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You've Got the Dreams but are You Doing the Work? Planning out just one goal each day makes all the difference.

By Dan Dowling Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Your dreams are as realistic as the work you're willing to put in.

So how much work are you putting in?

You don't have to do a lot, initially. But you do have to be consistent -- as in "every day" consistent. Because there are a million things that everyday people like you and me have to deal with, that stand between us and our goals, that rock us off center. Each of those interruptions are challenges, though. And they're asking us, "How bad do you want it? How much work will you still put in?"

Related: The Most Important 20 Minutes of the Day

How much work are you putting in?

Success is the daily work you put in. It's the excuses you ignore. It's the mornings you wake up after only a couple hours of sleep and you feel like hell and you still say, "This is going to be the best day of my life, because nothing can stop me from working." That's the mindset you gotta have.

But I have to give you fair warning: there is actually one thing that can stop you from doing your daily work.

It's whether you have a plan or not.

It doesn't matter how inspired or insipid you feel when you wake up. If you don't have a plan, if you don't have realistic and actionable goals to pursue, you will not follow through with your dreams. I repeat: if you don't have a plan, you will not follow through with your dreams. So start planning.

When you have a plan, and if you promise yourself to follow through with that plan and be the best you can each morning, you will do work -- no matter what happens in the day. When you work, you move. When you move consistently, you have momentum. When you have momentum, you have confidence. When you have confidence, you do more work more willingly. You work better. And when you consistently work better, your results come pouring in like a flood. When you're inundated by the positive results of your daily efforts over weeks, months and years, that's when you're living your dream.

So how much work are you putting in? How often are you planning?

Related: Create a '26-Hour Day' With This Simple Strategy

Start by picking just one goal.

Most people could change their entire life by identifying just one priority task every day. Just one. Because if you pick just one task, that's going to be the most important task you could pick, right? Limiting your goals forces you to choose smarter, more significant goals.

Since goal-setting is a process that you learn, you need to start small and grow your planning capacity bit by bit. So pick just one goal every day. Just one goal. Make that goal the cornerstone upon which you build your dreams. Have faith that if you knock out this one dream-related task each day, you'll eventually make it.

That's how I started my writing and coaching career. Just one article.

I had a blank sketchbook that I bought from Hobby Lobby and I'd put just one goal in large print: "Write an article." Every day that I accomplished this goal, which was every day I wrote it down, I was a success. It didn't matter that I lived on my Mom's beat-up red leather sofa, or that I'd been kicked out of high school twice, or that I'd been rejected by the army (which, looking back, is actually quite an accomplishment), or that I'd dropped out of college, or that I'd been fired from or quit every job I'd ever had. Because I was living out my desires.

When I put in the daily work to accomplish my one goal, I became a success in my own eyes. When I perceived myself as a successful person, that's when my confidence started to grow. If you know how powerful confidence is for continued success, and how incredible it feels in general, you know how important that milestone was for me. For the first time in my life I associated confidence with work. So I never stopped working. I never stopped planning.

Related: Science-Backed Brain Hacks to Crush Your Goals

Get consistent at planning and doing the work.

The more I worked, the better I got at working. The more confident I grew, the more ambitious I became in my daily goal setting. So one goal turned into two: Write (checkbox); Learn (checkbox). The more I learned about my craft, the better I got, the more confident I grew, and the better I worked. Which multiplied my confidence. Which enabled me to set bigger and better goals. Which resulted in daily goals for everything that supported my healthiest body, mind and spirit -- meditation, exercise, playing guitar, etc. -- which made me a more balanced human being. Which helped me accomplish more goals. Which gave me my coaching career.

By grades, I learned how to set daily goals that were both realistic and challenging, and to create a balance that afforded me the most growth. Some days I'd plan way too much, or not realistically enough, which made me feel bad when I didn't accomplish everything. Then some days I'd set too few goals which weren't challenging enough, so I knew I didn't give it my all in a day. But I kept planning. I kept building on the "one-a-day" foundation that gave me pride in my work and results. And I kept improving.

So today I teach planning. When I was sleeping on Mom's couch, and my peers were getting married, buying houses and starting families, I was just beginning to learn the most basic and most important success habit of all. Because I stuck with the habit, I'm more accomplished and successful today than the majority of people I used to envy will ever be throughout their whole lives. And it's only been four years.

I'm just a college dropout, who was just an army reject, who was just a high-school dropout before that -- I was nothing. But when I started doing the work and when I got a daily plan I became something. By becoming something, I'm getting to do what I love and make a difference to all the people I am capable of helping. I'm fulfilling my talents. I'm living my dream.

Related: How to Be Successful and Live the Life You Want

What about you?

If you commit to your one daily goal this week, and if you plan out that goal and check it off every day, and use that one daily goal as the foundation for a lifelong planning practice that you consistently perfect, you will get consistent, positive results. You'll get the flood.

So how much work are you putting in? How much are you planning?

I want you to be able to answer those questions with pride by the end of this week. Get yourself a blank sketchbook or journal from your local hobby store or Target. Write out that goal every day. Check it off every day. And never, ever stop.

Dan Dowling

Solopreneur, writer, and coach

As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, Dan Dowling writes on personal development. Visit and learn how to create your own solopreneur success story.

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