Setting Goals

Have you ever seen the Pixar movie Up? It’s a great movie and in my opinion it was the last of the great Pixar films. Seriously, if you love movies look at the films Pixar released prior to that. Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and WALL-E. These weren’t just “kids movies”. Sure they had cute colorful characters and funny moments; but they also dealt with serious topics and had a lot of heart.

Even from Pixar Up was unique. It was about an old man who is stubbornly holding on to his house, his last connection to a wife who died years ago. When he’s about to be evicted and sent to a seniors home he embarks on the adventure he had always dreamed of.

The opening sequence of the movie really stands out for me. In it you see two children meet due to a shared love of adventure. They fall in love, get married and start a life together with the dreams of the trip they will take. But “life” keeps getting in the way, and find that they are never able to achieve their dream together. I’ve seen Up a few times now, and that opening sequence still makes me cry like a baby. Laugh if you want, I don’t care. I’m secure in who I am. You can check out most of the opening sequence here. If that doesn’t move you in some way then sorry, you’re either a robot or an alien.

Part of the reason Up resonated with me is because of my own grandfather, and my memories of the last time I saw him. That night we sat in his kitchen talking about all sorts of things, and the topic of traveling came up. My grandfather was a very religious man, and he told me he had always dreamed of seeing Vatican City. I hadn’t known that, but honestly I didn’t know very much about him. It’s amazing how people can be part of our lives yet we can know so little about them. He was my grandfather and that was how I knew him. Sadly, I really didn’t know much about my grandfather the man.

At the time I didn’t know that would be the last day I ever saw him, but he passed away a few days later. That last conversation has stuck with me, and I can still picture how wistful he was that night for dreams never achieved and opportunities lost. There are always defining moments in your life that shape you, and that was one of mine.


The capacity to dream is one of the things that differentiates humanity from other animals. It allows us to have science, art and culture.

Everyone has dreams. We all have things that we want to see, do, and accomplish; and a bucket list is really just a list of things that we want to do in our lifetime.

In the early days of a relationship, sharing of bucket lists is often part of the process of getting to know the other person and finding out if the two of you are a good fit. It helps build connection, as there is intimacy in opening ourselves up to another person and letting them in to our hopes and dreams. And when those hopes and dreams seem to align, it makes it easy to imagine a future with the other person. After all, you want the same things and are on the same path. So why not do it together?

Dreams vs Goals

There is a difference between dreams and goals though, and sharing similar dreams does not mean you have similar goals.

A friends marriage broke down a few years back, and when I talked to her about what had happened one of her biggest disappointments was she felt her husband had no ambition. When they first met they shared their hopes and dreams, and she had visions of the future they would share. But as the years went by she felt it was all talk, as he didn’t actually do anything or take any action to achieve those dreams.

I knew the guy fairly well, and he did have dreams. But it’s easy to have dreams, and it’s easy to have a bucket list. What isn’t easy is prioritizing those dreams and making them happen. Goals are based on dreams. The difference is that they are something you are actively working towards, and you have planned out a way to make them happen.


One thing many people don’t seem to understand about goals is that they don’t just happen on their own. They involve planning and sacrifice. In order to achieve something you generally have to give something else up. It may be time, money, or other opportunities, but you can’t have everything.

As an individual it is important that you have goals, as they show you have initiative. When you go for a job interview one of the most common questions interviewers ask is where you see yourself in 2-5 years. Often they don’t really care *what* your answer is. They are simply looking for proof that you have a vision for yourself and where you want to go.

Planning Together

In a relationship one of the most rewarding things you can do is not only sharing dreams, but sharing goals and working towards them together.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the daily routines of life, so it is important to have both long and short term goals (like the 2 & 5 year plans that interviewers ask) as both an individual and a couple to look forward to.

Is there a big trip you want to do? A house? Renovations on the existing place? Courses you want to take? As I mentioned earlier, you can’t have everything. All of this stuff involves a commitment of both time and money. You need to prioritize which ones are most important to you (both individually and as a couple) and come up with a plan on how you will go about achieving these goals.

If there are individual goals for you or your partner that are a priority it’s important that you support each other in those goals, because it’s just as important for each of you to grow as individuals as it is to grow as a couple. You should have periodic checkpoints where you talk about these goals and see how you are doing, or if there is anything you want to change.

Knowing that you are working towards both your individual and common goals together shows commitment to the future. It also helps build and strengthen the connection you share. And accomplishing goals together builds experiences that you can never take away.

Be Flexible

One reminder about goals is that life is unpredictable. An unexpected pregnancy, a lost job, a broken relationship. Any number of things can happen to you that can completely derail your long and short term plans. Life throws curveballs at you, and you need to adjust accordingly.

In the movie Up the couple never was able to make their trip together, and not achieving that dream filled the main character with a sense of loss. They had a photo album that they planned on filling with the pictures and memories of the trip they never took. Near the end of the movie there is a beautiful moment where the husband looks in the photo album and realizes his wife has filled it with pictures of their life. They didn’t have the adventure they expected, but their life together was their adventure.

My grandfather never made it to Vatican City, he never achieved that dream. At the end he had regrets about it, but what would he have traded? I honestly don’t know, but I would like to think nothing. I like to think he gave that up because he prioritized other things, and he was happy with the decisions he made in his life.

So set goals. Dream together and plan together. And no matter what life throws at you, do it together.


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