Goals to(o) High

We often get excited about things like political injustice, environment, health, self-improvement... and yet somehow, so many of us fail to achieve even modest progress.

The pattern is well known, regardless of the topic. We will read a book or two, an article, or maybe watch a documentary or online course about our favourite topic and something will click in our brains. We will get really pumped up about it, but then just at the time it is necessary to take action, either very little or nothing happens. All the will, desire and excitement will diminish about the time we are turning that last page of the book we just read.

It’s like our inflated bubble of dreams suddenly burst under the pressure of actual work we have to carry out, in order to get to the object we have set as our goal.
There is nothing wrong with a bubble metaphor, or inflating our dream bubble, the only issue is that at the beginning surface of our bubble is neither starchy nor strong enough to withstand the pressure we are putting on it, which will cause the bubble to deflate or suddenly burst.

Original photo source: "Leafy bubble" by Martin Thomas 

In the best case, the enthusiasm will last through the next day and then everything gets forgotten, as if the “Men in Black” were in the room just few moments ago. It’s very much like a good movie, after which we say to ourselves, “That was just a movie, let’s wake up – it’s time to get back to reality”, forgetting that we are the ones who create our own reality each day.

So, how do we achieve the things we would like to accomplish and avoid our dreams being shattered into a million pieces by our daily reality?
Should we dream smaller dreams? Should we settle for something smaller and more realistic, something that is achievable?
If we want to run a marathon, should we set the goal for just one mile?

No, we should dream even bigger than our goals. If you want to run a marathon, set the goal even farther and dream about the day you will run 50 miles.

Q: That is completely opposite of what we’ve learned to this point, isn’t that going to crush our will even sooner?
Well, there is a difference. We should understand that dreams are exactly that, dreams — an almost unachievable construction, though structured in such a way as to cause us to start obsessing about them. In the back of our brains we know that maybe we will never get there, but if we keep moving forward each passing day, the dream will be closer and, in one moment, we will pass the marathon line that was our actual goal.

Q: So, we have set our goal, what is next?
The important thing is to realise that adventure is not only about the end point, but more importantly it is about the path; how the journey is going to shape us and the way we will take to get there. Now, when we dream dreams grandioso, we should not attempt to make them come true immediately, as that will probably fail because we won’t be up to challenge. If we ever succeed at the beginning, there is a high probability that our dreams were not big enough.

Q: How to get there?
It is said that “every journey begins with the first step.” So, we have to start moving toward the goal we’ve set in our minds. The steps do not need to be huge ones; even baby steps will do the trick.

Original photo source: "Aiguille du Midi, Mont-Blanc" by Cristian Bortes 

It is important to bear in mind that in order to achieve the goal we have envisioned, it is important to maintain a certain level of energy necessary to take those steps and give us a push to continue going in the same direction. The easiest way to achieve this is by dividing one big task into very small pieces. The smaller the pieces - the better; not too small to be insignificant and not too large they will crush us, but just big enough to make us feel comfortable and at the same time a little bit challenged. Each small success will give us back our energy and all of them combined will create a much larger picture, which will tell the story of our struggle and our success.

Each day, we need to do just a little bit more than what we did the previous day.

If we want to run a marathon and we have already set the dream that we will one day run a double marathon, but at this very moment we cannot run even one mile, we will first ask ourselves, “What is the longest distance we can run now? Is it 1000 yards?”

On the first day, we will run only 1000 yards. The next day, we will push ourselves to run just a bit more, just an additional 50 yards. Each following day, another 50 yards more than the previous day. After one year, we will be in very good shape to run a half-marathon and probably even more.

There are many approaches to finishing something within a foreseeable time. One of the most frequently used is to create a time frame within which something has to be finished and then put our best efforts into finishing it on time. This approach can cause stress, making us miserable if we do not meet the deadline.

So, instead of using fixed times and deadlines, another approach would be to set the velocity at which we need to move every day. If we do not meet the velocity we have set, we can always decrease it to something that feels more comfortable. The only thing we have to fulfil is that each day we have to do a bit more than the previous day, regardless of how small that is.

In our stories, we usually portray victors as especially talented people and we tend to see them through the glass of success. We glorify their success and in the process, we tend to overlook and neglect the effort they have invested - the mental and physical toil through which they have gone.

No one wants to watch a movie where a basketball player shoots a thousand times through the hoop each day, every day, for ten years or more. First, it would be a very long movie but more importantly, it would be a very boring movie. We like romantic caffeinated versions where one scene shows him as a young student fooling around with his friends, spending time as any other kid, then a few moments later he is already in the NBA, earning huge amounts of money and fooling around with his new posh friends.

Original illustration source: "The Iceberg Illusion" by sylviaduckworth 

There is one more thing. Your subconscious mind knows everything about you and you will achieve something, only if you believe you can. When you believe you cannot do something, your own subconscious mind will undermine your efforts to fulfil your dreams. This effect is so powerful that even when the opportunity is presented on a silver platter, we are unable to see it; we simple dismiss it as bogus. With this in mind, there is one bigger danger, if we try to do the opposite; we may fall into the trap of scammers, who lure those who are eager to cut corners and search for the schemes that will “fulfil” their dreams overnight. There are not too many shortcuts in life, only paths we choose to follow.

Human beings are capable of achieving remarkable things that are much bigger than they are, but the rule is always the same - you have to put in the effort, in order to achieve something.

That being said, do not be afraid you have set your dreams too high. The best dreams are those that are so big that they are bigger than us. Regardless of how big your dreams are, follow them! Follow them with such passion that even God would say “Wow. That was amazing...!”

So then, what are your dreams?