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The 5 Reasons You Should Set Big Goals

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The 5 Reasons You Should Set Big Goals

It’s the end of the year, and the beginning of a new one. So it’s very common for people to turn their attention to setting new goals, and plans to improve their life this time of year. Personally, I advocate the “continual goal setting” method, so that whenever an old goal is completed, we have already started a series of new ones. However, if you are using the start of the new year as a measuring point to kickstart your life or business and make life more fulfilling, that is fantastic, and you’ve come to the right place.

In this article it’s my intention to make the case for “setting big goals”, and giving five specific reasons why setting big goals is worthwhile.

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Most of us are familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym used to remind us that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. This method of goal setting is fantastic. I have used it many, many times to produce visible results in my life and business. I’m not suggesting that we should stop setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, I’m just going to make the case that life is really fun when, in addition to our S.M.A.R.T. goals we also throw in some “massive, huge, audacious, incredible” goals to go along with it.

Big goals are scary to many of us. They cut right to the “A” in the S.M.A.R.T. scheme, that is, we may think that we can’t attain them. We look at a big goal, and then we look back at ourselves, and where we are right now, and we think “what is the point of setting a goal like that, I can never attain it.”  The reality is that in many cases we don’t know what we are actually capable of achieving until we try.  We don’t know our limits until we actually test them.

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As a result, massive, crazy, wild goals can make our life more enjoyable and fulfilling. Here is why:

1. If We Allow Ourselves A Moment To Dream, We Get Really Excited

When we stop and think about what life would be like if we actually achieved the big goal, we get excited. The goal itself creates a gravitational pull that negates the need for willpower. The excitement of the possibility pushes us to take action. When we live every single day “under the influence” of a big dream, with a vision in our minds of the actuality of that dream, we are so busy moving towards the goal that we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Regardless of whether we actually achieve the big goal, our life becomes significantly enriched by this new mode of living. Over time, we transform into a new person, one who never feels sorry for themselves, or spends time in “what could have been” because we are so busy (and fulfilled) chasing what we believe is possible.

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2. They Cause Us To Make Long Term Improvements

Big goals cause us to expand our vision (to make room for the goal).  When we expand our vision we confront the reality that there are “structural changes” that must take place in our business or our life (depending on the nature of the goal) in order for the goal to come to fruition. That is, our current infrastructure or systems (in either our business or our life) are not equipped to support the big goal. Once we realize this we start making changes that will have significant positive long term benefits. We “strengthen the foundation” of our business or our life. This creates a ripple effect that spills over into other areas of our life in a positive way.

3. They Make Us Much More Resilient In The Short Term

When we look big, we know that every second counts. We have to give the very best that we have, every single day. We know that we can’t waste a moment in self-pity or meaningless time wasting activities. As a result, we start accounting for the “present moment” much more than we would when we are setting goals that don’t cause us to stretch. In our world of technology, distraction is a great danger. In order to achieve big goals we must be absolutely resilient and relentless in the short term.

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4. They Cause Us To “Get Real” With Ourselves And Confront Our Deficiencies

Big goals cause us to confront reality. If we start with the belief (or even the hope) that a big goal is actually attainable, we must then ask the next question: How could it happen? This question brings to light our relationship with reality.  We have to be honest with ourselves, and address either our poor habits and behaviors (if it is a personal goal) or our poor systems and processes (or lack thereof) if it is a business goal. It is so easy to blame others, never take personal responsibility, and make excuses. It is a courageous (and effective) person however who is willing to accept personal responsibility and take a deep look inward to address deficiencies rather than looking outside. When we set big goals we are forced to look inward first and make changes there.

5. They Cause Us To Develop Powerful Habits

In all of this what is happening is really a change of behavior.  This ultimately is the greatest benefit of setting big goals.  If we are really going after them (with all our heart) then we are forced to change our behavior.  We become much more positive people (point 1). We set up systems and processes that are valuable for the future (point 2), but we live completely in the present and make the most of our time (point 3).  Finally we become “real” with ourselves and look to change internally before we point the blame at others (point 4).  When we maintain all of these behaviors for a sustained period of time, what we are actually doing is something incredible – we are instituting powerful life changing habits.

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At this point it doesn’t even matter whether we achieve the big goal or not.  We have achieved arguably a greater victory of having significantly improved ourselves.  This is the ultimate ancillary benefit of setting big goals.  They help us to build, and improve ourselves, dramatically, and it is done through a sustainable change.  It is done through the power of habit.

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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