Don’t live your life according to chance. Have a BIG goal. BIG goals are Bold, Important, and Gratifying. You need BIG goals to learn as much as you can, to inspire creativity, and to grow into your Excelerated Life™!
This is the story of my friend Roger’s vacation. He had been looking forward to this vacation for weeks because, as he said, he “really, really needed some time off to rest and regroup!” The day finally arrived and Roger hopped in his car and headed out.
He had decided he wanted to be completely spontaneous so he planned to follow the advice of Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” So every time he came to an intersection, Roger flipped a coin to decide which way to turn – left or right.
But after three days, he was hopelessly lost and he had spent the majority of his time in the car. Rather than feeling rested and rejuvenated, he was stiff and sore and stressed out. Unhappy and miserable, he turned the car around and headed for home.
At the end of his vacation, Roger was so stiff he could barely move. He had gained five pounds from too much junk food and too little activity. Instead of feeling rested and alert, he was exhausted, with his brain in a fog. Some vacation! Not exactly what Roger had been looking forward to.
I suspect you easily see Roger’s problem. He started out with no goal, no destination in mind. “If you don’t know where you are going,” said Lewis Carroll, “any road will get you there.” But where it actually gets you is nowhere. As our friend Roger discovered, a vacation and your life will flow much more smoothly if you have a goal, a destination you are moving toward. And what you really want is to have a BIG goal.
River People and Goal People
Earl Nightingale once described two groups of successful human beings – River people and Goal people.
The River people are those men and women who have discovered “a great river of interest into which they throw themselves with exuberance and abandon. They are quite happy to spend their lives working and playing in that river.” [Nightingale]
“The second group of successful people are those who are goal-oriented. These people have not found a particular river, necessarily, and can be quite happy doing a number of things. It’s the goals they set that are important to them, and they’re quite aware that there are many roads that can lead to their goals.” [Nightingale]
Perhaps you know some River people. You may be one yourself. If that’s the case, you are immersed in your life, your work, and you may not have – or need – specific goals to grow and develop.
Most of us, I suspect, are not River people. When that is the case, we must become Goal people if we are to be successful. (Remember Nightingale’s definition: Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or a worthy ideal.) So let’s start by setting BIG goals for ourselves.
What Are BIG Goals?
First off, let’s define what BIG goals are. BIG goals have three components. They are Bold, Important, and Gratifying. Since your Excelerated Life™ is personal, you get to decide what these mean for you and how you intend to create yours. Let’s look at each component more closely.
Bold = a long-term accomplishment that stretches you out of your comfort zone.
This will be different for each of us, depending on where we are along life’s path. A stretch goal for one person might be totally impossible for another yet too easy for someone else.
For example, Jim is a couch potato and wants to start walking regularly. Jeff is a runner and is training for his first marathon. Jerry has been walking daily and now is looking to up his activity by adding HIIT training. Three people with a goal to be more physically fit. But what is bold for one is a step backward for another or such a gigantic leap it is not sustainable.
What is Bold for you?
Important = something that has deep meaning for you and that will make a major difference in your life and in the lives of others.
An Important goal is inherently inspiring and motivating. It excites you and pulls you toward action.
It is meaningful to you and is based on intrinsic rather than extrinsic desires.
An Important goal aligns with your values and your long-term vision. Your BIG goal may be a step toward an even BIGger goal.
What is Important for you?
Gratification is tied directly to the BIG goal you choose. The key is to set BIG goals that resonate with you personally, align with your values, and bring a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction to your life.
These could be goals that represent a significant achievement (writing a book, starting a business), have a long-term impact (losing 100 pounds, quitting smoking), provide a sense of purpose (starting a nonprofit, championing a cause), or help you overcome a major challenge (compete in a triathlon, overcome an addiction).
What is Gratifying for you?
Why Set BIG Goals?
I hope you are already beginning to see the answer to this question. Here are some reasons we need BIG goals.
You need BIG goals to learn as much as you can and to inspire creativity. [Lentz] It’s OK to swing and miss. It’s not OK to stay on the bench. Barry Bonds, who holds the current Major League home run record hit a total of 762 home runs during his career. Bonds also struck out 1539 times. He had over twice as many strikeouts as home runs but that was OK. He still reached a BIG goal.
“There are challenges ahead that will test our capacity to absorb the lessons that are dealt by sport at the highest level. I know that some of those challenges will result in victory and others will end in defeat. But I’m enthusiastic about them all. Regardless of the outcome of any contest, the real winners are those who learn the most.” ~ John Kavanagh, Win or Learn
If you don’t try, you don’t get better. Remember, for your Excelerated Life™, it isn’t win or lose – it’s win or learn. This is the essence of the “growth mindset”. When you develop a growth mindset, you know that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Because while you need brains and talent, these are just the starting point.
If you don’t achieve your BIG goal, step back and analyze what happened. Was it the right goal at the right time? Did you have the right environment, resources, and motivation to reach the goal? [Lentz] Learn what you can and move on. Win. Or learn.
Score Your BIG Goal
Now, think of your BIG goal.
How bold is your goal? Does it let you stay in your comfort zone? Or does thinking about your BIG goal terrify you because it is so far outside your comfort zone? What could you do to stretch your comfort zone but not be too paralyzed to move? Where is the middle ground?
How important is it for you on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 = “meh” and 10 = “I WANT IT NOW!”
If it’s 5 or less, how can you move it to a 7 or 8?
How gratifying is your goal? On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 = you are still unsatisfied and 10 = you are completely fulfilled, where does your goal fall? If it’s a 5 or less, how can you make it a 7 or 8?
What’s Your Motivation?
In his book, The Procrastination Equation, Piers Steel gives us a formula for overcoming procrastination. The Procrastination Equation is P (the likelihood of procrastinating) = (Expectancy X Value)/(Impulsiveness X Delay). The greater the bottom value (Impulsiveness X Delay) and the lower the top value (Expectancy X Value), the more likely you are to procrastinate, in this case on your BIG goal. But flip that around, increase the upper value and decrease the lower value, and your motivation soars. [Steel] In fact, one of my mentors, Brian Johnson, calls this the “motivation equation”!
Let’s break down each component of this equation.
Expectancy: Do you EXPECT to achieve your BIG goal? How confident are you that you can do it? A BIG goal by default means you’ll have to stretch your comfort zone. Here are some ways you can do that.
- Break your BIG goal down into bite-size chunks; as you successfully complete each chunk, your confidence increases.
- Build competence through continuous learning and by trial and error – i.e., “win or learn”.
- Keep a record of your progress.
As you see how far you’ve come, you’ll feel more confident that you’ll make it.
Value: How much do you value your goal OR how much value will achieving your goal bring? Do you really, Really, REALLY want it? You won’t put in the work and effort required to reach your BIG goal unless the desire is there.
Impulsiveness: Impulsiveness measures how distractable you are. If you are easily tempted by immediate rewards, you are apt to go for short-term pleasurable activities at the cost of working on your BIG goal. So how impulsive are you? What triggers your impulsivity?
Reducing impulsiveness takes practice and self-awareness. You must train yourself to make decisions that align with your BIG goals instead of giving in to immediate temptations. Here are a few ideas to try.
- Minimize distractions.
- Practice time management.
- Work from a prioritized task list.
- Practice self-discipline.
Delay: It may be weeks, months, or years before you finally achieve your BIG goal. That can make it difficult to get started. Or, to state another way, easy to put off starting.
What stands in the way of you tackling your BIG goal now? Break your BIG goal down into micro-step goals that you can achieve in a steady stream of daily wins. There’s less reason to delay when you know you are making progress day after day after day.
To build up your motivation to reach your BIG goal, what steps will you take as soon as you can to increase your expectancy of reaching your BIG goal? To increase the value of your BIG goal? How will you reduce your impulsiveness and your tendency to delay?
What’s Your BIG Goal?
Excelerated Goal Setting™, planning and achieving BIG goals, is one practice for creating your Excelerated Life™. Which brings us to the question: What’s your BIG goal? (Don’t have a BIG goal yet? Here would be a good place to start.)
Now, thinking about your BIG goal: How Bold is it? Will striving for your goal stretch you a little but not too far? Think of stretching a rubber band. Stretch it a bit and you feel the tension. Stretch it too much and it breaks. How important for you is reaching your BIG goal? How gratifying is the process of working to achieve it?
Look at your motivation. What can you do to increase your confidence in your ability to reach your goal (your Expectancy)? Is there any way to make achieving your goal more valuable to you? How can you decrease your distractibility and impulsivity? What can you do to take some action on your goal today and every day?
Don’t approach your life the way our friend Roger attempted to vacation. That road leads nowhere. Find a BIG goal that helps you live out your purpose. Don’t live your life according to chance. Decide today to create your own Excelerated Life™!
If you have a goal you are working for, how could you make it a BIG goal?
Share your ideas by leaving a post below.
Excelerated Goal Setting™ — planning and achieving BIG (Bold, Important, Gratifying) goals — is one practice for creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.
Kavanagh, John. Win or Learn: MMA, Conor McGregor, and Me: A Trainer’s Journey. Penguin Books, 2017.
Lentz, Emily Triplett . “Why You Should Set Big Goals (Even If You Might Not Hit Them)” HelpScout. Help Scout, June 10, 2022. Web. September 28, 2023.
Nightingale, Earl. The River or the Goal. Nightingale Conant. Nightingale-Conant Corporation,. Web. January 24, 2021.
Steel, PhD, Piers. The Procrastination Equation: How To Stop Putting Things Off And Start Getting Things Done. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011.