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How NOT to set goals

Brendon Burchard 12-17

Too many people have lost all grand ambitions for change and greatness by heeding the advice of the “realists” and the standard bearers of the status quo, who tell us to set ‘smart’ goals.

But smart goals almost always end up being small goals, utterly predictable and absurdly measured small plans for small people who need certainty and safety to such a degree they cannot wade into the wide territory of the unknown where real vision and progress lives.

Few great innovations or human leaps forward came from a predictable path or an idea that was immediately ‘attainable’ or ‘realistic.’ It’s rare that these types of goals ever spark the imagination or fire the will of the human spirit. We are now a culture flooded with tasks and spreadsheets and work plans that inspire no heart, no drive, no courage.

I say, you want to change? Then do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to settle on a vision or a calling or a change in any arena that is uninspiring. If you’re going to have clarity on something in your life, make it something so big and bright and meaningful that you will get out of bed and chase it until you grasp it or die. Bring forth a desire that is unbounded and even scares you a little bit, that will demand all the best that is in you, that takes you out of your own orbit and into the stratosphere of the remarkable. That kind of desire changes your life, and it changes the world.

Perhaps we should remember that planning comes after visioning, and we can unleash ourselves to experiment with “d.u.m.b.” goals:

Dream-driven.  Let’s have vision for our lives, not just focus on our tasks. Let’s dream big again and get our heads out of our to-dos. Are the goals we’re setting aligned with our bigger vision for our lives and our contributions?

Uplifting. How is it that smart goals have no prerequisite for positivity? Shouldn’t our goals inspire something in us more than a need to meet a deadline? Let’s set inspiring, positive, joyous, uplifting goals for ourselves.

Method-friendly. If we’re going to take aim at something, let it be something  that is friendly to developing practices of mastery towards. Martial arts, yoga, and common sports all have methods, practices, forms, and habits that are built around a broader goal and help people move to mastery. A good goal allows us to create methods and practices that help us move toward them. If we can’t build a practice around it, then we don’t have a goal, we have a task.

Behavior triggered. When we set a goal, we should create a behavioral trigger that reminds us to chase it. For example, if we want to be a better parent, then we can set a behavior trigger to accomplish it, like a rule, so that when we pull into the driveway at night our first thought is to take a moment to center ourselves and finding a calm and loving space before entering the house. Or, if our goal is to become healthy, the trigger can be that every time we drop the kids off, we drive to the health food store. A trigger means: if I am already doing A, then I’m going to add behavior B right after in order to habitually move toward my goal; it’s a reminder and an activator.

Doesn’t this all sound a whole lot more inspiring and helpful than “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound”?  

Now go out there and dream and do big things my friend,



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