Settling goals is an act in contradiction: Make standards too high and you’ll get frustrated on the climb, yet make standards too low and you’ll be disappointed with your long-term results. As more than one productivity guru has put it, the problem with low expectations is that you’ll actually reach them.
One solid approach to take, though, is to actually do both: Create high expectations while still making reachable milestones. To do that, plan out three levels of increasing goals.
The lowest goals are the ones you can reach based on your current momentum. These intentions don’t require a major strategy shift. The main point is to give yourself credit for your level of progress and to give you milestones to celebrate – and you should be celebrating every victory, no matter how small.
The medium-sized goals are the milestones that require some higher effort on your part. Working harder may get you there, but you may need to reconsider your current approach to your work to meet them. These goals give you a higher ambition that, with a bit of effort, can be reached.
The large goals are the big vision you see for yourself. Don’t hold back here: The goals should make you equally nervous and excited. It also should be big enough to require a major change in your strategy. In other words, working harder isn’t going to cut it – you’ll have to work smarter to get there.
The beauty here is that each set of goals builds on the previous one: Reaching the lowest goal sets you up to think bigger for the medium-sized goal and gives you the momentum necessary to even fathom the large goal. And you are a winner no matter how far you reach.