What common mistakes do people make when they set goals? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

The biggest mistake I see when people decide on a dream is they don't think big enough. They set small goals with wimpy-ass timelines.

Don't do that! Don't have weak timelines.

Instead, take stock in 20-year plans.

Now, I may just have knocked the wind out of some of you reading this, because 20 years may feel like a lot.

Why do I think in 20-year timelines?

Because, it takes time to be the best. It takes decades, not months.

I have lived and steered my life with 20-year plans. This is the timeline for success.

With my first declaration or life dream I wanted to be the best safety in the world. I figured, when I was nine, that it would take me 15 years until I graduated and was eligible for the draft, and then 5 years to win the Super Bowl. So 20 years total.

In my new book, There's No Plan B for Your A-Game, I talk about the other 20-year plans I have created.

Now, what if you're thinking, I don't have 20 years to do this. Are you telling me you're not going to be around in 20 years?

Well, those 20 years are coming for all of us. I'm going to be nearly 80 years old in 20 years. You can bet I'm going to spend those 20 years getting to be the best at something instead of phoning it in and whining.

When you give yourself 20 years, you can achieve anything. It's not about talent, it's about putting in the practice. If you run the miles, you'll get to your finish line.

One of my favorite authors, Anders Ericsson, said, there are no shortcuts and there are no prodigies. Ericsson is the Godfather of what it takes to be world-class.

There are no shortcuts. There are no prodigies. So don't believe what the media tells you about this person's a natural or that person has the right genes. There is no such thing.

Unfortunately, we live in a world of hacks and shortcuts and you're going to be tempted to shorten your timelines and get a quick fix.

Don't do that. That robs your power.

That long-term commitment is what gives you the power.

By the way, sometimes it doesn't take 20 years. It usually takes 12 to 15 to 18. The idea is I want you to think: I'm not going anywhere because I'm a lifer.

Let's stop for a minute; I want to ask you a question:

Who has the most power in prison?

  • The warden?
  • The guards?
  • The prisoners that are counting the days until they get released?

None of them. It's The Lifers who have all the power in prison.

Why? Because they know they're spending their last day in a prison cell. They are not getting out early. They have nothing to lose. So that means when the prison door slams behind him, they hear it lock.

I want you to treat your 20-year goal the same way. I want you to think of it as a life sentence. One you dedicate your life to achieving.

Your commitment to your goal, to becoming The Best is now a life sentence. Start to decorate your cell knowing you're never going to leave.

Think of your marriage or a would be marriage that you want to have. The most successful marriages treat them, the marriage, like lifers, there's no option B, you're not getting out of that marriage. You're in that marriage for life. So guess what you do? You start to put down stakes. You start to build your own power because you know you're not going anywhere.

Think about your ultimate vision, your declaration. Now think in terms of it as your 20-year plan.

Then I want you to ask yourself:

How will you make smaller commitments to stay on track with your long-term dream? How will you take these bite-size pieces of time and use them to keep you on track, to keep you accountable to your own dreams?

One last thought on this: It won't take you 20 years to be successful. You'll have success along the way, you'll make money, you'll change your life. But you need that long time span to become the best, to fulfill your declaration.

And it doesn't need to be something new. It could be something you're currently doing--let's say you want to be the best parent, or the best accountant, or the best spouse, or something else you're doing now but you want to be the best. Just name your intention and then get after it.

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Published on: Sep 19, 2019