Abolish All Trace of Toxic Small-Mindedness

Set your goals high

Thinking too small, we miss the juiciest opportunities and fail to engage our creative fire. Click To Tweet

What poses as prudence or basic fundamental wisdom or practicality is often the precise thing that keeps us from getting what we want.

People say not to set your goals too high or to “underpromise and overdeliver.” “Reach for the stars and hit the moon” or however that one goes.

But what about actually hitting the damn target?

Setting small goals doesn’t work.

Most people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions. People can’t easily adopt new habits.

Sometimes it’s because the goals aren’t clear enough.

Sometimes it’s because the goals aren’t sincere.

I think it’s because the goals aren’t really ambitious enough.

Knowing that our efforts towards new endeavors often fail to give us immediate gratification, it’s only when we set really high goals, ones that touch something essential in us, that we actually feel inspired to do what it takes to make those goals happen.

My story

When I started grad school (Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing), a beautiful and naive part of me believed that my hardest challenges were over. When I felt that I was on my path to becoming a poet, I had permission to be big.

So then as I was finishing school, I decided I was going to do something big. I wanted to teach, but I was disillusioned with academia. I loved academia, but it was neither as straightforward nor as lucrative as I had hoped.

I wanted to walk right up into the sky and make my dreams a reality.

I spent time in Europe, mainly Tuscany, and I burned with a desire and a belief that I could get what I want. I gave myself an empowering schedule and a tremendously inspiring environment.

I woke early and went for a run through the forest to an abandoned fortress. I did affirmations as I ran. When I returned and had a light breakfast, I wrote until lunch. Mainly what I wrote — I did this for weeks — was my vision for the future. I wrote about what I loved, what I felt to be true, and what I wanted to manifest in my life.

I read self-development books like Think and Grow Rich alongside classics like Moby Dick. I did not have certainty about my future, but I was so charged and inspired, there was not an ounce of fear in my being.

Some people supported me. They saw and felt how alive I was, and they just gave me open-ended support. Maybe some of them even thought I was a fool, a narcissist, a phony — too much too soon. Who does he think he is? He’s not some self-made man — he’s 26 saddled with college loan debt. He has some literary magazine publications but not a book to his name. How can he make the leap to teaching others?

I wanted to keep living the way I was living, and I wanted other people to give themselves permission to do the same thing. I was going to lead Writing Immersion retreats, I decided.

Even my life coach at the time suggested that I start smaller and work up. Start by doing local workshops, build a following.

How was I supposed to convince complete strangers to travel halfway across the world when nobody knew who I was?

Because I had been studying Tony Robbins at the time, I decided that “massive action” was the ticket. And it was. It worked. It kept working. The retreats were a resounding success.

It wasn’t always easy to fill them — massive action continued to be necessary. The part of me that wanted to sit back and let the whole business grow itself on autopilot wasn’t happy.

Another part of me wasn’t happy that I had to charge money for the events. I wanted to find a way to remove money from the picture.

I haven’t figured that part out yet. The general wisdom seems to be that when you align your unique gift with what the world finds valuable, good things follow.

But what I always sensed and what I do know for sure is that I never would have been happy if I had set realistic goals. I wouldn’t have been motivated by them. I didn’t want to do small workshops. I wanted to make a real impact. Yes, it took a hundred times more work. But anything less would have been a lie.

Massive action doesn’t mean making it hard for yourself. It doesn’t mean taking on something stupid, something you know is impossible. It is totally possible to be strategic and make massive action something that fuels you even though it is also exhausting.

  • Give yourself rewards for following through.
  • Feel through the strain and into the joy beneath it all.
  • Recognize that the fact that it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s too much for you.

Yes, there are obstacles to us getting what we want. But only when people honor their big goals, the true ones, will they ultimately be able to follow through.

We do hard things all the time. The difference is that these things are familiar.

We’re like beasts of burden pulling someone else’s heavy loads. We have all this untapped potential.

Small goals aren’t going to rouse us.

Only scary-big goals will.

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