Can Your Goals be too Big?

My answer, based on the people I work with is yes—sometimes they can. And I think this is linked to the cultural expectations of the world we live in. Our expectations often become distorted by this fast forward, desensitized, over dramatized, polarized culture of our times. Success is spelt $uccess. Achievement has to be massive, extreme and immediate—front page headlines, with many exclamation marks. And if your achievements don’t fall into this category, you have FAILED!

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Many of us have this unconscious externally focused Ferrari or bicycle mindset—we’re either a celebrity or a complete failure—no in betweens.

Our perceptions and expectations have become chronically polarized and out of BALANCE.

With benchmarks like this no wonder so many people adopt self sabotaging coping strategies, while living in a dream world of unfulfilled wishes (safely lodged in a dim distant future).

No matter how achingly urgent your desire to reach that Big Audacious Goal is, have you considered that maybe your own hardwiring is keeping it from manifesting? Could it be that if you consistently, over a period of time removed your own “road blocks” that goal would be more attainable; and more sustainable?

And why are the “road blocks” there; what purpose do they serve?

I have worked with a number of people who are in the habit of pegging their sense of personal success or failure on Big Audacious Goals, which either don’t materialize or prematurely crash and burn, no matter how hard they try. This leaves them depressed, disillusioned and feeling a failure. Why does this happen so often? Because if those BAGs are too big, they scare our brains silly!

You see neuroscience research indicates that the brain protects us by resisting change; by being healthily suspicious of overly dramatic upheavals—and the turmoil it might entail.

Goals therefore that require substantial behavioral change are automatically resisted.

The brain is wired to seek pleasurable rewards and avoid pain, fear and discomfort. Yet, as we know, the most pleasurable rewards are often to be found on the far side of fear and discomfort; BUT how do you convince your brain’s hardwiring that this is the case? While your conscious mind is presenting a feverishly evangelical goal setting sales pitch—your subconscious mind is backpedaling as fast as it can screaming holy crap—you’re going to do what? Do you know what the implications of that are?

Of course individual comfort zones vary widely, but when you set goals too far outside your comfort zone, the chances are you won’t achieve them. They will likely remain something you talk a lot about and dream a lot about, but are firmly lodged in the future, because a part of you doesn’t want to reach that destination—with all its scary implications.

You see, your conscious mind is in charge of goal setting and the unconscious mind is in charge of goal getting.

So you need to understand the boundaries of your comfort zone; the safety stop that protects you from venturing too far into dragon territory. The trouble is it’s difficult to pinpoint this. But there are signs. This is where those self sabotaging habits kick in:

Procrastination

Avoidance

Stress

Excuses

Justification

Perfectionism

Defensiveness

Distraction

When your subconscious mind installs “safety measures” like these and there’s a conflict with the BAG your conscious mind wants, a repetitive pattern shows up in your life. You keep getting something other than what you want—debt or financial struggle instead of financial freedom; relationships that felt so right going horribly wrong; careers, deals or projects that were going to bring you fame and fortune keep getting derailed….The leap across that mental chasm is too vast, too fast and too terrifying.

The potential consequences of failure are too frightening, so self sabotage kicks in.

Here’s how to get around this. Establish a series of smaller objectives inside your comfort zone AND one or two just outside it. This lulls your unconscious mind into thinking that nothing is changing. Then when you approach your comfort zone boundary you’ll only need to stretch those fear fences a little to move through it—not set in motion a complete paradigm shift.

With consistent repetition this process becomes cumulative and incremental—and this new mental territory you have just colonized becomes your new comfort zone boundary. By gradually and consistently breaking new ground in this way, you automatically gain confidence. New behaviors automatically arise to support this new reality.

This is when momentum builds and the magic happens!

In order to keep that momentum, it is vital to celebrate every milestone along the way, as you reach it. If possible this self celebration should include tangible “proof” that you are making progress in the right direction. It is this positive feedback that keeps the momentum towards your goals increasing. It energizes the creation of new successes and rewires your brain’s reality system. It gives you a sense of ownership, pride and control over where you’re going.

Here are some highly effective ways to handle goal setting and achieving successfully.

  • Pick one achievement each week. Stand proudly in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye, smile and congratulate yourself on this achievement. Remind yourself that it is one step closer to your goal.
  • Send yourself a congratulatory email or text message.
  • Have at least one dedicated mentor or supporter who will shake your hand, or hug you and reiterate these congratulations.
  • Buy or treat yourself to something meaningful to mark this achievement, so every time you use it or look at it you remember just how smart you are and how much progress you are making.
  • Reach out for mentoring and advice, from those with more expertise and experience constantly. Ask when you’re feeling out of your depth.
  • Surround yourself with positive, like minded supporters who will help keep the dream alive.
  • Spend minimum time in the company of people who have a negative view of your goals. But always listen to constructive criticism. It could prevent you falling into unseen traps.
  • Compete only with yourself—not with others and don’t make your deadlines too brutal. This is your goal, not anyone else’s. You decide the criteria for your successful progress.
  • Cut yourself some slack regularly and enjoy the journey towards your goal.
  • Know that if a self sabotaging habit tries to derail you, it is trying to protect you. Find out what it is you are scared of; reassure yourself—and then stretch those fear fences just a little bit further. Keep doing this.
  • There will be detours, disappointments and doubt from time to time. Remember it’s just a bend—not necessarily the end.

Your journey is unique. So what if it isn’t as big, bold, visible or dramatic as someone else’s—yet? If you’re criticized adopt the 3SW approach—some will, some won’t, so what? Whether others believe you can or not is irrelevant—as long as you keep moving forward and celebrating each step of the way.

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