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A LITTLE ALL AND A LITTLE NOTHING!
How I let go of unrealistic expectations to achieve realistic goals.
I’m the type of person that needs to have goals. The bigger, the better. Something to lure me out of bed in the morning. Without that, I tend to drift aimlessly about like a rudderless pirate.
But on the flip side, once I’ve set my sights on a goal, I have a hard time focusing on anything else except that, so much so that I forget to live an actual life and spend time with the people I love.
Neither situation is ideal. As my wife likes to tell me, “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.” Fun Fact: My wife saying that I’m all or nothing inspired the title of the sixth Bird & Squirrel book.
The solution must lay between “the all” and “the nothing.” But here’s the problem, If I don’t give whatever I’m doing 200%, I feel like I’m mailing it in. And if I get too comfortable doing that, I might as well give up because it’s only a matter of time before I become complacent. Then the next thing I know, I'm a hack, and I die a failure with only a jar of nail clippings to show for my squandered life. And to make matters worse, even if I give 200%, it still ends the same way! Why? Because there’s no way to sustain that level of high-intensity work beyond a short period, especially if I want to keep my family and my health.
So how can I strive for the big goals, give it my all, and still succeed without destroying myself? The answer is— A SECRET! But I will tell you if you send me $29.99 and a self-addressed envelope. No. I’m joking. It’s only $9.99, and I accept PayPal. No. I kid. I’ll tell you all my secrets for free because I’m a terrible salesman and I want to be helpfull.
The first step to big-goal-reaching success is to choose a realistic goal. Something that I can actually achieve. I used to have specific goals like:
Make an animated movie that wins an Oscar!
Write a bestselling book that debuts on the New York Times bestseller list!
Run a sub-three-hour marathon and win a gold medal!
The problem with all of these goals is the final result is outside of my control. No matter how hard I work, there’s no guarantee anything I work on will ever win an Oscar or become a bestseller. And the chance of me winning a gold medal for marathon running is near impossible. Okay, it’s impossible.The only guarantee with these goals is that I’m going to fail!
That’s not to say I can’t push myself outside my comfort zone and strive for a ginormous goal. But the goal has to be something that, if I put in the work required, I can achieve. Good news! There’s an easy fix to this problem. All I have to do is a bit of rewording!
Instead of “Make an animated movie that wins an Oscar!” my goal could be “Make an animated movie!” That’s an achievable goal. One without any unrealistic expectations attached. Could it still win an Oscar? Yes! But I can’t expect that because it’s not within my control.
I can also “Write a book!” Is it going to be a bestseller? Is it going to make lists or win awards? I have no idea. All I can do is write the best book I can at my current ability level; if it does win an award or make a list— fantastic! But I can’t go in expecting that.
The same goes for running a marathon. Or better yet, maybe the goal is to “complete” a marathon. This removes the expectation that I have to run the whole thing. Because what happens if I walk the last three miles? I might beat myself up and think that I failed. But if the main goal is only to complete the marathon, there’s a higher chance of success. And who knows, maybe my training will go great with no injuries, and I will finish with a new personal record. Woo-hoo! Bonus!
With realistic goals established, now all I need to do is work toward them in a reasonable way that doesn’t destroy me in the process, which means not only giving it 200% while I’m working toward my goal but also taking the time to recharge and enjoy my life along the way. After all, there’s no point in achieving goals if I don’t take the time to appreciate the journey and enjoy quality time with those who help me get there.
Many thanks for reading this far, and enjoy the journey!