Yesterday was my birthday. Each year, on or near my birthday, I like to do an accounting – to see where I am against where I want to be. It’s a fun habit that makes life interesting, and helps me grow. I also like to set goals at my birthday (not at the beginning of the year) – and define the things I want to achieve before the next birthday rolls around.
Most of us are familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym used to remind us that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. This method of goal setting is fantastic. I have used it many, many times to produce visible results in my life and business. I’m not suggesting that we should stop setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, but I want to make the case that life is really fun when, in addition to our S.M.A.R.T. goals, we also throw in some “massive, huge, audacious, incredible” goals to go along with it.
Big goals are scary to many of us. They cut right to the “A” in the S.M.A.R.T. scheme, that is, we may think that we can’t attain them. We look at a big goal, and then we look back at ourselves, and where we are right now, and we think “what is the point of setting a goal like that? I can never attain it.” The reality is that in many cases we don’t know what we are actually capable of achieving until we try. We don’t know our limits until we actually test them.
As a result, massive, crazy, wild goals can make our life more enjoyable and fulfilling. Here is why:
If We Allow Ourselves A Moment To Dream, We Get Really Excited
When we stop and think about what life would be like if we actually achieved the big goal, we get excited. The goal itself creates a gravitational pull that negates the need for willpower. The excitement of the possibility pushes us to take action. When we live every single day “under the influence” of a big dream, with a vision in our minds of the actuality of that dream, we are so busy moving towards the goal that we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Regardless of whether we actually achieve the big goal, our life becomes significantly enriched by this new mode of living. Over time, we transform into a new person, one who never feels sorry for themselves, or spends time in “what could have been” because we are so busy (and fulfilled) chasing what we believe is possible.
They Cause Us To Make Long Term Improvements
Big goals cause us to expand our vision (to make room for the goal). When we expand our vision we confront the reality that there are “structural changes” that must take place in our business or our life (depending on the nature of the goal) in order for the goal to come to fruition. That is, our current infrastructure or systems (in either our business or our life) are not equipped to support the big goal. Once we realize this we start making changes that will have significant positive long term benefits. We “strengthen the foundation” of our business or our life. This creates a ripple effect that spills over into other areas of our life in a positive way.
They Make Us Much More Resilient In The Short Term
When we go big, we know that every second counts. We have to give the very best that we have, every single day. We know that we can’t waste a moment in self-pity or meaningless time wasting activities. As a result, we start accounting for the “present moment” much more than we would when we are setting goals that don’t cause us to stretch. In our world of technology, distraction is a great danger. In order to achieve big goals we must be absolutely resilient and relentless in the short term.
They Cause Us To “Get Real” With Ourselves And Confront Our Deficiencies
Big goals cause us to confront reality. If we start with the belief (or even the hope) that a big goal is actually attainable, we must then ask the next question: How could it happen? This question brings to light our relationship with reality. We have to be honest with ourselves, and address either our poor habits and behaviors (if it is a personal goal) or our poor systems and processes (or lack thereof) if it is a business goal. It is so easy to blame others, never take personal responsibility, and make excuses. It is a courageous (and effective) person however who is willing to accept personal responsibility and take a deep look inward to address deficiencies rather than looking outside. When we set big goals we are forced to look inward first and make changes there.
They Cause Us To Develop Powerful Habits
In all of this what is happening is really a change of behavior. This ultimately is the greatest benefit of setting big goals. If we are really going after them (with all our heart) then we are forced to change our behavior. We become much more positive people (point 1). We set up systems and processes that are valuable for the future (point 2), but we live completely in the present and make the most of our time (point 3). Finally we become “real” with ourselves and look to change internally before we point the blame at others (point 4). When we maintain all of these behaviors for a sustained period of time, what we are actually doing is something incredible – we are instituting powerful life changing habits.
At this point it doesn’t even matter whether we achieve the big goal or not. We have achieved arguably a greater victory of having significantly improved ourselves. This is the ultimate ancillary benefit of setting big goals. They help us to build, and improve ourselves, dramatically, and it is done through a sustainable change. It is done through the power of habit.