goals

If your dreams do not scare you, then they are not big enough.

Everyone has dreams, big and little, from daily goals (eat healthier, exercise more) to big ideas (write a book, visit Paris) and life-long projects (raise a family, have a successful career). Goals are there to keep us going, to motivate us to work when we’d rather sleep, and to shine a light at the end of the tunnel.

Yet sometimes we shy away from setting appropriate goals because of fear, surmising that never failing at anything is better than never trying anything – a highly misleading notion. Who has “failed” at shooting baskets more than Michael Jordan? Failure is not to be avoided in life; it is one of the great teachers. Failing to reach a goal does not mean that you are a failure, but rather a human.

Think about your biggest goal in life. Did your stomach just contract a bit in fear of this lofty dream? If not, it’s not big enough. We are not here on earth to putter about and waste our days, watching bad TV and cruising Facebook. We are here to love and to grow. If you need inspiration towards setting a fearless goal, just think about your dead friends; if you are an adult, no doubt you have many. Think about what your friend would give to have just one more day to live, just one more day to enjoy life to its fullest, to challenge themselves and to love. Now, do you really want to spend the evening in front of your TV?

Make your dream tangible. If you have a big, scary dream, it might be too large to even wrap your head around. Make it tangible by associating physical items with your dream. Create a folder or clipboard for your goal, and give it a space in your everyday life so that you will see it on a daily basis. Get creative and you will inspire yourself even further. Cut out pictures of Paris or healthy foods and make a collage to cover your folder, or draw a picture of yourself in 20 years as the novel-writing author you hope to be. Does it sound silly? Who cares! This is your big dream, and it needs a tangible place in your life.

Define the very next step. Most large goals take numerous steps to achieve, and one of these steps is to figure out what the rest of them are! This can be difficult and intimidating, as most people like to know where they stand when facing a large task. So define it for yourself! What is the very next step you need to take to conquer your goal? Do you need to research schools, talk to someone in the industry, buy a book on Paris or sign up for an online dating service? Define the very next action you need to take in order to reach your goal (and once it is done, repeat this process).

Celebrate small victories. It feels great to cross things off a to-do list and gives you a real sense of accomplishment, because the brain does not differentiate between large victories (I was elected president!) and small victories (I found a fantastic parking space!). Ruminating on victories large and small gives your psyche a much-needed dose of confidence. When you have a large goal, the large victory is likely far away – so it is essential that you celebrate every small victory along the way. When you accomplish a task on the way to a big goal, celebrate! Take a break and give yourself a pat on the back, because you are one step closer to your dream! Big goals are made up of many small parts, and celebrating each accomplishment along the way is vital to staying motivated over the long haul. 

image: dprotz