Dream Big, Aim Small: How To Set Up Your Goals For Your Success

Emily Peck
Features Writer

Identifying an aspect of your life you’d like to change can feel exciting, intimidating, or even isolating.
The feeling of doing something great? Exhilarating.
The feeling of not knowing what that “something great” is? Distressing.

This article entails

Not having a full sense of what your goal is or what achievement feels like can be enough of a nuisance to stop you from trying to change before you’ve attempted to start.

We’ve heard that an object at rest will stay at rest unless another force intervenes from a science class before. We would rather stay in our cozy bed than going for a morning run. But if there was a fire because your partner burned the breakfast bacon? That would prompt you to spring out from under the covers.

How can we spark the fire within ourselves to move towards our goals so there’s no need for someone else to try and light it for us?

Write Your Own Rules

Discipline and self-control are what can elevate us to the next phase of our personal and professional growth without relying on emergencies to prompt us to act. While it can feel exhausting to monitor ourselves for extended periods of time, we have the potential to develop a level of selfcontrol that would empower us to consistently show up as our best selves.

Many of us are able to keep our commitments to our friends, our colleagues, and our family. But we can struggle to honour our commitments to ourselves and to keep ourselves accountable.

When I worked in day camps, I would have our group create a social contract on our first day together. We discussed what we wanted to get from being in camp, what behaviour we thought would help get us what we wanted, and what would not help us get what we wanted from day camp.

Together, we created an agreed upon set of rules that would guide our time together. Using their own words in the simplest forms, the contract became not only a way for the children to self-monitor their behaviour, but also for other students and staff to feel comfortable calling out conduct that didn’t align with our rules because we created them all together. We all bought into the idea of what camp should be, and could be.

Buying into your own ideas is key for initiating change. Creating a space within yourself where you can be vulnerable, honest, and openly engage with what you’re looking to change and to be curious about the different possibilities this change could open up for you.

Set Your Sights with Intention

When you’re planning a vacation, there are two key phases you go through before you get to your destination. The first is when you realize you’re feeling in need of a refresh and want a change of scenery. After that, you look at flights, hotels, and activities that would allow you to feel refreshed.

The moment of realization is called, Goal Intention. It refers to our desire to achieve a certain outcome. When you move into making and booking plans, this is known as Implementation Intention. It defines our plan of attack by specifying the exact steps necessary to achieve the goal.

An implementation intention is a plan that says, “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y”. I want to exercise more is the goal intention; but, riding a bike every day for 30 minutes at 5:00 p.m. is the implementation intention.

When you have a clear implementation plan in place, you encourage yourself to have higher self-control by creating mental and environmental signals that allow you to recognize when you’re drifting away from your goal. This can often help you be more efficient and less likely to be distracted or procrastinate.

Head In The Clouds? Or Feet on the Ground?

Some theories may suggest that you have to think big, like saying you want to be the next Kamala Harris or Elon Musk. Other theories suggest that you should look for something to do and pursue a very concrete goal, like learn to speak Romanian in 3 months.

There can be downsides to either of these approaches in isolation and people often end up with low self-control and well-being if using one of these methods.

When you think at a broad, big-picture level like the Kamala Harris example, you can get frustrated because you cannot see the path that will lead you to your goal, and the journey can feel more difficult than it actually is. So, you give up entirely.

When you think of your goal as pursuing a specific action without attaching it to a larger purpose, like a chore, you will deny your emotional distress and use distractions to avoid the negative thoughts and feelings that build up as a result. If you have no reason to speak Romanian, what will keep you motivated to learn new verb tenses?

For example, during a day of work you might complete tasks such as sending out 30 emails, and writing a report for your supervisor before the end of the day which could make you feel productive during that specific day. Yet if you don’t know exactly how these tasks lead towards an ultimate goal, chances are they will not bring a long-term sense of achievement or purpose. These are sometimes the days when you leave your day thinking,

What did I actually get done today?

Over time, you may end up filling your months with many concrete and specific goals to avoid the distress that may come with big-picture thinking. You may complete many unimportant tasks and check off many items on your list to cross things off the to-do list; but, you still don’t feel productive or a sense of progress.

So What’s The Answer?

In order to have effective work performance and success in achieving your personal and professional goals, you definitely need to dream big and have meaningful and challenging goals in mind. However, you also need to make sure there is a clear and concrete implementation plan in place for achieving them.

In other words: dream big, aim small. Put your head in the clouds but keep your feet on the ground.

Jalapeño has been using this method in organizations at the individual level to enhance engagement and performance with their clients, and the results have been outstanding.

Key Takeaway

Self-control can feel like an ability some people are simply born with while the rest of us are left to struggle with our impulse control. The ability to honour your commitments and keep yourself accountable is empowering; yet, many of us still struggle with maintaining these changes of habits. When you’re able to tune in to your true needs, and empower your desire for change with clarity and confidence, your unique light can be unleashed and channeled towards your bright future.

Don’t wait for someone else to ignite your fire. You already have your own matches.

I’m ready to make a change ...now what?

Ready to set your world on fire? Stay tuned for Jalapeño’s next blog post about how to be smarter with your goal setting.