They said it was impossible for humans to run a mile in under four minutes. In fact, there was near confirmation of this conjecture in the 1940s when the record hung around 4’01”. That didn’t prevent athletes from trying.
On May 6, 1954, British runner Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3’59” — which was a world record. Astonishingly, several other runners broke the four-minute-mile barrier in short order soon after.
Why was this ambitious goal so easily achieved once Bannister broke the barrier?
It would be simplistic to say that it was a case of, “seeing is believing,” although that is a compelling argument. Many of us could probably point to examples in life when this principle did not apply. For instance, seeing someone you know start a successful business or create a prolific home garden does not ensure that you yourself will be able to do the same just because you saw it done.
The truth of it is that there are likely several things that led to the achievement of breaking the mile record. Runners could learn Bannister’s training regimen and build upon his personal discoveries once they were armed with more knowledge.
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Ambitious Goals Vs Conservative Goals
A study conducted at the University of California-Riverside compared people who set ambitious goals to those who set more conservative goals. The researchers discovered that people who set ambitious goals experienced greater satisfaction overall, despite having similar outcomes to those who set conservative goals.
It seems out when you set ambitious goals versus conservative goals, you end up feeling that you have achieved more against the odds.
Often, when we set a goal, we expect a specific result. If we set a conservative goal, we get conservative results. The opposite is true when you set an ambitious goal, as you end up getting astonishing results in the short term or long term.
In this study conducted at the University of California-Riverside, researchers pointed out that people often set goals with two main reasons in mind: expectancy and value. The expectancy portion of the goal is how likely the person will be successful at achieving their goal. The value portion relates to how good it will feel when you reach your goal.
When you set a goal, be mindful of also setting aside limiting beliefs. Goals are set to achieve something bigger than what you are currently doing. So, why set a conservative goal that will only get you conservative results? Ambitious goals provide great results when achieved.
The tricky thing about goals is knowing whether or not the goal is for personal growth or if it is a “worldly goal”. Besides ambitious goals, setting goals full of intrinsic value are great for your overall happiness. So, step out of your comfort zone when you create long-term goals, and you’ll find that your personal growth increases dramatically.
How to Achieve an Ambitious Goal
Suffice it to say that the recipe for achieving our most ambitious goals in life can be boiled down to one paradox:
Have a Blueprint and then ignore the Blueprint.
1. Have a Blueprint
It is necessary for goals to have structure. If they do not, it will be impossible to see what our aim is. Here are some guidelines that will help to create a powerful Blueprint for generating action steps toward your goals.
Have you ever noticed that things you do in life take almost exactly as long as you give yourself? For example, if you have a week to prepare for a work presentation, it will take a week. Whereas, if you give yourself a month for the same presentation, that’s also how long it will take.
The same is true when it comes to accomplishing your ambitious dreams. What you dream up for yourself is likely to be as far as you go. You will accomplish only as much as you set out to achieve. So, why not set that goal as big as you possibly can?
Do the Things That Terrify You
This part of the Blueprint involves setting the intention of getting out of your comfort zone. We all have those action steps on the way to a goal that are the “low hanging fruit.” These are the tasks that are easy to accomplish and don’t take up too much mental, physical, or emotional energy.
And then there are the tasks that seem more terrifying. These terrifying tasks might be requiring us to develop skills that aren’t in our naturally occurring wheelhouse.
When facing what scares us, it’s important to discern whether something is actually “scary,” or if we have built the challenge of the task up in our minds to terrifying proportions. In other words, have there been times in your life when you’ve said or thought, “That wasn’t nearly as hard/bad as I thought it would be!” Chances are good that we’ve all been there.
In the process of answer whether something truly is difficult or not, we can also remind ourselves of other times in life when a “terrifyingly difficult” goal was achieved. How did that accomplishment feel? How does this feeling compare with the feeling of accomplishing the “easy” tasks?
“But what about my anxiety- if I face doing the things that scare me, won’t I ramp that up?”
Actually, there’s evidence that consistent practice in facing our fears helps to reduce anxiety!
Know Your Intentions
Just about everyone has cherished the Simon Sinek TED Talk on finding your WHY. Just as in business marketing, finding your own personal WHY, or intentions behind what you want to accomplish, can be a powerful way to design your Blueprint for goal success.
Your WHY can be a mantra that you recite through the process, especially as you inevitably stumble into uncertain territory along the way. Knowing your WHY ensures that you can never be completely lost.
Stay in Your Lane
When we drive, we are mindful to stay in our own lane. Why would this be any different for the way we go about our goals? What causes us to veer out of our proverbial lanes when it comes to goals?
When we notice someone else going for or achieving a similar goal, it’s completely human to want to peek at their methods. This can lead to distracted goal driving.
We can lose sight of our personal WHY as we try to model our action steps after what we see someone else doing, whether their action steps will lead to achieving our goal or not. Or we can settle for less than we initially dreamed for ourselves and we the learning and growth that we most need.
Unless you are literally trying to achieve the exact same goal as someone else (like running a mile in under 4 minutes), having ways of maintaining focus on our own process is a must.
2. Ignore the Blueprint
Once you have your structure, it’s important to take it with a grain of salt. We are not building a skyscraper (unless you are building a skyscraper, in which case, you should definitely follow the Blueprint!). We are building a human experience. And when it comes to humanity, there must be room to be able to grow and develop in unexpected ways.
Here are some ways you can maintain flexibility on the journey.
Set Reasonable Expectations
If your goal achievement requires that you get up every morning at 4:00 AM when you know that you can barely function at that time, how reasonable is that expectation? Whereas, if you know that your optimal concentration time is at 4:00 PM every day, what would you say to blocking that time off specifically for tasks related to your big goal?
Setting reasonable expectations means knowing yourself and applying that knowledge to maximize your efforts. It’s all about the small steps.
Ask for Help
Just because you have a Blueprint doesn’t mean you know how to do everything. Finding people who can share valuable perspectives and feedback is a great way to augment, edit, and tweak plans for achieving your goal.
Asking for help might be challenging at first, especially if you have the mindset that asking for anything is a weakness. However, the benefits of asking for help far outweigh the potential discomfort you might feel. With practice, you will soon experience the magic of asking. Of course, obtaining other viewpoints requires some flexibility regarding your overall vision, as discussed below.
Let Go of the Outcome
George Harrison told us that
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
What he didn’t tell us is that if you are too focused on getting to your one, specific destination, you could miss all the unique attractions along the way.
Letting go of the outcome allows you to discover all the “happy accidents” along the way. Just remember that if there had been an attachment to a specific outcome, the potato chip would never have been invented. Allowing the outcome to have some flexibility might turn out more successfully for your goal achievement than you might think.
Although there can be many ways to achieve your most ambitious goals, remembering the goal-setting paradox — have a Blueprint, and then ignore the Blueprint, will help you stay on track.
So, best wishes to you as you make plans to climb that proverbial ladder on your way to your next best goal!
Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com
|||^||Wikipedia: Four-minute mile|
|||^||Science Daily: Ambitious goals equals satisfaction|
|||^||Psychology Today: Help for Anxiety: Facing Your Fears Will Heal Your Brain|
|||^||PsychCentral: 5 Suggestions for Setting Realistic Expectations for Yourself|
|||^||Jone’s Potato Chips: Jones’ Potato Chip Company History|