Extreme Goal Setting:  Part 1 - Failure is Not an OptionI had lunch with a friend on Friday and the topic of goal setting came up. He asked me what I would do if I didn’t reach a particular personal goal that I have. I told him that my plan was to reach it — failure was not an option in this case. I essentially don’t have a Plan B for this one because it’s so important for me to reach it.

We then talked a bit more about what I was doing and how in the past I’ve put myself in positions where I absolutely needed to reach my goal because I cut off all other alternatives. I like to call this Extreme Goal Setting because it brings goal setting to new level. It’s not for the timid and not for weak goals — forget about describing goals as “it would be nice to have” or “I’d like to have.” Goals that you use this technique on must be described as “absolutely must have.”

When Extreme Goal Setting is Appropriate:

People toss around goals all the time and most of them end up as dreams and wishes. When you start to take something lightly, you dilute its meaning and importance to you. So if you’re always setting goals to make millions of dollars, get in shape, find that perfect mate, etc… and you don’t put any effort into reaching those goals, you’ll have a negative perception about goal setting. You may even decide to give up instead of risking another failure.

If you have this type of attitude towards goal setting, then you might not be ready for Extreme Goal Setting. Extreme Goal Setting is in some ways like walking a tightrope without a net. You’ve practiced the skills needed to walk across the rope and you know that you have no choice but to cross the rope without falling. For some people, the safety net can act as a crutch — the work less hard because they know there’s no real risk in failing. If you find that you’re one of those people that haven’t reached your goals because of the safety net and are frustrated because of it, this may be your only way out.

You are the best judge of your commitment, situation and abilities so ultimately, you have to make the decision as to whether or not you want to work without the safety net. If you’re ever going to have that big breakthrough, you eventually have to draw that line in the sand that once you’ve crossed, there’s no turning back. If you’re not ready to do that right now, then work your way up to that level at a pace that you’re comfortable with.

Choosing a Goal:

Your first step in Extreme Goal Setting is to choose a goal. This is a bit more difficult than it seems because your goal needs to meet the following criteria:

  • It must be a goal you are passionate about and committed to. If achieving it doesn’t excite you, then choose another goal.
  • You must be willing to put in the necessary effort to achieve it. If you’re only going to take a half-hearted approach, then don’t bother.
  • It must have a clear and measurable outcome. “Getting in shape,” “becoming financially independent” and “making a career change” all sound great but are weak goals. Instead, try “weighing 180 lbs. with less than 10% body fat,” “having one million dollars in my portfolio” and “getting out of the corporate rat race and working as a dance instructor at a hotel in the Caribbean.”
  • It must have a deadline. And by deadline, I mean a day that you’ll complete it on. “A few years,” “next year” and “before I retire” are not precise enough. You need an exact date such as “midnight, December 31st, Eastern Standard Time.” Yes, you need to be that exact because it tells your subconscious that you’re serious.
  • It’s very clear to you why you absolutely must achieve this goal. Perhaps being out of shape means that you won’t feel comfortable going on a beach vacation with your friends. Maybe not getting out of your high-stress work environment can result in serious medical complications. Whatever the reason, it has to be one where failure is serious enough in your mind that you’ll avoid it at all costs.

So in order for this to be effective, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve chosen a goal that meets all criteria. If you goal doesn’t, then you may need to dig deeper by asking yourself probing questions. On one side you might find that the goal isn’t as important as you originally thought. On the other side, you might realize how important it is to reach that goal, and that alone might motivate you.

In the next part of this series, I’ll talk about the safety net and how it affects your goals.

Extreme Goal Setting: Part 1 – Failure is Not an Option
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