I’ve often found that setting a goal way beyond my ability to do it has great results. Why is that? It’s all a matter of context. Walking a quarter of a mile to post a letter may seem like a drag. But a quarter of a mile in the context of of training to walk from the south of England to the north of Scotland is hardly noticeable.The ultimate goal affects the way you go about even the smallest part of your process.
How does this work in practice?
When I was a life coach I started off by dabbling at life-coaching with the intention of finding something I could do as a self-employed person in place of my salaried occupation. And dabble at it was just about all I did for a couple of years. Then one day I decided to re-frame my goal so that it was to become the best life coach in the world.
I don’t think I ever got anywhere near reaching my goal, nor did I seriously think that it was possible even to identify the “best” coach in the world, let alone become him or her. But re-framing it in that way involved a radical change in attitude. No longer was I dabbling in it and no longer was I just accepting what other people said about how to do it. After all, whatever the “best” coach in the world was like, you could be quite sure that one of their qualities would be that they were a trailblazer.
The real point is that having this ridiculously large goal make me do quite different things from what I’d have done if I’d a goal like “Make a living as a life coach” or “Be a competent life coach”.
And the result was I had a successful and innovative business, in a field where many fail or stick to well-tried paths.
If I look back on my life I can see that there are many other things I would like to have done, but which I have consistently failed to accomplish. One of these is to be a singer. I don’t want to a brilliant singer, just be able to sing so that other people don’t have to cover their ears or smile though gritted teeth at my efforts. Unfortunately over the years I have more or less given up any hope that I might reach even this very limited goal.
But what if I hadn’t given myself a limited goal? What if I’d given myself the goal of becoming a soloist in an opera company? It wouldn’t really matter if I succeeded in the big goal or not (though you can’t rule anything out) - but I would almost certainly have left the original limited goal far behind. At the very least I would sing a lot better than I do now!
You don’t necessarily have to believe that your ridiculously big goal will ever come about. You just have to set the processes in motion to reach it. And by doing that you will encompass all your lesser goals along the way.
If you want to learn a language, make your goal extravagant like “Speak French so a French person can’t tell you’re not French”. Then set the processes in motion. You may never succeed in speaking like a native, but you will speak a lot better than if your goal were just to “learn a bit of French for my next holiday” or “pass such-and-such French exam”. Of course speaking French during your holiday and passing the French exam may staging posts on the way to your ridiculous goal.
My latest ridiculous goal is to be the oldest person ever to complete the Marathon des Sables.
That’s about as ridiculous as you can get as I’ve never been a runner, am not particularly fit, hate the heat and dislike being uncomfortable!
But there are plenty of staging posts along that way which will get me to my real aim which is simply to get as fit as possible. In September I will be taking part in a Tough Mudder Half - and that I am convinced I can do it if I train hard enough. To keep myself going on the training I need to be looking beyond the Tough Mudder to half-marathons, then marathons and then the ultimate goal.
So here’s my challenge to you:
What ridiculous goal could you set yourself? What would you accomplish along the way if you did?