Why Bigger Goals Make Better People

Jake Thompson, outwork your talent

Why Bigger Goals Make Better People

Are your goals big enough?

Unless we’re constantly bumping up against our current “limit,” we never create the opportunity to increase it.

One thing my high school coaches did every year to make us better was to schedule a tough non-conference schedule. We’d play anywhere from 3-5 games outside of conference, with at least 2/3 or 4/5 being against tough opponents.

Some we won. All we were challenged. 

Our coaches wanted to win every game. We practiced to win. We played to win. However, they didn’t get too bothered if we didn’t win because the bigger goal wasn’t to dominate non-conference.

It was to win the conference, make the playoffs, and go win state.

It was intentionally embracing short-term adversity to make us stronger in the big picture.

Too many of us today are setting small targets instead of challenging goals because we are honestly afraid of the challenge.

Whether we admit it or not, we’re afraid we might fail or we’re worried we don’t have what it takes to succeed, and then what becomes of us?

What we fail to realize is that by setting small targets, we’re actually hurting our chances in the long-run – like only playing “cupcake” games instead of challenging ones.

I think there’s two big reasons for this:

1. We’ve attached who we are (identity) with what we do (goal chase). Instead of seeing them as they are (separate), we link the two and then associate failure with us as a person instead of viewing it as an event.

Try viewing your pursuits through the lens of a scientist. A scientist doesn’t believe they’re a failure when an experiment doesn’t work – they simply make notes that this hypothesis was incorrect. They make an adjustment and then they experiment again.

How much more free would your internal dialogue be if you looked at your pursuit as a science experiment vs. end-all-be-all?

2. We worry about failing and what other people will think. We care about many people’s opinions, even though many people:

  • don’t have to live with the results of our victory/setback
  • aren’t even courageous enough to go after their own goals.

It’s like playing quarterback and instead of listening to your coaches & teammates, you’re taking advice from the overweight, balding guy in the nosebleeds section 404 who never played a snap of football.

Small targets create small lives.

We think we’re helping ourselves because we’re achieving easy wins, but what we’re actually doing is limiting our potential.

In the weight room, you don’t get stronger without failure and struggle.

  • You max out to set a benchmark.
  • You train for 6-12 weeks on a program based on that benchmark.
  • You go for a PR at the end of that cycle.

It’s uncomfortable (and HEAVY) the first time you put that new weight on your back. Sometimes you hit the new weight, and when you keep trying to add more weight, you eventually fail. You’ve raised your baseline.

Whether you hit your PR that day or you fail, you eventually will fail in weightlifting because the only way you get stronger is by hitting that limit, training to overcome it, and then taking another attempt.

Same with life.

Setting small goals may feel better than heavy weight, but it’s not making us any better, just like easy schedules don’t make teams better.

So how do we get better at playing bigger?

1. Set bigger goals.
Make them uncomfortable to say at first because you know if they were a little bit easier, you 100% could reach it but at this specific size, there’s a chance you’ll fail.

2. Make a plan to get the goal.
Work it daily in small bites. Remember, you eat an elephant the same way you do a donut – one bite a time. 15 minutes every day working on your goal will always be better than 3 hours once a month.

3. Change your internal talk.
Remind yourself every day that who you are isn’t what you go after. Facing challenges make you stronger. Outcomes (goals) don’t determine who you are as a person, you do.

4. Assess your progress.
Take the time to evaluate the process after the outcome is decided, win or loss. 

  • What did you do well?
  • Where did you fall short?
  • What can you do better next time?

Write down your answers and then use that new knowledge when you set your next big target.

It’d be a shame to spend our whole lives chasing small targets that are safe rather than big targets that build legacies.

Small targets feel good because they’re easily accomplished, but big goals? That’s what makes a lasting mark.

‘Cause easy never makes us proud.

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