I was talking to a friend of mine who I greatly respect. He’s an Olympic caliber athlete, a successful businessman, and one of the most focused and driven people I know.
His philosophy on goal setting is to set lofty and absolutely unrealistic goals. Therefore, he claims, you’ll work that much harder, reach that much higher, and accomplish that much more. “Reach for the stars and you’ll touch the sky,” he says.
His life is a powerful testament to the affect of setting big goals. But yet, I have to disagree with him. I believe that goals need to be realistic.
Realistic Goals Lead to Real Effort
In most cases, unrealistic goals don’t foster harder work – they lead to giving up. If an overweight person sets the goal to lose 40 pounds in a week, that may inspire them to work harder for a few minutes. But when reality sets in, they realize their goal is unattainable. The goal no longer serves the purpose of motivating them towards a desired end. In the back of their mind, they’re thinking that it doesn’t matter if they go to the gym or not: they’re not going to lose 40 pounds in just a few days.
But if a goal is realistic, like losing 40 pounds in 8 months, then a person can be inspired to achieve it. They know that the goal isn’t easy, but that it is possible – so they will hold themselves accountable. They’ll see a realistic end in sight.
Realistic Goals Lead to Real Psychological Benefits
Another important benefit is the emotional and psychological high you get when you achieve a goal. The thrill of achieving a weight loss goal will spur you on to work harder on that next physical health goal you have – or that career goal or that ministry goal or that relationship goal.
Setting unrealistic goals only sets yourself up to be in a continuous state of disappointment.
Ultimately, you can’t fool yourself. You can’t have one part of your brain set unrealistic goals and hope that another part of your brain believes them enough to work hard at them.
Rather than try to trick or fight this objective part of your brain, use it to your advantage. Set your mind on a realistic goal and a realistic plan of action.
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