"Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success." -- David Joseph Schwartz
It's easy to worry that setting overly ambitious goals will be harmful for your success in the long run -- you put yourself in danger of working toward something that may never be achieved. Frustration, lower morale, seemingly never-ending failure -- these must all be results of setting huge goals, right?
Actually, these negative results can occur no matter the size of the goal. But, it turns out, you are likely to pick up some powerful benefits by setting goals so long as they are largely ambitious and seemingly impractical. Here's how to tell if your goals aren't unreasonable enough:
1. Your thinking is too fixed.
If you commit to an outcome you are unsure how to attain, you are forced to become resourceful, creative, and to think differently. However, if you have difficulty imagining a better -- or even different -- reality than the one you already have, then your worldview may be fixed, and your idea of what you can achieve may be fixed, too. Open up to the idea of accomplishment and see for yourself what is possible.
2. You don't feel pushed to act.
Leaders who are committed to ambitious goals are not leaders who feel consistently held back. If you don't feel emboldened to do something, rarely burn the midnight oil to work, or feel as if you're wasting your days away, you may need to set your sights higher. As Pablo Picasso once said, "Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success."
3. Your expectations are too low.
A study by Harvard professor Robert Rosenthal found that students labeled as "bloomers" (students predicted to blossom into high-achieving students) were given more time for answering questions, more feedback, and more encouragement from teachers. In other words, when a teacher treats a student as if destined to become brilliant (even if the student was actually average to begin with), the student would actually become smarter and score higher on tests than their peers.
The lesson? The support of others can help propel you towards success, but ultimately you are not destined to be mediocre unless that is what you expect from yourself.
Change your thinking, do the work, and expect more. And, if you feel as if your goals cannot be reached, remember these wise words from Confucius: "Don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps."