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Achieve Impossible Goals In 9 Simple Steps

Achieve Impossible Goals In 9 Simple Steps

1. Set Both Realistic and Unrealistic Goals

The founders of Tasty Brand want to see more organic baby food options. Scott Harrison of charity: water wants to see clean drinking water in developing nations. While both of these goals achievable, making a snazzy new product line seems pretty small compared to bringing clean water to the world.

But both types of goals – realistic, obviously achievable ones and big, seemingly insurmountable ones – are important to help you move forward in your life. Making progress in smaller goals helps propel you on to take bigger risks and reach bigger goals. And having big goals helps you to stay motivated and understand that you are doing makes a difference.

2. Work Hard

Impossible goals take time, and you won’t get there by sitting still, making plans, and dreaming about how awesome it will be once you achieve your goals. Instead, you’ve got to make it a daily, hourly habit to be doing the work it takes to move your forward, no matter how difficult that work is.

Mark Cuban, entrepreneur, Shark Tank regular, and Mavericks owner, went through a long series of stupid, tough, dead-end job, working hard at each one and telling himself that he “was getting paid to learn and every experience would be of value.” Then he started his own business and got to work harder: “I would get so involved with learning a new piece of software that I would forget to eat and look up at the clock thinking it was 6 or 7pm and see that it was 1am or 2am.”

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3. Get Others to Work with You

You can’t do it all by yourself. When you’re pursuing big goals, you need to pull a team of supportive, smart, positive people around you. If it’s just a few select family members and friends cheering you on while you run that marathon, be sure they know how important they are to your success. And if you’re building a business, launching a product, or trying to dominate a market, get a team that is the right fit.

Sarah Shupp , CEO and Founder of UniversityParent, says that it is important to hire people “much more intentionally and carefully. Early on, I made several hiring mistakes because I felt pressure to fill a seat rather than finding the right fit. This strategy almost never worked.”

4. Don’t Make Excuses

Excuses do not help you learn. They do not help you to grow. They do not help you to make yourself better, to learn from your mistakes, or to make progress. They simply make you feel a little bit better in the moment about what you haven’t yet achieved.

If you want to achieve the unachievable, you have to start by taking full responsibility for every decision, every action, every moment of your life. Sylvester Chisom learned from his mom, a single parent, as she supported him and his sister by being a hard-working entrepreneur. Chison, now a successful entrepreneur himself, says that her inspiration helped him to bootstrap his own way to success, and now he’s paying it forward with his $50 Startup Program for Schools.

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5. Don’t Underestimate Others

People are capable of much more than we imagine, and they’re willing to invest themselves in something that matters to them. Spend time cultivating relationships that help you become a better person, and you’ll reap the benefits in your whole life. And be discerning about who you work with or pursue goals with; not everyone will share the vision, but those who do can catapult you to success.

Cyrus Massoumi, CEO and founder at ZocDoc, says that the best advice he ever got was to remember that “Your first 20 hires…will make or break your company. Your company – your brand – is the sum of its parts. It’s made of people, and better people create a better company.”

6. Be Willing to Fall

When Cass Phillipps saw her start-up go down, she didn’t spend too long moaning about the loss. Instead, she learned how to celebrate failure as a way to learn a better route to success. The lesson was so important for her, in fact, that she started FailCon, a conference that brings together hundreds of people who share – and learn – about how they’ve failed and what they have learned from those failures.

“People that use failure to become more successful are people that see their failure as a learning experience,” says Phillipps. When falling face-first is something you know you can handle, you’ll be able to learn from it and use that wisdom to push yourself up and back toward success.

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7. Make Sacrifices

Pursuing a big dream means that you have to put aside small dreams: sometimes forever, sometimes for a season, while you put all your heart and energy into whatever your impossible goal is.

Rachel Federmen, wife of entrepreneur Ben Federmen, says that realizing how much a start-up, like any big goal, will take from the other aspects of your life is important. “You almost have to treat it like you’re on a wave—when it hits you, you have to ride it and do your best to stay healthy through the process,” she says.

8. Use Your Strengths

Achieving big, even unrealistic goals, can be possible but not if your goals require you to work consistently in your areas of weakness. You can work hard, but if you’re not working hard in your strengths, you are limiting your ability.

Isaac Newton’s mother intended for him to take on the family farm, and sent him off to do it. He failed miserably. Farming was, for him, a monotonous physical endeavor which did nothing to stimulate his active mind. If he had made it his ambition to be the best farmer ever, would he have succeeded? Most likely not; his strengths were not in working the land but in working through figures, theories, and analysis with his mind. When he got into work that fit his strengths, he was noted as “an extraordinary genius and proficiency in these things.”

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When you’re pursuing a big goal, it’s important to ratchet your ability up to the highest level, which means knowing and working primarily in your strengths.

9. Don’t Back Down

A miss here or there can be discouraging enough, but what about a big miss? What about having your motives called into question, facing bankruptcy, losing your home because you mortgaged it for a dream, or seeing one start-up after another crash and burn?

Brad Keywell, co-founder of Groupon and Lifebank, says,“I’ve been involved with companies that hit dead ends, had business ideas I couldn’t get off the ground, been in situations that I desperately wanted to succeed but were on a path to failure.” But, says Keywell, hanging on with bulldog-like tenacity to the bigger dream of succeeding pushes you through every single failure. “My ability to overcome adversity has often been tied to a refusal to accept defeat and a willingness to explore other approaches to the game.”

Featured photo credit: Izzard via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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