Maybe We Shouldn’t Aim for the Stars

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Most everyone has had to painfully sit through a lecture from a teacher, manager, or self-help guru, explaining different strategies on how to successfully set goals. Some of the more popular plans include SMART goals, Balanced Scorecards, and the creatively named— BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Different types goals and success plans can be found just about anywhere you look. Hypothetically let’s say you ask any ten people in your life whether they’ve had any goals within the last year, odds are likely everyone would say yes. We will always be surrounded by goals, sometimes of our own choice — finally getting that promotion, improving a relationship with a loved one, shedding a few pounds before the trip to Cancun. Sometimes they are dangled in front of us, in hopes to entice a specific behavior — such as meeting a lofty sales quota for the next month. It’s also known that we fall short of the reaching the vast majority of our goals (up to a 92% failure rate for New Years resolutions), leading to a loss of both morale and confidence. However, there may be an easy way to gain confidence and increase likelihood of accomplishing whatever it was we originally set out to do. It may sound counterintuitive, but start trying to set really, really, really small goals.

January 1: “I’m going to lose fifteen pounds before this summer.”

Sounds like a reasonable goal right? In fact for a lot of people, it probably is an extremely reasonable thing to do. Then after a full month of eating healthy and busting your ass at the gym, you step on a scale andddddd…you’ve gained one pound since you started all this hard work. But you stick with the program, grind out another month. You’re excited to see how close you are to your goal, you step back on the scale…only for it to tell you that you’ve lost a whopping two pounds in as many months.

What usually happens next in a story like the one seen above is complete destruction to the weight loss plan for the remaining months until summer. The wheels have now completely fallen off and it’s back to the La-Z-Boy, with Girl Scout Cookie and pizza boxes littered across the living room. Why is it that even when we work hard and push ourselves to uncomfortable places, we still lose confidence and feel defeated somewhere along the path?

Let’s say you want to try and learn ten songs on piano within the next year. This would check every box to qualify as a SMART goal. It’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time-bound. Most would be able to make a case that it would also meet the requirements for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. While a year may give us adequate time to learn ten songs on piano, three hundred and sixty five days also will provide many reasonable excuses that take priority over learning piano. Injuries, illness, travel, relationships — stuff comes up. We push things back. Sometimes we have to, sometimes it is easier to do so. Sometimes we work too hard too fast and end up despising what it was that we intended to do. We need to find a sweet spot, we need to see success. Find somewhere that is enjoyable, satisfying, and worth our time.

Big goals such as learning piano can be hard to wrap our heads around, especially if attempting to do something we’ve never done before. We may not even know all the small steps it takes in order to reach that goal. When we feel the slightest bit of doubt, or miss one day on a set program, thoughts start bouncing around our head convincing us that we are inadequate. It may constantly feel as though we are pushing tons of stone up a mountain. First we take a day off, then a week, then a month. Unfortunately, this can create momentum rolling right back down that steep hill, the wrong way.

If you’ve ever watched any type of sporting event, you can quickly recall dozens of times that one momentum shift drastically changed the rest of a game. Falcon’s fans are all too familiar with this concept as we saw in the second half of Super Bowl LI.

Your team pulls way so far ahead that you have begun the champagne showers. Already making plans to go to the Super Bowl parade. Next thing you know after a couple of big plays it feels like your team is now now incapable of doing anything right. Your team is never able to regain control of the game and you end up looking something like this when it’s all said and done.

Rather than fighting momentum, work with it. Make it our friend as we complete many small goals in a week, rather than taking our chances at a few big goals — all of next year. (Click hereif you need a “rah-rah” clip illustrating a possible scenario of good momentum) Doesn’t it make more sense to set short term, achievable, frequent goals — in order to taste a bit of enjoyment along the road? These little wins, day in and day out, boost confidence and make us much more likely to gain some positive momentum in the uphill battle. Finishing many small tasks, whether they are related or unrelated to an overarching goal, help in becoming much more aware of what good momentum feels like. Here are a few examples of ridiculously small goals:

“Start for my high school basketball team” — Put my socks and shoes on correctly today. (borrowed from John Wooden)

“Get my life in order” — Clean my room twice a month.

“Write a book” — Write for at least 10 minutes three days this week.

Try it out today, take note of how it makes you feel. See if this is an idea that can be used long term in your work or personal life. This strategy may not work for everyone, but I have found it to be essential in assembling a path toward things I want to accomplish. Keep the dreamers mentality, but also understand and appreciate the need for momentum and confidence. Try making that big hairy audacious goal an achievable, tangible, logical goal — and see where this takes you.