The #1 reason to set 'unrealistic' goals (and it’s not achieving the goal)

There are certain “keystone” accomplishments that open-up unforeseen and unanticipated doors.

These accomplishments are things you do one time that continue to yield opportunities, relationships, collaborations, and ongoing growth. Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, calls these “strategic byproducts” or “unanticipated side-effects.”

Most of these accomplishments require that you take a leadership role and actually create something.

You can’t be passive. You must be innovative, creative, and generous. You’ve got to work a few years like few people will so you can spend the rest of your life like few people can.

One of my mentors, Richie Norton, told me that having a “bestselling” book was one of those achievements. “I’m still making money and getting opportunities from the book I wrote over 5 years ago!” Riche told me. Something in his words sunk-in.

I already wanted to be an author — but I underestimated all of the things that becoming a bestselling and traditionally published author would do for me.

I also unanticipated everything I’d need to do and become in order to write at the level I wanted to.

If you want to do something at the absolute highest level, you need to become a polymath — which means you’ve mastered multiple things, not just one.

You’ve got to:

  • Learn how to set and quickly achieve goals
  • Know what to focus on FIRST in order to get confidence and momentum (confidence is a byproduct of winning, even making small wins)… so start winning first thing in the morning by doing stuff like making your bed, writing in your journal, going for a walk or a workout, listening/reading to powerful books/podcasts/music, and producing a meaningful result in the first 90–120 minutes of your day
  • Get organized
  • Master your time and manage your energy (you’ve got to know WHEN and WHAT to focus on) … mornings are generally best for strategic and creative work
  • Discern what really matters and what doesn’t
  • Develop mentorships and maximize those mentorships, which means you 1) grow THEIR business, 2) unravel your limited subconscious patterns through transformational learning experiences, 3) quickly learn from them to succeed at their level and beyond, 4) and continue to sing their praises for the rest of your life (as Michael Fishman has said, “Self-made is an illusion. There are many people who played divine roles in you having the life that you have today. Be sure to let them know how grateful you are.”)
  • “Brute-force” learn a subject (and multiple other subjects), which means you 1) quickly gather the most important information, 2) test that information, 3) reframe your perspective because of that information, and 4) produce new results because of that information

A new definition of ‘learning’

“You didn’t learn something if you can’t produce a new outcome. That’s all learning is — the ability to produce an outcome.” — Dan Sullivan

Can you produce the result you want?

What must you learn and become to produce the result you want?

Learning requires making a permanent improvement to your perspective and behavior.

Learning means you see, feel, and live different. It means you can consistently produce better outcomes than you previously could.

You become a NEW and UPGRADED version of yourself. And you should do this over, and over, and over. Personality isn’t intended to be a fixed and unalterable “trait.” Rather, your personality is a “state” that continuously changes, adapts, and evolves.

Identity is fluid and highly flexible if you’re willing to learn new things. The problem for most people is that they stop ACTIVELY learning new things. Sometime in their late 20’s or early 30’s, they stop pushing themselves into situations that force them to purge-out limiting and suppressed subconscious patterns.

Emotions get stuck at the subconscious level. Suppressed emotions “freeze” your personality and keep you living in the past, unable to process and seek new experiences that TRANSFORM you.

Just as emotions are what keep you stuck, emotions are also what pull the suppressed patterns up to the surface so you can create new patterns. In order to get to the next level, you need to have EMOTIONAL and transformational experiences. Breaking-down and crying is one thing. But more, I’m talking about doing stuff that you consider “outside of your comfort zone” — outside of what you’ve defined yourself as. As Joe Polish has said, “In order to have a breakthrough you have to break something. Get out of your comfort zone!

You’re not an introvert or an extrovert. Those are labels and boxes you’ve put around your behaviors, patterns, and beliefs.

You can learn (and unlearn) all of those things. You can produce new results. You can create a new identity, new worldview, and new ability to operate in the world with people.

What happened when I tried (and failed) to write a New York Times bestseller

As I said earlier, I decided I wanted to write a bestselling book. In order to get a traditional book deal, I learned that I needed to “build an online platform.” That concept was entirely foreign to me just a few years ago.

Can’t I just write a book?” I thought to myself.

Of course not. If it was that easy, everyone would do hard stuff.

It’s not the activity itself. It’s all of the stuff you need to do (and master) to even GET IN THE GAME that will test and prove you.

You qualify yourself by putting yourself in the role, and acting into that role. Your behavior shapes your identity. You can become who you intend to be if you begin living that way, today. Not tomorrow.

In order to become a “successful” author, here’s just a small handful of things I’ve had to learn in the past 3 years:

  • Build a website
  • Write articles online
  • Get those articles viewed by millions of people
  • Turn readers into email subscribers
  • Maximize every online impression I got
  • Reach out to my favorite writers and find-out how I could help them achieve their goals
  • Make money with my art
  • Sell and launch products
  • Invest money into myself and my education
  • Speak more powerfully
  • Fail a lot
  • Forget about what other people think about me
  • Redefine who I am and what I do (over and over)
  • Use my time well
  • Get into flow regularly
  • Learn faster
  • Innovate and be creative
  • Hire and train full-time employees
  • Make large sums of money and invest nearly all of it back into further education, mentoring, experiences, technology, consultants, flights, hotels, etc. etc. etc.

Put simply, my path to becoming an “author” took me down a rabbit-hole of having to master a million other things. If you told me 3 years ago when I was first starting this journey that I’d need to hire and train employees, I wouldn’t have believed you.

If you’re seeking TRANSFORMATION, not just achievements, you’ll be willing to become whatever your path requires you to become.

Do it.

Once it came time to launch my book, I didn’t end-up hitting my original goal of becoming a New York Times bestseller. Although I didn’t hit that goal, what I learned trying to hit that goal was worth infinitely more.

When you learn something — truly learn it — you OWN it. It’s part of you. If you learn how to do a lay-up in basketball, you can do it again and again. You can replicate the result.

If you learn how to make a million dollars, you can do it again. And again. And again.

This is why you set unrealistic and ridiculous goals, because the path to those goals will change you. Hence, Jim Rohn said, “Become a millionaire not for the million dollars, but for what it will make of you to achieve it.

What you learn and become is far more important than your previous accomplishments. In fact, if you over-attach yourself to those accomplishments, you’ll get stuck in a role and identity.

What you learn and become is far more important than the accomplishment itself.

What you learn is how to produce certain results. You learn how to operate in the world differently.

You learn how to learn, and deal with uncomfortable emotions. You also learn how to regulate those emotions, because every step you ascend into your personal development will bring-up all sorts of suppressed pain and trauma.

Every step you take up, you’ll have to redefine yourself and the world in a better and more empowering way.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Are you learning?

Are you transforming?

Are you able to produce new and better results?

What accomplishment would PUSH YOU TO GROW and would also open tons of doors?

Your goal becomes the vehicle for learning a ton, developing skills, and creating life-changing relationships.

Two types of goals

“Crave the result so intensely that the work is irrelevant.” — Tim Grover

In psychology, there are two types of goals — achievement and mastery.

  • Achievement goals are all about getting a certain outcome. They are extrinsically motivated.
  • Mastery goals are all about what you learn and become. They are intrinsically motivated.

Both are incredibly important. Seeking certain outcomes WHILE seeking mastery is totally possible.

Actually, being fully fixated on either the extrinsic OR the intrinsic can get you stuck.

If you’re purely Achievement-oriented, then you’ll never be happy, no matter what you accomplish. You’ll fail to realize that the journey truly is the destination.

If you’re purely Mastery-oriented, you likely won’t push yourself as hard as you could. A better approach is pushing yourself to the limits trying to hit a certain milestone. If you don’t hit it this time, re-evaluate and try again. Just cause you didn’t hit it this time doesn’t mean you won’t. However, don’t forget about all that you’re learning and becoming along the way.

If you leverage BOTH intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, it’s like double-dipping. You get the best of both worlds.

You can master both by:

  • Being clear on WHY you’re pursuing what you’re pursuing
  • Expect everything and attach to nothing — expect the best things to happen, have faith and hope, and yet don’t over-attach to any specific outcome whether good or bad
  • Re-adjust your goals when you get new information
  • Achieve your goals regularly and quickly
  • Never stop learning
  • Never stop honing your motivation and WHY — it really is about other people — as Viktor Frankl said, “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” Similarly, Christ said, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
  • Take plenty of time, regularly, to connect with yourself and your WHY
  • Only develop TRANSFORMATION-based, not TRANSACTION-based relationships

What “unrealistic” goal are you pursuing?

“The greatest dreams are always unrealistic.” — Will Smith

Are you pursuing something completely unrealistic?

If not, you’re missing-out huge. You’re missing-out on BECOMING something totally different and better.

You’re missing out on several emotional breakthroughs. You’re missing out on LEARNING and transforming both yourself and others.

Set huge goals. Pursue them with insane persistence. Learn everything you MUST in order to achieve them.

The learning and BECOMING is the most important part. Learning means you’ve expanded how you see and operate in the world. It means you can consistently produce better outcomes.


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This article was originally published on Medium.