When it comes to goal setting, I am pro-unrealistic. Let me explain:
Case Study 1
Realistic Goal: write a blog post once a week.
Okay, so I could do this. I could choose maybe Friday or a weekend day. I work pretty much full-time as a teacher, plus a part-time writing gig on top of that. But I could manage once a week posting.
Unrealistic Goal: write a blog post every day.
My schedule is tight. With running, with teaching, with planning/grading/paid writing, being a human. I don’t have much time to spare each day.
Life with the realistic goal:
So I make Friday, say, my blog posting day. What will happen? Friday becomes an “obligation” day…and since I only post once per week, there is pressure to make this post really good. So I go through an entire week of teaching, and by Friday I am drained.
But I’m supposed to post.
It’s sub-par, I’m too tired to make it good, I don’t progress as a writer.
Life with unrealistic goal:
The posts have less pressured attached to them, because I post every day. They are shorter, more concentrated, more focused. Easier to stomach for the reader.
I get into “shape” with writing: it becomes a rhythm. It becomes part of the norm. Something I “just do”.
I become a better writer, by pure repetition and consistency. I enjoy writing more, because it’s not the burden it is when it’s just once a week.
Case Study 2
Realistic Goal: run a marathon
Okay, so I’ve never officially run a marathon race. I’ve run many on my own, through trails and roads, but never in a race setting where time matters. This would be a challenge for me, something I’ve never officially done. I could do it, too, I’ve got the miles on my legs and the mental toughness.
Unrealistic Goal: run 100 miles in the mountains after training for only 22 weeks.
Some people train years and years to run 100 miles, upping the race distance gradually (first half-, then full-marathon, 50k, 50-miler, 100k, THEN 100-miler).
The “run your first 100!” plans out there can stretch from 30-52 weeks.
There aren’t many trails in Manhattan that will mirror a mountain race.
Life with realistic goal:
Maybe I’m trained for this. Maybe I’m overtrained. This goal is not that exciting to me, it’s something to “cross off” the list but not something to accomplish. It’s challenging, yes, but it doesn’t…thrill me. It’s something I know I can do.
So I feel proud of myself for finishing the race, but I don’t feel special. Because I know I could do more. And I know that so many have accomplished this already.
Life with unrealistic goal:
The entire training cycle I think to myself: Jos, you are one crazy nutcase. And I respect you for that.
I push myself harder, faster, stronger, more more more because I am frightened by my goal. Intimidated. I respect the goal I made for myself.
I take this seriously. I do the work, I put in the time. I know that I cannot slack for this. I cannot sleep in: I must wake up early. I must run for hours on Saturday, and then turn around and run again on Sunday.
I don’t just cross something off the list, I accomplish something.
I think we’re made of tougher stuff than we believe.
Perhaps it takes setting “unrealistic goals” to realize that our reality shouldn’t be so limited.
Peace and blessings,