A lot of management theory says that goals should be ‘SMART’, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Crap, I say!
Instead, goals should be:
- 10 x bigger
- Ridiculous and excessive
- Scary and exciting all at once
- Deadline driven
- Making your friends shake their heads at what you’re doing.
Why You Should Supersize Your Goals
People say you need to progress sensibly with goals.
UH NO, NO YOU DON’T.
Let’s say I want to become a runner, but I’m a couch potato. If I was my former, sensible accountant self, I’d use the SMART framework to set a goal. My goal might look something like this:
In 12 weeks, I want to run 3km within 45 minutes.
That’s pretty specific – tick. It’s certainly measurable – tick. There are plenty of couch to 3km training programs available – it’s more than achievable for my level of couch-potatoeness – tick. Because it’s achievable, it’s also realistic – tick. I’ve put a sensible time frame around that – tick.
But is that goal really going to get me out of bed every day? Does it make me wake up every morning, excited about moving towards it? No, it doesn’t.
And that’s partly because I don’t have a strong enough ‘why’ for the goal. My ‘why’ is a weak and lame declaration: ‘I want to get fitter.’
It’s just not that exciting.
A Ridiculous Goal Will Motivate You
When I decided to ride a unicycle around the world, that was my goal. I could have started with a baby step of: ‘I want to ride a unicycle 30 meters’. But that kind of goal wasn’t going to get me fired up. That wasn’t going to make me petrified. It certainly wasn’t going to get me leaping off the couch into action. Frankly, it’s boring. And who even cares about that goal? No one!
Sure, learning new skills are fun, but that’s all that goal would have been… learning a new skill.
Instead, I decided to go with the hugely ridiculous goal of unicycling the world, even though I couldn’t actually ride one.
To really get me to commit to that goal, I got my first tattoo – at age 48 – with the leave date for that trip. As soon as the ink dried on my tattoo, with a looming date permanently etched on my skin, I started to practice more deliberately, and got insanely good at it. (Actually, I didn’t get insanely good – I just got a little bit better, but better enough to ride my unicycle in two entire countries).
When I first told people I was going to unicycle around the world, they didn’t believe me. At first, I didn’t actually believe myself either. But after having such a permanent commitment to that goal, there was no way that I couldn’t not achieve it! No regrets! I then went on to ride the length of two countries and even achieved a world first (unicycling in North Korea).
The person I grew into because of that huge, ridiculous goal was way more than I could have ever imagined. If I’d had left that goal to ‘learning how to unicycle 30 meters’, I would probably still be my old accountant self.
Go Big Or Go Home
“But what if I fail? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” — Erin Hanson
Here’s a secret: it’s not the achievement of the goal where the real magic happens. The magic is what happens on the way to trying to do big things.
It doesn’t matter if you achieve those goals or not. You’ll have an amazing journey, and story, and life along the way. All kinds of interesting, fun, scary, exciting things will happen. And all because you weren’t sensible, you weren’t reasonable, and you picked something ridiculous and excessive.
10x is Easier Than 2x Something
According to Dr. Benjamin Hardy, 10x something is much easier to do than 2x. That’s because there are fewer paths to a bigger goal.
When you ramp a goal up into something ridiculously big, so big that you’re scared and excited (as in ‘WTF did I just sign up for’), that’s a sign that your goal is big enough. Trying to meet a ‘sensible’ goal isn’t going to change you. It isn’t going to give you an amazing life experience. It isn’t going to excite you or motivate you when you’re having a tough day. Nor will it help you grow into your future self.
Most people could easily achieve the couch to 3km goal if they wanted to. But ask them to sign up for an Ultra Marathon and then see what happens. “WOAH! I can’t do that! There’s no way I can go from couch potato to Ultra Marathoner. That’s just stupid.”
But is it, really?
Think about who you need to become to be the person who could run an Ultra Marathon.
Fewer Options Means Bigger Goals
There are lots of different ways you could achieve a couch to 3km goal. You could probably achieve that goal as the very same person you are now. But there’s only one way to participate in an Ultra Marathon; train like crazy, get a coach, and get super committed. You’d have to change a lot about yourself to be someone who could even get to the start of an Ultra Marathon. Bingo, that’s the magic. You become your future self. Oh, and you’ll smash that little couch to 3km goal along the way.
Imagine telling people how you went from being a couch potato to participating in an Ultra Marathon! How inspiring for friends and family to watch you transition. Even if you didn’t finish the race, you had a bloody good go along the way. People will cheer for you, support you and be proud that you even considered trying something as ridiculous as that. You know what? You might even succeed. Imagine that for a minute. How proud would you feel about yourself? How amazing would it feel to stumble over that finish line in probably the toughest challenge you’ve ever participated in, in your life. Who are you now?
Now imagine you went from couch to 3km. OK. Yay huh. You’re still the same person. You’re just the same person who can now run 3km.
See what I mean? Reflect on how both of those goals make you feel.
If you’re trying to pick something that will inspire and motivate you, pick the stupendously ridiculous big thing. Be petrified. Be excited. Have a bloody good go and see how that turns out.
If you already have an existing goal, think about how you can 10x it. It will reduce your options, strategies, and pathways to achieving that goal. But that’s the whole point. You’ll have a super-clear pathway to achieving the big thing, rather than a hundred different ways you could achieve the tiny thing.
Just for once, try something big and scary. Be ridiculous. Send that SMART framework back where it belongs — with all the accountants and their sensible approaches to life!