When It Comes to Setting Goals, Put Things into Perspective

A few days ago, I published a post called Setting Realistic Goals Leads to Success. In summary, we tend to set big hairy audacious goals. When we first set those goals, we get excited and inspired.

After a while, that initial enthusiasm fades out. We realize that we haven’t made much progress toward our ambitious goal.

When we work for an extended period of time but don’t get any rewards in return, we become subject to extinction burst. As a result, we give up.

To avoid the extinction burst, we can apply a few strategies. First, we can set realistic goals that we can attain in a reasonable time. Second, we can reward ourselves periodically.

Nevertheless, realistic goals and periodic rewards miss the inspiration and excitement that the ambitious goals provide. Can’t we have the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls of both? Today’s post is about exactly how to do that.

Putting Goals into Perspective

The idea for today’s post came from a comment by Edward Stanfield to one of my posts. Edward recommends setting two goals at the same time, a big picture goal and a little picture goal.

The big picture goal is the big hairy audacious goal. The little picture goal is the attainable one. For an athlete, the big picture goal is to become a major professional player. The little picture goal is to compete at one level above your current level.

By having two goals at the same time, you have the excitement and inspiration of the big hairy audacious goal, and you have something realistic and attainable you can work toward today.

Needless to say, both goals need to be in alignment. The achievement of the little picture goal must get you closer to the big picture goal.

Connecting the Big and Little Picture Goals

To emphasize the effect of the perspective, you can add more milestones between the big and little picture goals. That way your unconscious mind sees the connection better and has more faith in the accomplishment of your big hairy audacious goal. That’s how you minimize the chance of an extinction burst.

Let’s say your big hairy audacious goal is to write a bestseller and your realistic goal is to publish a blog post per day. How can you bridge the gap between them? Let’s start with the ultimate goal and come back.

  • Write a bestseller.
  • Publish a hardcopy book that sells 1000 copies.
  • Publish an ebook that sells 100 copies.
  • Send an email newsletter every week to maintain a following.
  • Write 500 words per day toward a book.
  • Publish a blog post per day to build an audience.

The first goal is the ultimate goal. It’s exciting and inspiring, but it might take a lifetime to accomplish. It might require years of work without seeing any results. Therefore, it involves the risk of getting discouraged and giving up.

Every goal in the list is easier to accomplish than the one above it. The goals lower in the list are less inspiring, but they serve the goals above them.

There’s a perspective between these goals, from the daily goals to the lifetime goal. The accomplishment of daily goals leads to the lifetime goal.

There’s a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day and also a feeling of progress toward the life goal.

Conclusion

Big hairy audacious goals are inspiring and exciting at the beginning but involve the risk of frustration and extinction burst. Realistic goals are attainable, but they aren’t as motivating as ambitious goals.

The solution to this challenge is to set an ambitious goal and a realistic goal at the same time, and to have several milestone goals between them.

That way, we’ll always have something to work on today, a lifetime goal to be inspired by, and a perspective that helps us cultivate the faith in our lifetime goal.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.