Sometime in July, I was sitting in a cafe with a frown on my face, looking at my blog and YouTube channel, and tapping my right foot continuously. Even the Americano wasn’t helping soothe my nerves.
More than half of 2023 had already passed, and I was wondering if I had made any progress. I had been inconsistent with my YouTube. My daily subscribers hadn’t grown. And my LinkedIn continued to be a struggle.
It was a rather gloomy picture
We live in a culture where having big, audacious goals is considered brave. We are compared to the likes of Elon Musk and Bill Gates. And if Elon Musk were to look at my Excel sheet right now, he would feel sorry for me.
But what if I am wrong?
What if the advice of setting big goals is broken? What if true happiness does not lie in big, audacious goals? Let’s find out.
- The pressure of big goals
Having a big goal is like carrying a heavy rock on your shoulder – constantly weighing you down. Sure, a big goal is inspiring for the first 2 days when the adrenaline flows. After that, it’s mostly a feeling of inadequacy. There is a considerable gap between “where we are” and “where we want to be”.
Constantly reminding ourselves that we are not where we want to be, forces us to live in a future state, all the while despising the present moment.
Big goals bring uncertainty
Let’s say I want to drive from Pune to Mumbai (or from San Fransisco to Orange County), and even before I start, I want to know exactly the number of times I would need to stop at the red signal. Crazy right?
A similar thing happens with big goals. We don’t know how the journey is going to unfold. There is uncertainty at every step. Trying to predict every move beforehand brings uncertainty and happiness.
I might not know the entire path
But I know the next 10 meters. The next steps are always visible. When we set tiny goals, the fear evaporates, and the pressure is lifted.
But wouldn’t tiny goals hold me back?
When I suggest this way of thinking to people, they feel afraid. “Isn’t the conventional advice to aim big? If I aim for small goals, wouldn’t I fall behind?”
Life would punish us if we decide to aim small.
Or would it?
Huge goals delude us into believing that we have achieved something significant. It’s nothing but a temporary spike of pleasure that deludes us into believing that we are on the right path to achieving greatness. Big goals are usually counter-productive. Ridiculously small goals, on the other hand, boost productivity.
Let me explain.
- Ridiculously small goals create momentum
Ever feel tired of taking on a new task? Completely devoid of energy? As we complete a tiny goal, however, we feel momentum on our side. This momentum gives us the energy to tackle the next tiny goal. The momentum continues.
The story of “I am not good enough” gets replaced by “Hey, this wasn’t so bad. I feel good.” These small wins stack up over a long period of time and eventually push us toward the life we want to live.
Let’s say you want to be a YouTuber
A big goal here would be to build a YouTube channel that gets, say, 10,000 views per month, and you expect a subscriber growth of 10,000 per month. Can I completely flip this and make it almost a laughable, ridiculously small goal?
10000 subscribers per month, you say? Can we start with 100?
No wait. Let’s reduce this further. How about, for the next 30 days, all you need to do, is get 10 more subscribers for your YouTube channel? That’s it. If you get 10 subscribers, you have achieved everything for this month. You can treat yourself to a massage.
“10 subscribers???”, you say.
“Are you insane, Pranav? Of course, I can get 10 subscribers! I could get them in a day. All I need to do is message 15 of my friends.”
Ah, yes. Exactly. Do you see the mental shift? The burden being lifted as this huge goal of 10,000 new subscribers was replaced by merely 10 subscribers? Unless you are an alien, you would have felt confidence and a sense of peace.
- Ridiculously small goals create peace
The best part, though, is the internal shift. I don’t know about you, but a part of me is extremely condescending, overly critical, and judgemental about everything I do.
‘You are lazy’.
‘You are not good enough.’
‘You are not making progress.’
‘You are going to fail.’
With ridiculously small goals, this rather unkind voice is replaced with peace. If the goal is accomplished, and there is nothing left to be achieved… what do I need to worry about? Everything is exactly how it should be. There is no need to strive for anything.
Back at the cafe
As I felt anxious in the cafe, I reminded myself of the ridiculously small goal I had set for myself 12 months back. I wanted to earn a certain amount of money through my side hustle.
Here’s the crazy bit: This amount was so ridiculously small that it was like a tiny piece of my monthly day job salary. I basically aimed to make, in 12 months, just a fraction of what I earn in a single month from my regular job.
And guess what? I had already achieved my goal. In fact, I had surpassed it. There was nothing else that needed to be done. It’s hard to describe what I felt. It was a profound experience of pressure being lifted. Suddenly, the right foot stopped tapping, and the cafe was a peaceful place.