A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish: 3 Lessons for This Quote

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“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If you have ever studied French, you have undoubtedly heard of the book Le Petit Prince (or, The Little Prince).

Written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943, this book is often used in educational settings not only to help teach the French language, but also for its richness in life lessons. This has made Le Petit Prince one of the most widely read books ever published, as it continues to sell over two million copies every year.

One of the lessons from this book comes from the quote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

This quote is often cited in business settings when developing SMART goals, but can also be applied to your personal life.

In this article, we will look at 3 lessons to be learned from this famous quote and then review some additional resources that are helpful for anyone who is trying to set more constructive goals.

But first, let’s break this quote down a little bit.

How Far Will a Wish Take You?

Most of us have dreams of personal and professional achievements that we would love to accomplish one day, but they don’t always take off because we fail to make concrete plans surrounding these visions. This is where your wishes and your goals become disconnected.

I’m sure you’ve considered what three wishes you would come up with if you were faced with a genie. Thinking back, were any of those wishes practical? Did you wish to be the king/queen of the world or become a millionaire overnight?

A wish is vague, usually pretty “out there”, and certainly doesn’t produce tangible results on its own. Your wishes don’t come with an action plan to ensure you’re able to get what you want.

However, when you’re following the roadmap of a SMART goal, not only is your aim specific, but there is also a time frame in which your goal is set to be completed, giving you a clear answer of whether or not your goal was achieved.

SMART goals also have objectives attached, so you know all of the smaller tasks you have to accomplish in order to complete your ultimate goal.

Without creating a plan to bridge the gap between your wishes and your goals, you aren’t giving yourself a chance to make your dreams become a reality.

Let’s take a look at some of the lessons you can take away from this quote.

3 Lessons to Be Learned: “A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish”

1. Having a Goal is Half the Battle

Having goals in life is admirable. It shows that you want to improve your life in some way and you have hope for a better future.

You’re not content with the status quo. But you have to work toward your potential accomplishment for it to be anything more than an ideal.

Once you have a goal in mind, you need to break it down into clear steps you have to take in order to give yourself a sense of direction.

You have to plan the what, when, where, and (most importantly) how so you’re not wandering aimlessly doing tasks that may or may not be giving you leverage to meet your goal.

When you have a goal in mind, you’re in a passive “thinking” stage. But, once you have a plan, you’re in an active “doing” stage. This is where you will start to make progress.

2. Your Plan is Your Key to Success

Think about what would happen if a group of builders got together to build a house, but they had no plan of action.

They just started working. Without a plan, their work wouldn’t be cohesive, it would be inconsistent, and it most definitely wouldn’t end with a great final product.

Here are some ways a plan can benefit you:

  • Help you define the extent of your project
  • Determines and specifies your objectives and deadlines
  • Helps you stick to a schedule (and a budget, if applicable)
  • Helps you keep track of your progress
  • Helps you anticipate any potential challenges, and sometimes your goals become bigger than you had originally planned once you start working, and being able to anticipate that will suppress feelings of becoming overwhelmed

Some of your goals may require more detailed and comprehensive planning than others, but having the structure of a plan will help you achieve the final product that you originally hoped for.

Let’s look at some examples.

First, think about if you had a personal goal of completing a marathon. You wouldn’t just…”run more”. You would develop or follow a training plan to prepare you to cross that finish line.

Your training plan wouldn’t have to be incredibly complex, it would just have to be a progressive strategy to get your body ready to endure that 26.2.

Now think about the plan you would have to create to implement a company-wide goal of increasing customer retention by 20% in the next two years. Your planning would involve:

  • Completing a SWOT analysis
  • Finding ways to increase the speed in which you can resolve customers’ issues
  • Possibly implementing a loyalty rewards program
  • Creating a frictionless customer experience
  • Training employees on how to provide personal customer experiences to create customer loyalty
  • Assigning roles and responsibilities to various employees to assure continuous progress
  • And so on…

Both of these goals have necessary plans, but it’s not a requirement for every goal to have an extremely extensive plan of action. Don’t let the planning stage scare you off from creating your goals.

3. Where Should You Start?

Creating a sturdy action plan starts with having a clear goal in mind. Your plan will ultimately take you from your current starting point to the attainment of your goal.

With a well-crafted plan, you can achieve pretty much any goal you set out to complete. But, where do you start in terms of planning?

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Creating a well-crafted plan will help you achieve pretty much any goal you set out to complete.


Planning the steps to achieve your goals can increase your discipline and self-control, but the truth is, how you plan is also a critical piece to success.

A 2015 study found that people who commit their plans in writing are 33% more likely to achieve their goals. And, in recent years, writing plans for achieving goals in reverse has gained popularity.

But why does reverse planning lead to increased motivation, higher expectancy of achieving one’s goal, and a reduced feeling of time pressure?

There are three possible reasons for this:

1. Focusing on the end goal helps you imagine future events as if they’ve already occurred.

This makes it easier to visualize exactly what you need to do to get there. “Future retrospection” amps up your anticipation of success, which evokes goal-oriented behaviors.

2. Backward planning helps you focus on a positive outcome.

The entire time you’re planning, you have in mind that you have already achieved your goal, which makes the steps leading up to that moment a no-brainer.

Alternatively, when you plan a goal from the beginning to end, you have a higher chance of feeling intimidated as you start to think about the obstacles you may face in the process.

3. Planning backward helps keep your motivation high.

Everyone’s motivation is usually at its peak at the beginning and closes to the end of a project. Reverse planning gives you a map to the completion of your goal by outlining every step you have to take along the way.

This can help you maintain your focus for the duration of the project, even when your enthusiasm may otherwise start to diminish.

Let’s look at how you can approach writing down a plan from this different perspective. If your goal is to change careers, your reverse-order planning may look like this:

Before getting hired for a new position, you may have to:

  • Complete an internship
  • Get another degree or take additional classes
  • Apply and get accepted to programs
  • Research institutions that offer educational programs in your desired field
  • Shadow people who are currently working in this field
  • Do some informational interviews with current professionals

When you start with your end goal, the first step seems simple to complete. Plus, since you have already visualized achieving your goal, you’ve got that sense of motivation to get you there.

Now can you imagine getting any of this done without having a plan in the first place?

I’ll leave you with some additional resources that can be helpful for setting and achieving your goals.

Further Reading on Setting and Achieving Goals

If you’re not sure where to get started on creating your goals. Why not check out some of our articles on achieving your goals.

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Final Thoughts on This Famous Goal Quote

While some people don’t see the value of spending time building a plan, you must embrace the benefits that come along with proper planning of your goals. A good plan is a foundation for success, and without being supported with a solid structure, your goals will never become a reality.

I suggest that you keep Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words of wisdom in mind next time you have a goal that you truly want to reach. Be proactive and specific in your planning so you leave little room for wondering what your next steps should be to be triumphant.

And if you're interested in learning from other famous quotes, be sure to check out these articles:

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.

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