How to Set and Achieve a Giant, Life Changing Goal in 4 Simple Steps
Have you ever dreamed of doing something big? I’m talkin’ moon-shot big, Eiffel Tower big, set-the-world-on-fire big: a firestorm of accomplishment, racing over the dry kindling of the world; a powder-keg of success, detonating like a star in the night sky.
If you’ve ever had a big dream, let’s talk. Because the simple, 4-step process I’m about to lay on you can help you set and achieve the most ambitious goals imaginable.
Why Set Ambitious Goals?
The surest way to change your life is to accomplish something big. Big is relative, of course. One man’s big might include earning a high school diploma, while another’s might include directing a blockbuster movie. The question is not whether the world thinks your goal is ambitious, but whether you do; your life is the one affected.
And that’s the point — big goals are transformative. Earning a college degree transformed my professional life and earning power. Switching careers (from radio to software) transformed the way I think. Rapidly climbing the corporate ladder transformed my self-image.
Ambitious goals force growth, positive change, and transformation. By setting and achieving ambitious goals, we unearth our capacities, realize our potential, and take one step closer to living the life of our dreams.
Step 1: Decide what you Want
Why did the United States race to put a man on the moon? Why do engineers continue to design longer bridges and taller buildings? Why did Michelangelo carve the figure of David from a slab of Carrera Marble?
Each of the preceding examples has its own story, but if you pull back the layers of patriotism, politics, money, ego, and all the rest, you’ll find straightforward causation that applies to these grand achievements as equally as it applies to yours: Someone cared enough to make these things happen.
- What do you care about?
- What are you willing to sacrifice for?
- How do you want to change?
- What do you want to do?
Big, ambitious goals require energy, stoked in the furnace of passion. In other words, the first step in realizing a dream is finding a dream worth having.
Step 2: One Last Look before the Plunge
Once you’ve selected your goal (whether your goal involves becoming a rocket scientist or a rock star), additional research on cost versus benefit can ensure you’ve got what it takes before you jump:
- What will life be like after the accomplishment?(Include quantifiable factors, such as salary and status, and emotional factors, such as freedom and pride).
- What investment is required? (Include time, money, energy, and other forms of sacrifice.)
- What’s the chance of success? (Is success a matter of hard work, luck, or both?)
Once you’ve plowed through the library stacks, badgered your associates, and knocked down every avenue of research to paint a realistic picture of what you’re getting into, you can make an informed decision about whether you’re ready to commit.
And that’s really what we’re talking about here: commitment. Do the research. Make sure you’re ready. Then commit. The road ahead requires it.
Step 3: The Glorious Battle Plan
Putting a man on the moon, building the world’s tallest building, and carving David all required planning. That big slab of marble didn’t end up in Michelangelo’s workshop by accident, nor did Apollo 11 magically appear on the lunar surface.
Ambitious goals often require equally ambitious battle plans.
Although it’s neither possible nor beneficial to document every task required to reach your goal, do document every task you can think of. Consider the following:
- Training: Does your goal require an academic degree, self-study, or informal instruction?
- Preparation: Does your goal require resource gathering?
- Implementation: What tasks are required to achieve the dream?
- Re-planning: If your goal is a long-term proposition, include periodic re-evaluation of the plan to ensure you’re on the right track.
For each task on your plan, estimate duration to clarify how long things will take and to foster a sense of immediacy. Include costs to solidify your budget.
A realistic plan is important for so many reasons: it clarifies the difficult first step, guides your way, breaks complicated tasks into more manageable pieces, and reveals your mission’s duration, cost, and scope.
Step 4: Frame of Mind and the Long Walk
Okay, so you’ve chosen a motivational goal of mythic proportions, plunged over the precipice, and adopted a decisive battle plan. Now what?
Now comes the long, hard trek. Anything worth having is hard work: earning a degree, changing careers, learning to play an instrument, starting a business.
After all, there’s no way to get from here to there without taking all the little steps inbetween. But you should already know what you’ve gotten yourself into – that’s why you did all that pre-work, right?
So now your success depends upon your ability to execute your plan, which in turn depends largely upon your frame of mind. As you hike up the mountain of success, keep these positive affirmations top of mind:
- You can do it: Self-doubt and personal loathing are two of the biggest obstacles standing between you and your ambitious goal. Knock them out by reminding yourself how capable you truly are.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day: Focus on putting one foot in front of the other and working your plan one task at a time instead of focusing on the size of the mountain you’re trying to climb.
- Eye on the prize: Keep reminding yourself why all this hard work matters.
- Process orientation: If the path before you seems too long to walk, try extracting joy from the process of each individual task.
Just as Michelangelo carved David from a slab of marble, you can carve your dreams from the monolith of life. Ready your chisel, decide what to carve, and plan your strokes.
The rest is just a matter of putting tool to stone and keeping the right frame of mind as your work of art unfolds beneath your hands.
July 20, 2007 Friday at 6:52 pm