Is It Bad to Set Really High Goals?

You’ve heard about the placebo effect, yeah? When people are given pills that do nothing yet they miraculously start to feel better?

The key part of the placebo effect is that the people taking them don’t know the pills do nothing. The placebo effect is about believing that they’re receiving the medicine they need.

Despite the fact that they were given nothing, it’s possible that they will get better. They call that the placebo effect.

It’s not just that they “feel” better or that they are somehow deluding themselves. The thing with the placebo effect is that people can actually get better. They receive healing from somewhere.

It makes you wonder.

I could go on and on about the placebo effect. I heard about a study where a trial group of people needing knee surgery were given fake surgery — they put them under and made an incision and closed it back up. All just to help the person believe that the surgery they had received was real. But they didn’t do anything to their ACL or whatever.

And a lot of these people got better. From fake surgery. I think the improvement among the placebo group was roughly equivalent to those who actually got the real knee surgery.

It makes you wonder.

I like how placebo studies can shows that there is more to the equation than meets the eye. And that there is an amazing X factor when it comes to self-healing or otherwise receiving healing.

The X factor of building something up in your mind, then doing it

When you set the intention to do something at a given time, what you are really doing is making space for that thing to happen.

When I set the intention to do my first ever nonstop 24 hour writing marathon, I went in without any plan but with a big expectation that something would happen. The result was that it changed my life. The experience of it was remarkably transformative. It showed me what I was capable of, and it introduced me to the imaginative realm with such a sense of stability I had never known was possible.

I was basically able to enter this whole other domain and navigate thoughts with amazing stability. My sense of the present moment widened to such an extent that I could easily recall scenes, images and phrases that I had written eight hours before. Hours worth of written material all remained accessible to me. I had never experienced that kind of stability and depth of attention span before.

Building something up in your mind - an event, a meeting, a course, an appointment - creates an opportunity for something profound to emerge. Click To Tweet

I had a similarly profound experience when I planned my next writing marathon, a transformative goal writing marathon. I built it up and planned it to be something that would transform my life. For a couple of months I looked forward to writing all day long on my life vision and goals, and when the time came I really showed up for it. It felt like I had built it up like a performance, like a light was shining on my endeavors. More of me showed up to the activity. I was able to draw from my depths.

The risks of having too high of expectations

How is what I am suggesting different from having overly high expectations or building something up too much?

The difference is whether you’re being open or rigid.

When you’re open you invite hidden possibilities. You’re in your bigness. You’re feeling your strength.

When you’re rigid you cling to a specific outcome and push away anything else. A clingy attitude stems from a desire for safety so that life unfolds according to our preconceived notions. Anything that doesn’t fit the plan is unwelcome.

The ideal is to set your aim high and yet remain open. When you set your aim low you don’t invite much. Setting your aim high frames your goal with a sense of importance, significance, and care.

The most magical approach I have taken with respect to setting my ambitions has been to treat the space around it as sacred. Something sacred exists in the realm of revelation and opening and is safe from the rest of the world.

Openness brings the unexpected

What we think we need is not always what we deeply need. When we get something different, it can come as a shock, particularly if we have rigidly been attached to the expected outcome. We should be big enough in our perception to allow for different outcomes to arise.

Don’t just do the writing marathon. Don’t just do a morning freewrite. Show up to your agreement with a sense of aliveness and engagement. With courage.

Honoring a decision or an appointment just because it’s there in your calendar is empty and hollow and it’s likely to bring flat results. Flat results may be better than nothing, but we can do so much better.

If your heart isn’t in it, ask yourself truly whether you want to keep doing it. What needs to change? How can you get out of your own way?

Do you wake up grumpy, and you only do a morning freewrite because you are supposed to? Be open to feeling however you feel, and be open to your feelings and your circumstances changing. Just be sure that within your inner house, you leave the light on for your morning freewrite. Some part of you really wants to do it, and that’s all you need. For self reflection, feel into that part of yourself. What else does it want out of life? How does it try to get it?

When you only allow into your life the things that you really love and that you really know serve you, it’s easier to trust that your appointments are ones you actually can muster the courage courage to show up for.

No more ordinary appointments!

The last thing I want is for people to spend two hours writing flat prose that means nothing to them. The writing marathon is profound but it depends on your level of engagement.

There will always be parts of us that are interested and parts that are at cross purposes. The skill required is to entice the other parts of us with a sense of enjoyment. With freewriting, it’s always possible to find joy in the process. You can do anything you want when you freewrite. If you want to rebel from your super-important professional project, you can totally do that. Write whatever you want, however you want, for however long you feel like it.

When you feel in touch with your own freedom, you can tap from its power. You can accomplish whatever you want. Other people can say it’s impossible. Parts of yourself can believe that it is impossible. What can happen when you listen to the part of you that doesn’t give a shit for what other people consider impossible? What does that part of you know that you could bring more into the open? What will that do for your level of engagement?

You can’t fake engagement. It’s just you and the page. There is little sense trying to show up in any way other than as you really are. When you are not inspired but you have made the agreement and some part of you chooses to honor it, something really interesting can happen. It’s vital that you remain open to the possibility that inspiration can reach you no matter where you are. Just because you are not feeling inspired doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

The more you allow that possibility, the more it can happen.

When you set an appointment to freewrite, understand that it’s not an ordinary appointment. Take the opportunity to put as much intentionality into it as you can. What’s the most that you can get out of it? Profound shifts can take place during a two hour freewrite. What would you like to happen?

Set the intention and then be open to whatever comes. Engage fully and courageously and with the profound wisdom that only joy knows how to wield.

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