Whenever you research anything related to goal setting, there is always a mindset of having to achieve that goal. You are always told that those who are successful reach their goals, and those who are not fail them.
This however is only true under the assumption that reaching your goals is the only measure of success. Your success is not a measure of whether you reach your goals or not, it is a measure of how well you do in a given area of your life.
Let me explain by giving an example of 2 businessmen. Ill call them Paul and John for clarity. Both Paul and John have recently started a similary business, and are fierce competitors. They set a goal to want to increase the revenue of their respective businesses.
John sets a goal to increase his yearly revenue by 5 million dollars. Paul on the other hand, sets an unimaginably high goal of increasing his revenue by 100 million dollars.
Now at the end of the year, John sees a revenue increase of 5 million dollars. Great for him because he has reached his goal! Paul on the other hand, wasn’t so fortunate. He didn’t make his 100 million dollar target. In fact, he didn’t even get close. He only managed to get 10% of the way to his 100 million dollar target.
Most people might instinctively say that John is obviously the more successful man as he reached his goal, while Paul did not. But comparing the numbers tells a different story. While Paul only managed to get 10% of the way to his goal, he had a significantly more successful year than John did.
A 10% completion of a 100 million dollar goal means that Paul increased his revenue by an astonishing 10 million dollars. Twice as much as John did! So who is the more successful person now?
The moral of the story is that success is relative to a wide number of parameters, not just whether you complete your goals. Lets look at a few reasons why Paul’s goal setting method is better than that of John.
We Work Best When Under Pressure
When we put ourselves under a lot of pressure, our brain and body tend to go into overdrive. So by setting a big goal we also set big expectations for ourselves. The pressure comes from us not wanting to let ourselves and the people around us down.
In the example above, there is a good chance that John met his 5 million dollar goal 9 months into the year. Once he realized he did what he wanted to do, he felt happy and content with himself. The pressure of working hard dropped off and he enjoyed the rest of the year.
There is a high chance that his lack of motivation to continue working for the remaining 3 months caused him to pass up some great business and learning opportunities.
Paul on the other hand, was no where near to his goal all year. So he spend 12 solid months giving it all he got to try and get as close to his goal as possible. Paul was a lot more productive with his time because he set such a high goal.
Failing Is Learning
Despite not reaching his goal, Paul would have learned a lot of personals and professional lessons during his year of struggle.
He set a target of increasing his revenue by 100 million dollars, but only managed 10 million. He gave it his all to try and reach his goal but fell short. He would have learned his personal limits during this year. Similarly he might have learned the limits at which the businesses in his sector can operate.
Even though Paul didn’t meet his goal, he knows that he gave it his all. Once he looks at his competitors he will realize that he did amazing work. This will be a massive confidence boost as well.
John on the other hand did not discover his personal limits. He didn’t push himself nor his business to their utmost limits.
If John sees the results that Paul was able to manage, he might be stuck with feelings of regret and wonder if he could have done more. If he self-analyzes properly, he will realize that he he should have set a higher target, and would have worked harder to achieve that.
They Stretch Our Belief of What is Possible
Upon reflection of the past year, Paul will likely identify areas where he could have worked harder. He knows he gave it his all, but he will be able to recognize moments where he could have worked smarter, and not just harder.
Whenever you work at your limits, you will undergo a massive amount of learning and self-discovery. You will stretch your belief of what you are capable off.
But because John recognizes that he could have worked harder, that will likely be his only take from the last year. He thinks he needs to just work harder when he compares his results to that of Paul’s business. Paul on the other hand experienced growth as a person and saw much more advances in his professional life to boot.
They will change the way you think
It is very likely that when you set nearly unachievable goals, you will need to adopt a wide variety of strategies to try and achieve it. There will be a point where you realize that your standard way of working is a sure-fire way to never reach that goal. So you start thinking outside of the box to come up with new methods that might be more efficient and produces better results.
As you experiment with different ways of thinking and working, you are learning skills that you will carry with yourself for the rest of your life.
Do not be afraid to set unachievable goals. Whether you reach them or not, it is the journey that matter. The journey is what teaches you the life lessons you need to succeed in life. Even 10% of massive goal will still translate to real life success. Just ask Paul!