You have probably heard or read the phrase “Dream big”. And it is true that if you want to achieve great things you can’t just aim for mediocre; you need to have a super ambitious goal. But if your vision is not followed by action it will most probably never become reality.
“The distance between dreams and reality is called action”
Achieving a big goal – in any area of your life (career, fitness, sporting performance, arts, etc.) – takes a large dose of hard work and perseverance. It is much more challenging than to tackle a “realistic” goal which comes with an almost 100% chance of success. So how do you push through the limits of your comfort zone to achieve something you never even dreamed of attempting?
Whether you are trying to run your first ultra-marathon, plan an expedition, write a book or achieve any other crazy dream I think these 5 steps will be useful to you:
Step 1: Define your goal
In order to channel your energy in the right direction you need to be crystal clear about what you are trying to achieve. Be specific and set a measurable target. For example: “Complete the Marathon des Sables and finish in the women top 50”. I find it helpful to write down my goal on post-its and stick them everywhere in my flat (above my desk, on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, etc.). Another technique I love and find super effective is the creation of a vision board.
TIP: Set a measurable goal, be as specific as possible and write it down.
Step 2: Understand the implications
It is important to have a good think about what your motivations for reaching your goal are. There will be ups and downs along the way and knowing what your motivations are will be especially useful when you are experiencing “low” moments. It is during those times that you will need to take a step back and remind yourself of why accomplishing your goal is so important to you. Besides being clear about your motivations you also need to understand which challenges and obstacles you are likely to face. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself whether you are truly willing to make the necessary sacrifices and do what it takes to succeed in the pursuit of your goal.
TIP: Determine what your motivations for reaching your goal are. Define the challenges you are likely to encounter. Ask yourself whether you are willing to invest the required time and energy into the pursuit of your goal.
Step 3: Create an action plan
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, breaking down your mammoth objective into small manageable chunks will help you not getting overwhelmed by the magnitude of your end goal. Action plans will vary in format and content depending on your specific goal but generally speaking these points will apply:
- Make your plan detailed enough to be meaningful.
- Don’t underestimate the time it will take to achieve certain milestones. If you set milestones that are impossible to attain you will end up losing your motivation.
- Keep a certain amount of flexibility to avoid frustration when things are not going exactly according to plan.
- Review your plan regularly and make necessary adjustments.
TIP: Establish a detailed action plan with realistic milestones. Review and make adjustments regularly.
Step 4: Create accountability by going public
There are many ways to do this. A few examples include telling your friends and family about your goal, starting a blog in which you share your journey towards your dream or sharing your milestones on your favourite social media platform. Whichever tool you use, it will most likely help you feel more committed. Once you have made the big announcement, you won’t want to admit not following through on your goal. It’s probably just pride, but I can tell you it works.
TIP: Make your goal public to help you feel more committed.
Step 5: Time to get to work!
You now know exactly what you are working towards, you know what is at stake and you know how to get there. So it is time to get after it and work the plan. This is the most time and energy consuming part but also the most rewarding. You will need to be dedicated, disciplined and stay positive. Unexpected things will inevitably get in the way and there will be times when you will feel like you are going backwards. But if you keep your goal in mind, trust the process and work hard you will get there! And don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Reward yourself when you reach an important milestone. For example when I am training for a running race, I reward myself with a sport massage or an afternoon at the spa after a particularly challenging training block.
TIP: Work hard and don’t forget to have fun along the way.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela