Have you ever set yourself a seemingly impossible goal and achieved it? If not, perhaps the time is now.
We’re now more-than half-way through 2016. By that logic we should also be half-way to achieving our New Years resolutions (if we set any) – I imagine, however, most of us aren’t. I normally use the year’s half-way point as a chance to review my list of yearly goals and then add or delete goals as appropriate. Having reviewed my list, I already know that the list of “haven’t achieved” is longer than “have.”
What have I achieved? Organising my move to Melbourne, getting my apartment (specifically I wrote, “South Melbourne apartment, one bedroom, great view.”, and my job in advertising among others.
What haven’t I achieved – my goal of writing a weekly blog post, writing down something I’m grateful each day, meditating 4 times per week – and the list goes on.
Interestingly, when I scroll through the list, the larger, seemingly more difficult goals are the ones I’ve been most successful on. The smaller, seemingly easier goals have been left at a lower priority.
Why? Well, there may be a good reason.
Occasionally an inspirational person will tell us to “dream bigger” and achieve the impossible, but we’re more frequently told by our teachers, employers, friends and society in general, to make realistic goals, live within our means and not get too big for our britches. These confusing sentiments can leave us in holding bays, allowing us to only achieve what we think we can and should achieve and never set goals beyond the ordinary.
Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week is one of the interesting books I’ve read this year. It was a Christmas present request that I repeated apparently many times after which my Mother had already purchased said book.
“This book,” I said pulling it out of it’s wrapping paper, “is going to change my life,” and, in small ways, it has. The book has planted seeds that continue to grow.
One of those seeds is larger goal setting and the premise for this post.
Why is reaching for the almost impossible better?
1. There is less competition for harder to reach goals
In the book, author Tim Ferris, offered a group of Princeton students a Round the World ticket to anyone who could complete a challenge. That challenge
? To contact three seemingly impossible people and get one to reply to three questions. He put this challenge to 20 keen students, but surprisingly not one student completed the task, more-so, not one student attempted
All of the students overestimated the size of the challenge, not realising, that if one of them had even attempted the task and handed in a response, they would have beaten their competition simply by trying.
Tim claims that the competition is most fierce for realistic goals leaving the more “unrealistic” ones easier to achieve. This goes against almost everything we’ve ever been taught. We’ve been told our whole lives that the bigger goals are the hardest to achieve. The opposite, instead, might be true.
There are more people trying to buy middle-class homes than build multi-million dollar companies. One might be perceived as “easier”, but the other has significantly less competition.
Realistic goals might actually be holding us back.
2. We also work harder to achieve larger goals.
Evidence actually backs up the theory that we are more likely to achieve larger goals. Two university professors, Locke and Latham took a meta-analysis of more than 40,000 goal setters (and non-goal setters). They found that those who set the largest goals consistently worked harder and performed better. They also found that when those studied did “their best” didn’t perform as well as those with the biggest goals. You can read more about their research here
So, when we set a larger goal, we are much more likely to set about achieving it. That may explain why my most challenging New Years Resolutions, were the one’s I was most keen to achieve.
3. And – we value larger goals more.
Speaking of being keen to achieve a goal – larger goals are often the ones we want the most and will give us the highest rewards.
The larger goals therefore inspire us more and we put a higher value upon them. I valued getting an apartment with a great view, over and above having a new blog post each week. One, I subconsciously decided, was going to give me much greater value than the other. The larger I achieved, the other, thus far, I have not.
Perhaps it’s time for a new way of thinking when it comes to goal setting. Instead of setting out to do small things we think we should be doing, perhaps we should make larger goals. One’s that will give us the highest value according to our own definitions.
It might just lead to us achieving the impossible.
Until next time,