We've all been there: it's New Year's Eve, and you're filled with excitement for what lies ahead in the new year. You decide that this year is going to be different; you'll finally reach all of your goals and live up to your own expectations. So you make a list of ambitious goals, determined to make them happen by the end of the year.
Fast forward six months later, and you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and disappointed because you haven't made any progress toward those goals. You start to feel like giving up, which can lead to a downward spiral of negative emotions and behaviors.
This is the reality of 80% of people who set big, unrealistic goals at the beginning of a new year just to abandon them in the following months. But why do so many people fail to reach their ambitious goals?
The answer is quite simple: they're setting themselves up for failure by not setting realistic goals.
So why is it important to set realistic goals? Read on for 7 reasons why realistic goals are the key to success.
7 Reasons Why It's Important to Set Realistic Goals
Realistic goal setting is the most reliable way to reach your desired outcome. Not only does it keep you motivated and on track, but it also helps to ensure that the goals are achievable.
Here are 7 key reasons why you should be setting realistic goals:
Hitting the "Middle Path" or "Golden Mean"
Hitting the "middle path" or "golden mean" is an idea that's been around for thousands of years, and it's still relevant today when we talk about setting realistic goals. This concept was popularized by both Buddha and Aristotle, who suggested that success is achieved by maintaining a balance between two extremes.
According to Aristotle, the golden mean is the point between two extremes where you are neither too indulgent nor too restrictive.
So instead of setting overly ambitious goals that will be impossible to achieve, or setting unambitious goals that won't challenge you enough, aim for the middle path and find a balance between ambition and reality.
The same principle can be applied to other aspects of life, such as diet, exercise, relationships, finances, etc.
When you set unrealistic or unambitious goals in these areas of life, you may end up feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed - either way, it's not productive. By finding a balance between these two extremes through realistic goal-setting techniques you can ensure that your goals challenge but don't overwhelm you.
Decision-Making Becomes Easier
The average adult makes about 35,000 decisions every day, so it's no surprise that decision fatigue is a real thing. Setting realistic goals can help you maximize your energy and focus so that decision-making becomes easier.
When you set unrealistic goals, the decisions you have to make on a daily basis become more complex and tedious because they require more mental effort to figure out how to reach the goal. On the other hand, when your goals are realistic, you can make decisions faster and more efficiently.
For instance, if your goal is to learn a new language within a year, it's more realistic and practical to break down this goal into smaller weekly or monthly tasks, such as studying for 15 minutes daily. This makes decision-making easier because you know exactly what you have to do on a daily basis and the steps required to reach your goal.
Whether you’re a business person, a student, or just trying to make a lifestyle change, setting realistic goals can help you save time and energy so that decision-making becomes less stressful.
Did you know that 85% of the world's population suffers from low self-esteem? Oftentimes, this can be the result of setting unrealistic goals that are impossible to reach.
Having realistic goals is an integral part of achieving success, and it also has a positive effect on self-esteem. Setting unrealistic goals can leave us feeling overwhelmed or inadequate when we don’t meet them. On the other hand, setting achievable goals allows us to achieve them and thus helps build our confidence and improve our self-esteem.
Realistic goal setting gives us something tangible to work towards that we know is achievable. This sense of accomplishment from reaching each milestone along the way can help boost our self-confidence and make us feel better about ourselves, as well as give us the motivation to keep going until we reach our ultimate goal.
As you take small steps towards reaching these more attainable objectives, you gain momentum, which can help reduce any feelings of anxiety or depression that may have been holding you back before.
Get That Sweet Dopamine Hit
Ever heard of dopamine? It’s a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the reward and pleasure centers in our brains.
When we set realistic goals and achieve them, our body releases this hormone which results in feelings of happiness and satisfaction. This feeling is like an extra boost in motivation to keep going until you reach your ultimate goal!
On the other hand, when we set unrealistic goals and don’t meet them, it can leave us feeling disappointed or frustrated. This not only reduces our motivation but can also lead to negative thoughts and feelings because the goal wasn’t achieved.
Realistic goals help us find a balance between challenging ourselves and succeeding in what we do, which leads to increased dopamine levels and higher motivation.
Benefit From the Power of Micro-Goals
Goals can be broken down into two categories: macro-goals and micro-goals.
Macro-goals are the larger, long-term goals that require time and effort to achieve, while micro-goals are smaller milestones that can be reached in a shorter amount of time.
When we set realistic goals, it allows us to focus on micro-goals, which can help build momentum and keep us motivated as we work towards our larger goals. Reaching these tiny milestones along the way helps us stay focused and gain a sense of accomplishment that can push us to continue working.
For example, expecting your body to drop 20 pounds in a month is an unrealistic goal, but you can easily set realistic micro-goals of dropping 1-2 pounds each week. This way, you can slowly but surely reach your ultimate goal without feeling overwhelmed or disheartened if progress is slow.
The Goldilocks Rule
Goals are essentially results we want that require some kind of action from us in order to achieve them. And while too little action can lead to a lack of results, thinking that we need to have everything figured out and accomplished overnight is just as counterproductive.
Finding the balance between being ambitious and realistic is what’s known as the Goldilocks Rule. This means setting goals that are neither too hard nor too easy but just right. It’s like the perfect porridge—it’s not too hot or too cold, but just the perfect temperature.
See, according to the Goldilocks rule, humans only strive to complete a goal when it's the optimum level of difficulty. Too easy, and we don’t bother; too hard, and it’s demotivating. But a goal that has just the right level of difficulty gets us motivated and encourages us to keep striving.
For example, if you’re looking to save money, setting a goal of putting away $20 per month is obviously manageable and, therefore might not be enough motivation to actually save. But on the other hand, expecting yourself to put away $100 a month may seem too hard and would be discouraging when you don’t reach your goal.
The Goldilocks Rule is about finding the balance between pushing yourself and not pushing yourself too hard. It’s important to find that happy medium when setting goals, so you feel inspired and ready to take action.
Enjoy Life-Changing Benefits
Realistic goals can change your life. Literally.
When we set realistic goals and keep up with the process of achieving them, it not only helps us accomplish what we want but can also lead to a better emotional state. It reduces stress and provides us with small victories that help build our confidence and make us feel proud of ourselves.
When you set income goals, for example, you may not just be able to make more money but also reduce your stress levels. Knowing that you have a plan and are working hard towards it can help to keep stress at bay.
Similarly, realistic health and fitness goals can help you not only feel better physically but also emotionally. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can lead to increased energy and improved mood, making it easier for you to tackle the other goals in your life.
Realistic goals give us purpose and direction, which helps us stay focused and motivated so we can live an all-around happier and healthier life.
So when you’re setting your goals, make sure they’re realistic enough to inspire action but still challenging enough that you stay motivated to keep going. It may take some trial and error—but it will be worth it in the end!