Goals vs Plans: Why You Should Ask About My Goals Not My Plans

If you have read my previous post on The Gap Year then you are aware that our culture has mistakenly confused the meanings of the words above. What I haven't told you is that the side effects of this confusion can be dangerous. 

We know that making goals, especially short term ones, can be  beneficial to the overall productivity of our lives. Drinking more water, exercising more often, and reading a chapter a day can help us stay balanced and feel more fulfilled. It is when we start setting long term goals that we find this cancerous confusion. 

I didn't learn the difference between plans and goals until I graduated college and kept finding myself trying to answer the question "What are your plans now?" I would feel sick to my stomach and find myself wanting to pass out to avoid the embarrassment of telling these people that I had no idea what it was I would be doing after graduating. 

Finally, after countless rejections and empty bottles of wine, I realized the huge weight I was bearing was just a misunderstanding, and that I had been forcibly constructing a plan with no set goal.

The problem wasn't in my answer. The problem was the question that was being asked of me. 

"What are your plans now?"

It is a question that can bring any confused graduate to their knees. Only some of us are blessed with set plans after college. These people are the aspiring doctors, lawyers, and other students who need graduate school to reach their dream occupations (their goals). The rest of us who don't already have multiple years of set plans forget that we've all just reached a milestone in our lives, a goal that we set four years ago and are finally accomplishing. We also forget that we have never had to make "plans" in the sense that our plan had always been structured around schooling. 

You see, goals are things we wish to accomplish. Plans are the maps we use to get there. BOOM!

It is also important to remember that goals are the only concrete plans we may have. 

Maybe you aren't a recent graduate. Maybe you are feeling unsatisfied in other areas of your life. For instance, let's say you are looking to go on vacation. First, set your goal. Do you want to go to Santorini? Yes please. next February? Sure. Your plan would be the details that allow you to get there (budget, hotel and flight reservations, packing, etc.). 

Of course this formula can be used when creating short term goals however, I've found it to be more beneficial for long term goals and starting new chapters in our lives. 

If you take anything away from this post, remember the best way to achieve something is by starting with a goal, and the best way to make an undergrad uncomfortable is to ask he or she their plans after graduation.