"Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity. Why would you be realistic? What's the point of being realistic?" -Will Smith
What are "Unrealistic" Goals?
"Have you ever been told that something you wanted to do is unrealistic?"
"Have you ever told yourself that something you wanted is unrealistic?"
"Have you told someone else that something they wanted is unrealistic?"
We ask these questions in our workshops all the time. Without fail, we get 100% of hands up in the air.
As humans when we hear about something that seems highly or almost certainly unlikely, our natural reaction is to call it “incredibly challenging”, or “impossible”, or "unrealistic".
As a result, most people set Realistic Goals, or goals that are achievable in the traditional sense, given traditional circumstances.
So for a young professional, this could be:
- A raise
- A promotion
- More vacation days
- More responsibility
- Saving to buy a car or a house/apartment
- Getting a different job in a similar industry
- Leaving a big company to go work for a startup
Very common and commendable goals.
On the flip side, Unrealistic Goals are the goals so many daydream about, and contemplate on Sunday night before starting another 9-5 week.
But they continue to procrastinate them. Or never even go after them because it's hard to imagine getting started, let alone actually accomplishing the goal.
For young professionals, unrealistic could mean:
- Being thrilled to get up for work every single day, and not caring what day of the week it is
- Getting a job/getting paid well outside of your qualifications
- Working remotely 1-5 days per week
- Committing an abnormal amount time to volunteering, nonprofits, or causes that you deeply care about
- Traveling to wherever you want, whenever you want without worrying about vacation days
- Earning money on a side business doing something you love
- Leaving your job to start a business before you replace your income
We talk to so many young professionals who admit to wanting something more and making big changes, but just don't think it's "realistic" right now.
Even the ones who are so close. Who have the qualifications to get their dream job. Who have a side business where they're making money. They convince themselves that they need more income, more time, or more experience.
This is realistic thinking. We're going to challenge you to think unrealistically.
3 Reasons You Should Be Setting Unrealistic Goals
“I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don't have one, then you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell ya, it feels phenomenal.” -Vince Vaughn as Peter La Fleur from Dodgeball
Don't be like Peter LaFleur (at least before the championship game).
You should be setting goals on a regular basis, and you can turn any Realistic Goal into an Unrealistic Goal by:
- Choosing goals as if failure was impossible: Instead of settling for a safe career, what would you do for work if money wasn't an issue?
- Increasing the target to be outside of your comfort zone: Settle on a target you feel comfortable with, then increase it by 10x (i.e.- $50,000 becomes $500,000).
- Shortening the timeline: "How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next 6 months?" Peter Thiel
When we're walking people through our Unrealistic Exercise, we tell them to go for anything that gives them the roller-coaster feeling in their stomach, or that initiates the doubtful self-talk in their head.
Because guess what? The top performers in every field you can imagine were told at some point that their ambitions were "unrealistic". They were laughed at and criticized. At times they even doubted themselves.
But because they endured all of the doubters and the negativity, they're now revered as "A-list", "leaders", "legends", "influencers", and "pioneers".
To break free from the unfulfilling constraints of the 9-5 workweek, do work we love, and live our ultimate lives, Unrealistic Goals are required.
Here are 3 reasons why you should start setting Unrealistic Goals for yourself.
1. You can achieve Unrealistic Goals
In one of our all-time favorite videos, Will Smith shuts down the notion that we should think realistically, using examples such as:
- "It's unrealistic to walk in a room and flip a switch, and lights come on. Fortunately, Edison didn't think so."
- "It's unrealistic to bend a piece of metal, and fly people over an ocean in that metal. Fortunately, the Wright brothers and others didn't believe that."
We heard over and over that leaving our corporate jobs to start a self-funded, for-profit company in the education space at our age was unrealistic.
Fortunately, we didn't think so.
We're not Edison or the Wright brothers, but it's all relative to what Unrealistic Goals you have and what you're willing to do for them.
Two of our favorite recent Unrealistic examples are:
Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx: Surviving adversity in her early days such as fulfilling orders from her bathroom, writing her own patent, faking a workforce on Oprah, and paying her friends to buy her product led to Sara Blakely becoming the youngest female billionaire in the world. Even more amazing is that she has never taken on investors and still owns 100% of her company.
Flynn McGarry, Founder & Chef at Eureka: Flynn McGarry has operated his own popup restaurant since he was 15 years old in places like LA, San Francisco, and NYC. Seats have been sold out months in advance at $160/plate. He's now preparing to open his first permanent restaurant at 18 years old. His response to the frequent question of 'why he doesn't wait to open a restaurant until he has more experience, why now?':
"Why not now? There's really nothing holding me back, other than people's opinions, which is not a real thing."
2. You'll have less competition
“Achieving the unrealistic is actually easier than achieving the realistic. It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for "realistic" goals, paradoxically making them the most time-and-energy consuming." -Tim Ferriss
How many young professionals are:
- Looking their second/third/sixth job?
- Chasing the next promotion and salary increase?
- Going to grad school to delay decisions on which path to pursue?
On the other hand, how many young professionals are:
- Working at their dream job?
- Aggressively exploring their curiosity?
- Pursuing their creative interests?
- Running their own side/full-time business?
There's less competition for Unrealistic Goals.
3. Failure Doesn't Matter
"If you set your goals ridiculously high and it's a failure, you will fail above everyone else's success." -James Cameron
Most people never get started on or even set an Unrealistic Goal due to their fear of failure. They can't imagine what they would do if they fell short of their goal.
But the beauty of Unrealistic Goals is that because we're raising the bar for achievement, we're also raising the bar for our failures.
The more comfortable we become with failure, the higher we can set our goals and the more successful our "failures" become.
For example, John and Jane are both 22 years old and have a dream of starting their own business.
John sets a deadline for launching his company at 30 years old. Shortly after turning 30, John successfully launches his first business. Cheers! Goal: Achieved.
Jane sets her deadline at 24, giving herself only two years. Jane does not meet her deadline. She actually misses it by two whole years, and doesn't successfully launch her company until she's 26! Goal: Not Achieved.
Who would you rather be: John or Jane?
“It's very hard to fail completely, if you aim high enough.” -Larry Page
“I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love." -Jim Carrey
Realistic Goals + Realistic Action = Realistic Life
Unrealistic Goals + Unrealistic Action = Unrealistic Life
What's an Unrealistic Goal you have for yourself?
- Change jobs?
- Change careers?
- Learn to sing/play an instrument/do standup comedy?
- Start a business?
- Become a writer?
- Meet the significant other of your dreams?
- Travel the world?
Let me know in the comments!
Disrupt The Cycle
If work and life feel separate, if you get substantially more excited for life outside of work, it's time to make a change.
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