What Happens When You Stop Setting Small Goals and Start Going Big

Life lessons I learned from my neighborhood pool.

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Growing up in the South, I have fond memories of summers spent at the neighborhood pool. I mean, I spent nearly every single day there between May and September. From how to time my attack perfectly playing sharks and minnows to the latest high school gossip, I learned a lot at that pool over the years.

One big lesson I learned during those long summer days is that there are really only two types of people in the world. There’s the person who creeps into the shallow end of the pool, step-by-step, flexing every muscle as the cool water rises up their body. And then there’s the wild one. The type who launches into the air with a labrador-like enthusiasm, crashes into the water with an eruptive cannonball, and rises to the top with a flick of the hair and a giant grin across their face.

I’ll admit — growing up I was always the shallow end person. At the pool, yes, but even in life! I always looked for the easy, less risky, or sure thing. As I entered into the corporate world, this manifested in the way I performed at work. I was a strong performer, but that’s because I never took on any project or task that presented an opportunity for failure. I was terrified of screwing up or missing the mark!

This took a big turn when I first entered into management. I realized very quickly that encouraging my team to stay in the shallow end like I always had didn’t maximize their potential. As Marianne Williamson said, “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world” and being a great leader is all about pushingpeople to greatness. It was taking on my first team that converted me into a cannonball person forever.

When I work with teams now, I have a reputation for pushing people to go outside their comfort zone to set big, scary goals. I am constantly challenging them to attempt the unachievable, and let me tell you, I have seen some incredible results. From crushing performance metrics to busting through deadlines, setting big goals has been revolutionary for the teams I’ve worked with.

As we enter into this new year and season of goal setting, I want to encourage you to do the same. You won’t like it at first if I’m being honest. But to see complete transformation or incredible achievement, it’s going to take setting some huge, monstrous, outer space goals.

I see you inching a little closer toward the edge of the pool, so let me tell a little about what you can expect when you stop playing small and start owning your potential.

You’ll be terrified

They call it a scary goal for a reason — it’s freaking scary! But fear ignites adrenaline and adrenaline lights up your brain in ways the shallow end neverwill. Your fear of failure will produce creativity, resourcefulness, and urgency — everything you need to make magic happen in your business.

You’ll surprise yourself

Not only will you work harder and get more done than you ever thought possible, but you’ll also be shocked to learn your capabilities stretch far beyond where you’ve been existing. You’re cheating yourself by setting small goals.

You’ll learn more along the way

Going where you’ve never gone before will teach infinite lessons. You’ll learn more about yourself, you’ll learn how you handle the fear of failure (or failure itself), and you’ll learn what you’re really capable of.

So as you begin setting goals, don’t even think about getting in the shallow end. Pump yourself up, get a good running start, and jump in that pool like there’s no tomorrow. Remember, you want to be the one doing the cannonball, not being splashed by one.

Sarah Saadatjoo is the Lead Consultant + CEO at The Elevate Company – a consulting firm that specializes in helping rapidly growing companies elevate their business through effective people strategies.

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