his training.  My son has a Plan.

Of course, we won’t know until next summer whether or not the Plan has been successful.  But, there will almost certainly be checkpoints along the way that will let my son know if he’s on track.  And, if he’s not, he and his coaches will need to revamp and to refocus to get back on track.  And, if this one doesn’t work, then he’s got another year to try a different Plan.

But, if it DOES work, wow!  That feeling of achieving a long-term goal is amazing.  It’s one I hope all my children get to experience over and over again in their lives.  But, really, what I hope they experience is the jubilation over seeing hard work pay off, of seeing commitment to a goal or a purpose yield dividends beyond their wildest imagination.  Didn’t someone once say that tennis is a metaphor for life?  I would have to agree.