Do you find yourself continuously setting goals that you never hit? Are you guilty of jumping from one idea to another to another because you can’t seem to muster the enthusiasm to follow through on a plan? Are you starting to feel like a bit of a fraud or a failure and wonder why you just can’t do it?
If you answered yes to any of these then you may have been setting yourself beige goals! Read on to find out what that means and what you can do about it.
The unspoken truth about ‘big’ goals
I have long been an advocate of setting large, audacious goals. I believe in aiming high and write a lot about why you should strive for the best and chase your dreams. But let it be known that I am also a big fan of failure. I love to learn from my mistakes, and I see setbacks as challenges to be overcome. And I maybe don’t stress that enough.
When I say aim high, it isn’t always with the strict intention of hitting your goal. I say aim high because you’ll generally push yourself to go further:
Succeed by failing
“We aim above the mark to hit the mark”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you set yourself a big goal, there is every chance you won’t hit it. But you’ll be so much further along the path than if you didn’t set it at all.
Here’s a recent real-life example of this:
For the longest time, I have had a writing goal of 500 words a day. Initially, I set it because it seemed like enough words to feel like I had given it a go, but not so many as to seem overwhelming. A very “beige” goal.
I know I can achieve it. With a topic in mind, a 25-minute time block is plenty of time for me to write 500 words. I figured if I set myself that as a minimum, I can be productive, efficient, start my day with ½ an hour of writing and already have that done, creating excellent content and managing my time efficiently.
Confession time, I hardly ever reached it.
For some reason, even though I KNEW I could do it, I didn’t. Whether because I prioritised other tasks, couldn’t find the time, or forgot… it just wasn’t getting done. And after a while, I noticed a funny shift in my perspective. 500 words went from being something that seemed easy enough to suddenly feeling like the biggest task in my schedule.
Five. Hundred. Words.
It was suddenly so daunting.
Then last month, in an online group I’m part of, we were challenged by one of the members to join her in writing 40,000 words in May. I joined in a little late, giving me a daily total of approx 1500 words a day, which seemed laughable, given that I can never even hit 500. But something happened. I started writing those 500 words a day.
I was aiming for 1500 – sometimes I hit it, sometimes I didn’t. Numbers were variable, and suffice to say, I didn’t consistently hit my new target… But I smashed my old one.
I proved to myself that 500 a day is totally achievable. If you aim high, you might not reach the thing you were aiming for, but you’ll get significantly further than you would if you didn’t aim at all.
Change your perspective
I’ve started looking at goals as being divided into 3 groups:
- Shiny goals
- Black & White goals
- Beige goals
Let me expand on this idea:
The Shiny Goal
The shiny goal is the BIG one. The life dream, the glittering, shimmering vision of all the future holds for you and all the magic you wish to bring to your experience.
This is NOT the place for holding back. This is the place for forging the stuff that dreams are made of. Go big or go home.
The Black & White Goals
These are your everyday functioning goals. Just because I advocate dreaming big doesn’t mean you can’t think practically. Black & White goals are all the tiny habits you need to master to get you where you need to go within your shiny goals. If the shiny goal is your story, the Black and white goals are your chapter headers. They break up the Big Goal into manageable chunks, forming the actionable steps needed to go from A – B
Black & White goals are the foundation upon which you build your best life.
The beige goal, on the other hand, is neither one thing nor the other.
It is neutral, a little dull and uninspiring, and doesn’t really move you forward. It is too big to be accomplished easily but too small to really bring you satisfaction when you complete it because, really, you know you could have pushed yourself further.
Sadly, this is where most dreams come to die. This is the place we tend to place most of our goals. We think having little goals is too easy, and we think dreaming big is unrealistic. As a result, most of the time we tend to set ourselves goals that fit somewhere in the realm of beige and boring, and unsurprisingly, we soon lose enthusiasm and give up.
Don’t set beige goals!
Goals should either be huge and vibrant, so as to scare you a little and encourage you to make a change, or they should be small and swift. Easy wins that you can pile high to make you feel on top of your shit. There is no in-between.
But… but… sometimes a goal kinda has to sit somewhere in between… doesn’t it?
Not all goals fit easily into the shiny or B&W categories. So how do you hit your targets when they fall somewhere in the middle without succumbing to boredom and abandoning your plan altogether?
Fortunately, there is an overlap. Remember when I set myself the goal of writing 1500 words a day? I routinely hit 500. Alternatively, I could have set myself a mini habit of writing 20 words a day. You can bet your bottom dollar that I would have written more because tiny habits stack. They get you enthused and make you want to excel.
“20 words? Pah! Watch me blast that goal out of the water!”
Habits that are small and easily achieved will give you that instant dopamine hit and make you feel like you are on top of your game. You naturally want more of that and so you push yourself harder. Before you know it you are doing way more than you had planned.
So you see, you don’t need to set yourself beige goals to find the balance between big and small goals. You will naturally find yourself in a happy medium, either by starting small and stretching, or aiming big and missing the mark.
Big goals that you reach for and miss don’t feel quite so devastating because by their nature they were a little bit of a long shot. You still feel like you gave it a good go, and you achieved more than you would have otherwise.
The problem with beige goals is that you KNOW you could have done it. You just chose not to. And that is when the nasty, creeping sense of failure comes in. You could have done better, you should have been able to do that, but you didn’t – therefore, you must SUCK!
Your self-esteem takes a blow and you end up feeling like you just can’t do anything right.
Boost your self-esteem
You are fully able to achieve anything you set your mind to, you’ve just been placing the emphasis in the wrong places. Shifting your perspective so that you start viewing your life as an epic adventure rather than a series of failures is one of the best moves you can make to start walking your own path with joy and integrity.
Stop. Setting. Beige. Goals.
You got this!
Want more? Ok then, it’s choose your own adventure time! Which path will you choose?
- To work on creating your mini-goals see: Building Tiny Habits
- To go big or go home try: Change your Life Challenge!