Want to succeed? You can…if you never set big goals.
In this post, we’re going to examine goal-setting and offer some advice on how to do it more effectively.
Why You Shouldn’t Set Big Goals
Whether you’re setting a goal for personal benefit, because it’s “New Year’s resolution” time, or out of necessity, the best way to ensure that you’ll succeed is this:
Never set big goals.
Now, you may be thinking: "These guys are nuts! You’ll never achieve much if you never set big goals!" Well, to be honest, you’re partly right…
The one good thing about big goals is that they’re big—if you can achieve them, you’ve definitely done something. But realistically, how likely are you to achieve a big goal?
The way we look at it is this: The bigger/farther away a goal is, the more likely you’ll become complacent and lose the drive to achieve it. Here’s an example:
At eight years old, you set a goal of becoming a professional golfer—that is, making a living by playing golf. Given the amount of time you have to work towards that goal and the fact that golf is an individual sport, it’s really not that lofty of a goal to set—you just have to work towards perfecting your technique. But, no matter how well you plan things, it’s likely not going to happen. Why? Because it’s too far in the future and something’s bound to get in the way over the years (i.e. life).
The same can be said about even smaller goals, but ones that are genuinely “big” to one’s life: quitting smoking can take a while and be very difficult; losing 30 lbs. to get down to a healthy weight takes time and effort; getting promoted can take time and effort; and so on. And what do all of these “big goals” have in common? They take up a lot of time and effort.
We’ve all seen how few people actually stick to and achieve the big goals that they make. So, that’s why we say: Never set big goals—you’re setting yourself up to fail.
If I shouldn’t set big goals, then what should I do? I still want to accomplish things…
The answer to this is simple: Have a big goal in the back of your mind, but constantly make small, immediate goals instead.
After reading this, you might be thinking: What the heck is the difference? Isn’t that just called planning?
No, it isn’t—actually, it’s the opposite of that. Think about it this way:
It’s January 1st and you want to quit smoking. If you take the typical, “big goal” route, your goal may look as follows:
Goal One: I want to be down to 20 cigarettes a day by the end of January
Goal Two: 10/day by the end of April
Goal Three: 5/day by the end of July
Goal Four: 2/day by the end of October
Goal Five: Quit smoking by the end of December
Quitting smoking in one year using five steps—makes sense and seems doable, right? You’re using all of the aspects of “SMART” goal-setting...
But, “SMART” goal-setting only goes so far…
What do you do if you can get down to 15 cigarettes by the end of January? What if on July 5th, you don’t need more than 3 cigarettes—do you smoke 5 all the same? What if you have a birthday party on August 10th and smoke 10 cigarettes that evening—isn’t that cheating? Heck, your friend’s birthday is the next weekend after—is it ok to smoke another 10 that night too? The list of questions goes on and on…
Now, instead of going the typical route, how about this:
- Set the “big goal” of quitting smoking in the back of your mind—this is what you want to achieve in the end, but you realize that you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen.
- Set a very unlikely time that you want to quit smoking by. For example: There’s almost no chance that you can quit smoking by the end of February, but you’re going to try.
- Start today by cutting down smoking every chance you get. Here are a couple of examples:
1. When you get that urge to smoke, try to delay having one by three hours—you know you probably won’t be able to, but try your best.
2. If you had 10 cigarettes yesterday, try only having 3 today—again, you know you probably won’t be able to, but try your best to get as close to 3 as possible.
By using this approach instead, you gain the following benefits:
1. In a roundabout way, you’re always working towards the “big goal,” so it’s always top-of-mind.
2. You don’t have to waste your time making plans that probably won’t go as expected; in other words, you’re accomplishing more by spending less time on planning.
3. You’re always working towards unlikely but possible goals, making you stretch to do your absolute best; in other words, you’re not allowing yourself to get lazy and complacent.
4. You’re able to modify your plans as you go; you don’t have to stick to something that isn’t working or might be too easy to achieve.
5. Your successes get multiplied exponentially, allowing you to work towards your final goal sooner; in other words, it’s the same concept as compound interest is to finances: the quicker you can add more success, the greater the final result will be.
In our opinion, this approach makes a heck of a lot more sense. And although we used smoking as an example, the same concept can be applied to anything—opening a business; getting good grades; saving up for a vacation; you name it!
In the end, all we’re really trying to get across are these two major points:
1. Too much planning means less time “doing”; and
2. Always push yourself to do your best
Of course, whenever you’re trying to achieve something, it’s ok to have “off days” where you slip up—nobody’s perfect. The big thing is that as long as you’re always working your absolute hardest towards something and holding yourself accountable, there’s no way you’re going to fail in the long run.
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