We’ve all heard that if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. There is profound truth in that statement. Bold, audacious goals can expand our thinking, push us outside our comfort zones, and drive us to achieve more than we ever thought possible. When did you set a big, hairy, audacious goal last? If it’s been a while, or you tend to stick to “realistic” and safe targets, it’s time to start thinking BIG.
Setting big goals comes with many benefits:
They expand our thinking and sense of what’s possible
When we set small, limiting goals, our thinking shrinks to that level. But when the goal is ten times bigger, our mindset rises to match it. Research on the psychology of goals shows that we tend to rise to the level of our expectations. One study looked at people tasked with throwing darts at a target. When incentivized to hit the bullseye, they rarely did. But when incentivized to “do their best,” their scores increased dramatically. The more straightforward goal freed them to perform at their highest level without self-limiting beliefs getting in the way. The takeaway: believe in yourself, set big goals, and your abilities will rise to match.
Big goals drive more focused effort than smaller ones
When a goal captures our passions and connects deeply with our values, it stokes motivation and harnesses our total energy and effort. The bigger the goal, the more effort and action it spurs. Think of the massive effort put in by companies trying to be the first to put humans on the moon. That big, hairy goal drove intense action year after year. There is great power in focusing your full capabilities on a single big goal. Smaller goals don’t inspire the same effort. Many spend years chasing endless small goals but never tap into the massive drive and focus required for significant achievements.
Reaching for big goals forces you to grow
Stretch goals push you out of your comfort zone and require expanding your skills, abilities, resources, and sphere of influence. Few things in life are as empowering as realizing you are capable of far more than you imagined. But that only happens when you consistently reach beyond your current grasp.
Now that you’re excited to tackle bigger goals, here are some tips to make them happen:
Dream First, Figure Out How Later
When setting audacious goals, the key is to focus on the vision and desired outcome rather than getting bogged down in how you’ll get there. Trying to figure out all the steps first naturally limits your thinking. Dream big first, and let the how emerge in time—thinking up the how is where much of the joy and creativity resides.
Make a Public Commitment
Share your big goals and plans with others to create accountability. Knowing you announced it publicly makes it much harder to abandon the goal later. Share your goal on social media, tell close friends, or use sites like Stickk.com to set binding goal contracts. The more public the commitment, the more power it carries.
Develop a Plan of Action
Once you’ve defined the big goal, break it down into smaller milestones and action steps to make it feel tangible and achievable. Define six and twelve-month milestones. Then, break those down into monthly and weekly goals. Daily checklists keep you on track. Tracking progress against clearly defined metrics keeps you motivated.
Example: If the big goal is doubling your business revenue in 3 years, break that down into 20% revenue increase milestones yearly. Then, determine the monthly sales and actions needed to hit those numbers.
Expect Obstacles and Setbacks
Any ambitious endeavor will have roadblocks and setbacks. Expect difficulties, plan for contingencies, and be ready to problem solve. The bigger the goal, the bigger the challenges required to test your mettle. Expect tough times, but don’t let them derail your vision. Grit and tenacity are essential.
Be open to changing your approach if something isn’t working. Big goals require flexibility, not rigid adherence to a pre-defined path. Mid-course corrections will be required as new opportunities and challenges present themselves. Adapt, but keep moving forward.
Keep Going No Matter What
Persistent, relentless drive over the years is required to achieve big goals. Without grit, passion and effort ebb away when difficulties arise. Tap into the fierce determination required to keep going no matter what. Let your big goal become an intrinsic part of you.
Case Study: Marissa’s Journey to Becoming CEO
Marissa was an accountant who dreamed of running her own tech company someday. But starting as a bookkeeper at a small firm, she felt light years away from such a big goal. Over the years, she applied the strategies described above:
First, Marissa defined her giant, hairy goal: to become the CEO of a $100 million tech company before age 40. This goal excited and terrified her, which told her she was on the right track.
She broke the goal down into stepping stones: get promoted to CPA, CFO at a high-growth startup, and VP at a more prominent tech firm. She set a public goal deadline on her website, holding herself accountable.
Marissa expected setbacks, like the startup she joined going bust after two years. She course-corrected and pushed forward. She worked on expanding her skills, networking, and learning about industries.
It wasn’t easy balancing work demands and professional development outside work hours. During tough times, her big goal kept her motivated.
Through focused effort and persistence, Marissa achieved her goal of becoming CEO of a $120 million tech company at age 38. She credits setting the big, audacious goal from the start, driving her success over 15 years.
Define a truly big goal for yourself today. Let it excite you and make you a little nervous. Commit publicly. Develop milestones and plans. Move boldly forward through difficulties. Expand your mindset as your capabilities grow. With focus and grit, bold goals do get achieved. And they take you on incredibly empowering journeys along the way.
The benefits are massive, but only if you summon the courage to start. Pursue a big goal that energizes you. It will lead to remarkable things.