Find Your Authentic Self by Setting Unreasonable Goals

It’s New Year’s resolutions time again. Are you setting safe, boring goals? Or are you setting dangerous and unreasonable goals that could change your life forever?

There is no way in January of 2010 I would have written on my annual goal list, “Move to Portland, Oregon.” In fact in June of 2010 I signed a two-year lease on my apartment in Los Angeles. Within five months of that, I decided I was moving to Portland.

Which is why I am writing you today – to share the concept of having a commitment to your goals, but leaving space for new goals to appear and provide happiness. Having concrete goals is an excellent way to test their resonance in your soul and to lead you into action, where you might find even bigger and brighter goals. The more unreasonable the goal, the bigger the impact on your life.

I rarely make “resolutions,” but I do sit down and make a list of goals for the year. And here’s the reality: I can sit down today and make my goal list for the coming year. Some of it may never come true and some of it will undoubtedly happen. What matters most is not that the actual goals happen – bigger and better things might appear in my life – what matters is I am taking action and living into my dream of who I am.

This is my actual goal list from January of 2010:

You can see I chose a variety of goals: physical, personal, and business related. I also put down in bullet points some details for each goal. What you can’t see here is that I took some of these goals and broke them out into full-fledged action lists following the SMART guidelines (which I will go over in another article). It’s all very by-the-book, but mostly not too exciting or too daring.

My success rate with these goals was also not too exciting. I don’t believe the two are unrelated. I did butterfly pull-ups for a while. I never got my muscle-up. I still can’t swim. The most “unreasonable” things on my list were learning to swim and travelling overseas.

So what goals did I reach and how did they affect me? I did pay off my credit card and I did travel overseas to Nepal – a trip that changed my life. I find no coincidence in the most “unreasonable” goal on my list being the one that elicited the most personal growth. It turns out not a lot of people travel to Nepal on their own, but to me it made sense and had to be done. Deciding to travel overseas called me into action, from deep in my soul. It was a lot of work to organize my trip and a lot of money, but I felt compelled to do it because it was something I truly wanted.

And the experience changed me. I came home from Nepal and decided I wanted to be a writer and live in Oregon. I ditched the goal list you see above and instead started regularly taking writing classes, started two websites, and travelled to Portland every couple months to begin networking. By the middle of 2011 I had a job offer on the table and was packing my apartment.

So, why are you making a list, you’re asking – if I’m just going to tell you to ditch it all? Make a list because it is everything you are passionate about in your life. Make a list containing items that light your soul. Pursue your list with everything you’ve got. If you find yourself not pursuing something on your list, maybe you don’t really want it. Maybe it’s not what is authentically you.

Be open to the idea your list means nothing. It means nothing if you accomplish none of it. And it means little if you accomplish something that doesn’t inspire you. It means everything if you accomplish a dream that somehow was never even on the list.

Have a map. Have a plan. Have a commitment.

Put something scary on your list that you would never say out loud to anyone else.

Put something on your list that feels like a dream.

Put something on your list that would make you feel alive.

And throw it all out when it leads you to something bigger.

Now that you’ve thought about how to set unreasonable goals and be open to new goals that crop up, we’ll get a little more practical and talk about SMART goal setting.