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The 5 Reasons You Should Set Big Goals

The 5 Reasons You Should Set Big Goals
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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.

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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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