Do you have big dreams that feel out of reach?
Maybe you want to learn Italian, do a handstand, land a Guinness World Record, run a marathon, or apply for your dream job.
Every big aspirational goal starts with a few small steps. The TED Talk How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals by Stephen Duneier schools us in how to go from a distracted C- student to a wildly successful professional and passionate participant in our own lives.
I’ve distilled Duneier’s powerful lessons into these 5 factors that will help you achieve your most ambitious goals and have fun doing it.
Create goals that align with your interests and passion.
If you set out to lose 25 pounds but you hate going to the gym, buying an expensive gym membership and relying on will power is a recipe for failure.
Duneier wanted to achieve exactly this goal but instead of going the typical route of tirelessly lifting weights after work and restricting his favourite foods, he decided to combine two of his favourite activities – walking and exploring the outdoors.
He decided to turn his passion into a goal – hike all 30 trails in the mountainous region where he lived.
The moment we hit a milestone and check off our goals is a small fraction of the long process it takes to get there. That’s why it’s so important that we enjoy the process and choose a route to our goal that we know we’re be passionate about.
Get to know yourself, your passions, and your interests and align your goals with the things you love. This will make the ride just as enjoyable as the destination.
Duneier ended up losing the 25 pounds in the process, but what became more motivating to him was the journey it took to get there. He finished the year completing one of the country’s most challenging half marathons and hiked the 30 trails he set out to more than once.
Soon hiking became a newfound hobby that he was excited to participate in and living a fit healthy lifestyle became natural and effortless.
Write down your most ambitious goals.
There is no limit to what you can achieve. Ask yourself the question,
“If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I want to achieve?”
Write down the big dreams you’ve been repressing due to fear and uncertainty.
Categorize these goals to make things easier. Set our personal goals, health goals, career goals, and acts of service that contribute to your direct community.
Learn a new language, break a world record, run a marathon, write a book, or start that podcast you’ve been thinking about.
During this process it’s natural to feel resistance and self-doubt. Can I really achieve something so grand? Yes! Think as big as you can and don’t shy away from those long held aspirations.
If you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at the content you regularly consume. Which business leaders, change-makers, and influencers are accomplishing feats that you look up to?
Break down big goals into small steps.
Every goal starts with the first step. Duneier mentioned that people often think about the decisions at the top of the mountain when really they should be thinking about that first decision to get up from the couch and put on those hiking boots.
Take your lofty goals and determine the very first step it will take to accomplish this. If you want to run a marathon, this could mean going for your first 1K run. If you want to learn a language, this could mean downloading language tapes to your phone.
All the thought leaders and success stories you look up to for inspiration are not special or more capable than you, they’re just people with dreams that decided to go for it.
Sit down for 5–10 minutes and take the first step.
If you’re easily distracted and struggle to focus on one task for an extended period of time – you’re not alone.
Set aside just 5 minutes to take the first step. If you read the first word in a book, you’ll read the second, the third, the paragraph, the page, the chapter, etc.
Getting started feels motivating. Procrastination is the trap that leads to inaction and fear. Once you accomplish one small task you will feel inspired to continue and realize that you’re capable of doing the work.
Don’t focus on the finish line, just focus on the small task you need to complete right now. Once you string together these little tasks they will weave into the final product.
Take regular breaks to give yourself space and alleviate pressure but cultivate the discipline to always come back to where you left off and keep going.
Make marginal improvements to your process.
Experts in their field are excellent at making marginal improvements to their process to expedite their success rates.
As we continue to pursue our goals, we learn important lessons along the way. So-called “mistakes” are actually signs that guide us in the next right direction and give us valuable tokens of wisdom from our experiences.
Get curious about what other experts and thought leaders are doing to reach their similar goals and try to emulate what they’ve learned and apply it to your own plan of execution.
Remember these can be marginal improvements. Something as simple as getting up 5 minutes earlier one day and then 5 minutes earlier the next etc.
Accomplishing big goals happens when we combine moment-to-moment progress and consistency. Creating manageable requests will allow you to continue to feel motivated without feeling overwhelmed.
Watch the Full Ted Talk
I highly recommend watching the full Ted Talk and learning more about how Stephen Duneier went from a C- student to a successful finance professional, Guinness Record holder, German-speaking, marathon-running, drumming, unicycling, rock climbing, plane-flying (the list goes on) goal-getter.