Are You Setting the Goal Bar too High?

Our goals can cause collapse

One major cause of my burnout as a young entrepreneur at the age of 27, was the fact that my goals were setting the bar too high. I had set my goals high, aware that they had to make me stretch but unaware that we are all like elastic bands: if we stretch too far we eventually snap. I was a young real estate developer who appeared to have a death wish. Whenever a goal appeared to be within my reach, I would immediately revise my goal upward out of reach again, and always within an unrealistic time frame. The horrendous amount self-induced stress I created for myself took its toll on me mentally, spiritually, and physically. I learned the hard way, “goals can be creative and destructive.”

 Our limits are never discovered in our comfort zone

The problem most of us face is that we never discover or limit or true potential, without pushing past it. At the age of 21, I left the commune I had been born into, with a goal of having a net worth of one million dollars by the age of 50. Without even looking for a job, I started my first business with the determination of a bulldog. I had decided, I would never work for anyone but myself. I believed I could do anything I set my mind to, if I wanted it badly enough. I wanted to be a financial success more than anything in the world. Within eighteen months of leaving the farm, I was married to the girl of my dreams and operating a successful business. We were in the midst of the 1981/82 recession. Here I was, just new in business, the country in a deep recession, and I decided to buy land to build a new home. Without a track record as a borrower, without experience as a businessman and without any collateral, I was deemed a bad risk because I “lacked the resources.”

 Our lack of resources may mean “not now.”

Every bank I visited turned me down. However, they all offered to finance me after I had proved myself in business and had acquired some assets that I could give them as collateral. When leaving their offices, I would say “It sounds like you’re prepared to loan me money when I can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that I have no need for it.” Not finding the money was not going to stop me from building a house. I pushed ahead anyway and in sixty days, my wife and I moved into our new home without a mortgage. However, I did have some outstanding accounts with my sub-trades and suppliers. I had accomplished my goal but created a debt and the stress that went with it. Simply because I had to have what I wanted, and I had to have it now. I was not willing to wait!

Goals require commitment with balance

By the time I reached twenty-seven years of age, I had achieved a net worth of over one million dollars. I thought I was a success. Unfortunately, the only area of my life important to me at that time was the financial area. As I collapsed in burnout, my friends told me I was trying to do too much. The truth of the matter was, “there were too much I wasn’t doing.” Goals in all areas of my life would have prevented the imbalance caused by unrealistic goals in one area.

Goals need to challenge us without destroying us

The key to preventing yourself from setting unrealistic goals is to maintain a balance between what is realistic and what presents us with an exciting challenge. The real reason for my unrealistic goal setting was the fact I was a perfectionist. I didn’t just strive for excellence; I was striving for perfection. What is the difference? Fritz Ridenour says it best in his book The Traveler’s Guide To Life At Warp Speed.

Perfectionism sets impossible goals. Excellence sets high standards within reach.

Perfectionism values “what I do,” excellence values “who I am.”

Perfectionism dwells on mistakes and excellence learns from them.

Perfectionism says “I’ve got to be number one,” and excellence says “I did my best and I am satisfied.”

Unrealistic goals not only create undue stress but also make us feel discouraged by our failure to reach our goals, goals that were set too high in the first place. Failing to identify the resources, the time and the effort required to reach our goals will often result in us setting goals that are just simply unrealistic. In most cases those who raise the bar too high fall flat on their face. A person without goals is like a ship without a rudder, but a person with unrealistic goals could be a person headed for trouble.

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