To boldly go ...Imagine you're planning a day's walk in mountainous country - an area that you've never visited before. You set your sights on the nearest peak. It looks a bit strenuous but perfectly doable. Certainly much easier than the higher, more distant summit that you know lies beyond. You set your pace to arrive at the top around midday, leaving plenty of time to get back. It all goes smoothly and easily, just like the many similar walks you've taken before.
You only looked at the map of the immediate area because that's all you needed to know about. What you didn't realise, and may never know, is that if you'd turned the page to check the route to the more distant peak you'd have discovered the railway station situated just beyond the first hill and the promise of a ride to the top of the big mountain and all the way back as well!
OK, so that's a bit of a contrived story to illustrate how setting an "impossible" goal causes you to take a different perspective from which everything, of course, looks different. And it might make you wonder how many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities you've missed because you ruled them out before you even started to look at the path towards them.
To do great things you first have to think great thoughts.
"Yes, under normal circumstances", you might say. "But times are hard and we've all got to be realistic and to scale back on our plans."
But what does the economic slowdown actually mean for most of us? For years I was considerably poorer than I am now. It was what I expected as I was establishing myself in the world of work. I lived within my means but the outlook was positive. I expected things to get better - and to keep getting better indefinitely.
If I have to manage with less money than than I'm used to, it will be no different in practical terms from how life was in the early years of my career. What's changed are my standards of what's acceptable and, perhaps, my expectations about what's coming next.
I could get used to having fewer material comforts but I can't do without hope for the future.
(I know that for some people the impact is much more severe - and I'm not addressing what it's like to be bankrupt and/or homeless - just the majority for whom the recession is causing changes of degree not of kind.)
So what might it look like to set "awesome" goals in times of economic and psychological depression?
The simple answer that I've heard a few times lately is, "Don't participate in the recession!" Just do what you'd do in more bullish times. But how, exactly?
Well, one strategy you might consider is to control the inner voice that keeps telling you to exercise caution and buries your optimism before you've had a chance to "look on the next page". In terms of the Disney Strategy (Change Work June 2010) you need to separate the different perceptual positions: Dreamer, Realist and Critic. If you find that your dreaming is continually hijacked by thoughts about "hard times" and "being realistic" then set yourself an internal alarm so that you notice it happening. Then shout out loud, "STOP!"
Get all of the ideas out and enjoy the buzz that comes from that before you engage the Realist or the Critic. And remember that their job isn't to strike out ideas - but to help you make your ideas better, more workable.
When you start out by setting an "achievable" goal you're pre-selecting what can be done based on what you already know. If you insist on knowing exactly how to do something before you commit to doing it how will you ever do anything new?
If one person can do something then anyone can learn to do it. Or, putting it another way, if anyone has ever done what you want to do - or something like it - then it's not impossible. There is a way to do it - in fact many ways. Trust yourself to find one!