Why Crushing Big Goals Means Letting Go of Others

Oct 26, 2020
Female athlete preparing to sprint

In high school, I missed out on a lot of things my friends were doing: Trips, formal dances, parties, smoking weed on the boulevard after class. 

I had some big goals. And I KNEW that achieving those goals would take sacrifice and focus.

This is not news. To get to a goal, you’ll have to give up on other fun, comfortable things... everyone knows that.

But what is less obvious is that to get to one big goal; you’ll also have to LET GO of a lot of other goals.  


The Cost of Trying to do Everything

Achieving your goals is as much about what you DO to get there as it is about what you DON'T DO.

Despite what you might see on Instagram, we all have limited time, limited energy, and mostly limited focus. So when we spend time trying to move 100 things, our progress gets diluted.

  • We get distracted
  • We make less progress than we expected
  • We get discouraged. 

When that happens, it's easy to think the problem is YOU, when that's not the case at all. The problem is usually that you haven’t paired down your goals.  This mentality often leads you down the path of not being motivated.  

No matter how tough or disciplined you think you are, NOTHING kills drive quite like self-loathing. #realtalk

I see this tendency in myself and in my students. And even though I teach this stuff, it’s still not easy for me. I want to do ALL THE THINGS, all the time. It’s the upside of being passionate and creative about my work. The downside is that I can be treading water without realizing it (great for a workout but not great if your goal is to get to the other side of the pool.)


How to Make Real Progress

In order for me to get to my next level, I have to do two main things:

  1. Be crystal clear about what that next level looks like. 
  2. Put secondary goals on the back burner. 

And here is the real kicker: I have to do it again and again over time. 

Each time my brain thinks ‘but what about this? (beautiful, shiny object)’, I have to think of whether or not this goal moves me toward my biggest goal. 

Saying no to myself, others, and to my 'great ideas' requires some serious discipline. But it's the only way I can be singularly focused. And that makes this auditing process a huge part of achieving what I want (even when it feels like a bit of a buzz kill.)


Using Smaller Goals to Self-Sabotage

When we can't let go of smaller goals, we often use them to self-sabotage. And the worst part is that it doesn't feel like self-sabotage. It feels like making a 'smart decision'. I see this important concept play out in myself and my students in two main ways: 

  1. We're afraid to put all our ‘eggs in one basket’ and go BIG in one area. It feels riskier because if we fail, we fail big. It’s safer to have a lot of little projects. Little risk = little reward.
  2. We get focused at FIRST but then lose focus. We can easily figure out where we want to go but then get distracted along the way. This often stems from not seeing progress fast enough which leads to doubting our path and switching gears mid-way.

In both of these scenarios, we find ourselves in a self-fulfilling prophesy. We don't make the progress we could because we either split our time and never really go for it, or we bail halfway through and waste a bunch of time and energy and focus switching gears.


Our Final Challenge

It's super easy to see other people doing this (Does someone come to mind?) but the truth is, we ALL do this. It can be hard to let go of goals. But if we want to get to the next level, we have to be laser focused. 

So, my final question to you is this:

  • What is your one big goal?
  • Can you go after that goal - long-term?
  • What smaller goals do you need to let go of to make it happen?  

Want more? We recorded a podcast episode on this very topic and it's one of our most popular episodes. Listen to The Inner Game with Lindsey Wilson, Episode 9: What Will You Have to Let Go Of? (Episode description below) 

Is your dream worth the sacrifice it requires? Lindsey looks at goals and dreams from all angles in Episode 9 and goes through a critical thinking exercise to help you sift through what you want and what you only THINK you want. Start your day and change your mind(set) with The Inner Game, Episode 9.

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