Should You Set Realistic Goals Or Unrealistic Goals?

Should You Set Realistic Goals Or Unrealistic Goals?
Should You Set Realistic Goals Or Unrealistic Goals?

By Anubhav Srivastava ( Register for his Workshop – Build Super Confidence For Super Success!)

Most of us have been taught about how important goal setting is and the fact is that it is. By setting goals, there is a lot we can achieve in life as compared to a person who just wanders through life aimlessly.  As Thomas Carlyle said, a person who does not set any goals in life is like a ship without a rudder. They just drift aimlessly and eventually get wrecked.

Now when it comes to goal setting, the most popular school of thought is to set “realistic” goals. In other words you set a goal that you know you can achieve and work towards it. When you have achieved it, you then set your targets higher.

The rationale behind this school of thought is that if you set your targets too high, you are bound to fail and that will affect your morale and you just might give up everything.

However, then there is the school of thought that says you should set somewhat unrealistic goals, because when you do so, you force yourself to work harder and in the end produce an output that is much bigger than what you would have achieved if you were just setting a goal that you know was achievable.

Traditionally, we have all been taught to set realistic goals because they seem more achievable and the majority of people can accomplish them, but can they really?

Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, my Dad noticed that a lot of people used to come very late to the office. For a  10 A.M. reporting time, they would often arrive at 10:30. My father asked them why they were always late. They said it was because the timings were too early for them and that they had to commute long distances.. So my father allowed that group to come in at 11 am instead of 10 but work one hour longer.

You would expect that all of these late comers would have started coming on time as their problem had been addressed. Far from it! Most of these folks started exceeding even the 11 A.M. reporting time and started come at 11:15!

The problem was never the reporting time. Even though my dad made it more “realistic” for them to show up on time, the truth was that being lazy and late was a habit for them. Even if you allowed them to come in at noon, they would still be late!

Finally my dad figured that if they were always going to be late anyway and if accommodating their requests didn’t make a difference, forcing them to come at an earlier time would do the trick! Guess what, it worked!  My father set the reporting time for these people to be 9:30. All of the late comers started complaining a lot, but guess what, almost all of them start coming in office by 10 A.M. Mission Accomplished!

Most people who set realistic goals, fail to accomplish even those goals, because as a rule of the thumb, it usually takes longer to do something than you think it takes. If you give yourself too much time to do something, your “work” will “expand” to fill the time available! You may have the potential to accomplish ten times of what you accomplished in that huge stretch of time, but the very knowledge that you have the time will make most people lazy and inefficient.

The second reason that realistic goals never lead to greatness is because they don’t force you to go beyond your comfort zone. Every great leap that has been accomplished on an individual or organizational level is when you shatter the status quo and push yourself much more beyond what you are used to. It is only then when you realize what you are really capable of and grow much faster as a result!

For a person who doesn’t care about achieving their true potential or scaling their business to a level that it can truly achieve, setting realistic goals is the way to go. In fact, why set goals at all in that case? Just be happy where you are.

However, for a person who is truly committed to rapidly achieving what he or she wants out of life, they just cannot rely on realistic goals to get them there, because realistic goals don’t push you beyond your comfort zone. They make you less efficient.

Another reason why setting slightly unrealistic goals leads to a higher productivity is based on the fact that we almost always underestimate the amount of work required to achieve a particular target.

The fact is that if you set an unrealistic goal, you may not achieve it, at least in the time period you thought you would. But even if you fail in that goal, you will have accomplished much more in failure than many other people who set very low targets to begin with.

If one’s target is to be a millionaire in twenty years, accordingly their strategies will be different. But if one’s goal is to be a millionaire in 5 years and they are seriously committed towards accomplishing it, instead of living in a dream world, their strategies and their work ethic will be completely different and much more intense. Chances are, as long as they don’t take foolish risks, do the due research, figure out a viable strategy and put in the work required, at the end of 5 years, they might have achieved more as compared to what the average person would have even achieved in 20 years, even if they do not become a millionaire!

None of these goals apply solely to money or professional success. Whether it is health that you want or becoming better at another skill or if you just want to take your professional success to the next level, start setting goals that are at least somewhat unrealistic.

Now do keep in mind that even though setting unrealistic goals will force you to go beyond your comfort zone, make sure it is not at the cost of your integrity, nor do you take foolish risks to do so. If one relies on fraud or takes foolish risks to the point that they are gambling with their money or health, chances are they are going to fail miserably. No matter how big the goal, your strategy has to be smart. This is why it is extremely helpful to seek advice from genuine people that you trust who have already achieved what you have, because they will give you the best advice on devising a strategy to get to where you want to go with minimal risks.

In conclusion, Unrealistic Goals force you to think differently and creatively as compared to the strategies that you have always been following that have yielded limited results. Unrealistic goals force you to work harder and smarter and fulfill your true potential. But remember that when you stretch your goal many fold, your work ethic and strategy has to change too. Only those who set their visions high and develop the stamina required to achieve their vision, end up achieving it, the rest just live in a dream world. Where do you stand?

About the Author

The author of this article, Anubhav Srivastava is an author, motivational speaker and the director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields, who teach the viewers how they too can make all of their dreams come true. The movie itself has been seen on Youtube by close to 700,000 people. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times,, Leicester Mercury and many others.

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