Have you ever had a massive goal—something you just couldn’t wait to accomplish or to share with others? If so, then you’re in good company. These types of goals are exciting. Big goals linger in our minds before we drift off to sleep and cause us to wake up early because we can’t wait to begin to make them a reality. At least, this is how things have been for me. This is the beauty of having big dreams.
The Dark Side of Big Goals
However, big goals also have a dark side. All-day, every day, there are nagging doubts. That little voice in the back of one’s mind that whispers,
- What if you fail?
- Perhaps your dream is too big?
- What if other people don’t understand?
During the good times, this persistent chatter-box in our heads whispers softly. During bad moments, it’s more like a thunderous roar. As I’m getting closer to publishing two books—something I’ve dreamed about doing for a long time—I’m both thrilled and terrified. Some days I’m energized and passionate about moving toward my goal. Yet, during other times the thoughts in my head sound more like this:
Big Goals and Stinking Thinking
Fortunately, as a therapist, I know exactly what to do with this type of stinking thinking. The problem is that sometimes, I can be far better at giving out advice than following it myself. Albert Ellis, the founder of rational emotive behavioral therapy, proposed that people have a natural tendency to upset themselves. This is done through irrational, negative self-talk. Examples of this type of energy-draining self-talk include telling ourselves something is:
- Terrible, and
- We can’t stand it!
As you can see, this is exactly the type of self-talk I can be guilty of engaging in. I bet that at some point in your life, you’ve magnified your negative thoughts too. The good news is that 80-90 percent of the things that we fear never come to pass. The bad news is that these irrational fears keep us away at night and hold us back from moving toward our goals.
Albert Ellis’ solution for stinking thinking was to teach people to dispute their irrational beliefs. One of the best ways to do this is through positive self-talk. Take a moment to look closely at this next cartoon. What do you see, and what kind of thoughts do you think are going through this man’s head?
A Simple Strategy for Chasing Big Goals
I love this cartoon of the classic mad scientist at work. The best part is that huge grin on his face. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why scientists are always smiling? The answers are easy. The reason for that enormous grin is because everything is an experiment, and during an experiment:
- Nothing has to happen.
- Nothing can’t happen.
- There are no right answers.
- There are no wrong answers.
Experiments involve testing things, trying out new ideas, and gathering information. In experiments, there are desired outcomes and hoped-for results, but there are never any failures. Everything—even messy explosions—are opportunities to lean. Thomas Edison knew this and said it best when he stated, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He then went on to conduct one more experiment and, as a result, created the light bulb.
In experiments, things get messy. However, this is never awful. Instead, everything that happens is an opportunity to learn and grow. This leads us to my experiment. Instead of worrying and engaging in negative self-talk, I’ve decided that over the next 30 days, I’m going to start putting what I’ve spent the past four years teaching others into practice. I’m going to lay my worries aside and conduct an experiment. This means that I won’t’ waste my time fretting about the results but will instead take massive action and learn from it. For me, the experiment means taking a more active presence on social media.
For me, the thought of ongoing social-media engagement is scary. But over the next 30 days, I’m going to lay aside my fears and actively engage. No matter what happens, good, bad, or ugly, I’m going to keep engaging. When I hear those nagging, discouraging voices in the back of my mind, I’m going to remind myself not to listen to them because I’m conducting an experiment.
Welcome to My Big Goal Experiment
Welcome to my experiment! I’m excited about this but also smart enough to know that I can’t do this alone. I would love it if you did two things. First, you’ll notice that I’ll be tweeting, posting on Facebook, blogging, and guest-blogging a lot in the days ahead. Please know that I haven’t gone crazy. I’m just conducting an experiment. I’m in the process of discovering what works, what doesn’t work, and how to best engage others through the use of social media. One way you can partner with me is by praying for me and offering constructive feedback. If you see a post that you especially enjoy, would you let me know by “liking” that post or leaving a comment? If you see something that you don’t like, something that upsets you or rubs you the wrong way, would you let me know that too (you can always send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)? You don’t have to comment on everything, but actively engaging with me in the process would be an incredible encouragement.
Second, would you consider conducting your own experiment with me? Do you have a goal that you are trying to reach? Do you have nagging doubts holding you back from your goal? Would you participate in this experiment with me by laying aside doubts and fears for the next 30 days and actively pursuing your goal? If the desired outcome doesn’t happen on the first try, we won’t get all worked up, we won’t convince ourselves that things are awful. We’ll simply tell ourselves, It’s an experiment, learn from it, and try again tomorrow. Then, at the end of the 30 days, we’ll assess our progress and see how far we’ve come!
Continue the Conversation
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and now I’d love to hear from you. Tell me about your big goal and how I can best pray for you. Let me know if your willing to lay aside your fears and conduct your own experiment with me. And finally, if your willing to provide me with feedback on my experiment, I’d love to know that as well.
I look forward to connecting with you soon,