The Magic Power in Setting Goals So Big They Scare You

Big goals are magic. Little goals, when they are not milestones on the way to big goals, are something less than magic. While they may not be completely impotent, they lack the power of big goals. There is a magic power in goals so big they scare you.

The Problem with Small Goals

A small goal doesn’t require you to transform. It doesn’t possess the power to cause you to take massive action. While the goal might be helpful to accomplish, the size of the goal itself suggests that it isn’t all that important. Because the goal isn’t big enough to cause you to believe something different and take new actions, it doesn’t compel you to change, to transform, to become.

Small goals are easy to reach. One of the reasons people make diminutive goals is because they know they can reach them without any real effort or struggle on their part. In some cases, people make goals that they have already reached, like the business that sets a goal for 5 percent growth, knowing they already all but achieved that goal.

The only thing worse than small goals is having no goals at all, allowing “The Drift,” all the external forces in life, to take you in a direction that is not of your choosing.

The Value in Big Goals

Big goals are everything that small goals are not.

Big goals require much more of you. To reach big goals, you must start by being intentional and planning your approach, something that may not be necessary with small goals. The amount of planning required to reach the big goal you set is going to be proportional to the size of your goal. You are not going to be able to wing it and achieve big goals.

You also must become the kind of person who can reach those goals, what is perhaps the best and most important outcome from setting your sights on something more substantial. Only big goals cause you to transform yourself. Big goals require you to change your beliefs, your actions, and your disciplines (I like the word “disciplines” and find it more powerful than the word “habit,” as one described intentionality and power, and the other suggests the opposite).

Big Goals Mean Not Settling

We don’t make big goals because we are afraid we will not achieve them. We hesitate to commit to them because we know that big goals require real change on our part. So rather than setting big goals, failing, and still producing transformational results, we settle.

When you set small goals, you are settling. You are settling for being something less than you are capable of becoming. You settle for doing less than you are capable of and producing a smaller result than you might have created. You are settling for having less than you might have and contributing less than you could have.

Not Stretch Goals. Goals That Stretch You.

Big goals prevent you from settling. Instead, they force you to stretch. Instead of setting the target of 5 percent growth, you set a goal to double the business, an idea that any reasonable person would find outrageous.

The first question one hears when sharing their big goal is the incredulous responses of people who are afraid of the big goal. The typical response sounds something like, “That’s impossible?” What you are hearing is another person’s belief about what they are capable of, not what is possible, and a response that says nothing about what is possible for you. The truth of the matter is that if someone else is already producing the result you defined as your big goal, that outcome is undoubtedly possible for you.

The second question people ask about big goals is better, and it’s the question that contains a large portion of the power in big goals. The follow-up question is some variation of, “How on Earth do you propose to do that?” Indeed, how on earth do you propose to reach your big goal? Your big goals cause you to struggle with all you are going to have to change to reach your goal.

Be Afraid

There is no reason to set goals that don’t frighten you. If the goal has no power to cause you to worry about how you are going to need to be different, as well as all the things you will need to do differently, then it isn’t big enough.

When you miss reaching your big goal, the result you produce dwarfs any you would have created would you have set a smaller target. A goal that requires little effort on your part likely results in you giving it no effort at all. Goals that frighten you compel you to take the massive actions necessary to reach your big goals.

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