How do we usually create a goal, personal or business? We take a look at what we’ve been able to do in the past and then either shoot for the same result or add a reasonable amount to it (like a 20% increase) and make that our goal.
If we have a good strategy and the circumstances haven’t changed very much, we have a good chance to reaching our new goal.
If you are satisfied with incremental improvements, this strategy might work, unless the circumstances have changed (which, in today’s world, is very likely). But what can you do if the world has changed significantly since the last time you tried something like this? And even if the world hasn’t changed much, what if you want more than incremental improvements? What if you want breakthroughs? What if you want to achieve things that have never been achieved before?
You need a new approach
Let’s first be clear what I mean by a breakthrough. A breakthrough consists of seeing possibilities and opportunities that you did not see before. Breakthroughs enable you to take actions you have not taken before, so you can produce results you have not produced before. (I wrote an entire blog post about breakthroughs earlier this year.)
The single best way to create new possibilities and opportunities that did not exist for you before is to unlearn what you already think is true.
Possibilities and opportunities are largely a function of how you see yourself, people, and life. One set of beliefs closes down possibilities; unlearn those beliefs and possibilities appear, seemingly from out of nowhere.
Here’s another way of looking at this issue. There are an infinite number of possibilities and opportunities out there in reality. Your beliefs determine which ones you can see. Have you ever had the experience of reading about someone else’s breakthrough and thinking: Why didn’t I think of that? The answer: Because you had beliefs that blinded you to the possibility.
A practical example of being reasonable
Let me make this real. Assume you wanted to make some major changes to your home or apartment; for example, you wanted to paint a few rooms or put up some wallpaper. The last couple of times you did anything like this around the house you called three or four of your closest friends and asked for help; a couple of them showed up; it took a couple of days. So you assume that you’ll probably get the same results this time: a couple of people will to spend a couple of days helping you do the painting or putting up the wallpaper.
But let’s assume you’d like to complete the project in just a few hours. That doesn’t seem possible given your past results. That’s unreasonable. And it can’t be done given your beliefs.
What are some of the beliefs you’ve formed from your past experiences? First, there are only three or four friends who you can impose upon to give you so much time. Second, only some of them, probably half of them, will be willing to give up so much free time to do some hard work. And finally, a job like this will take a couple of days given the number of people who will be available to do it.
Given these beliefs, you probably will do what you did last time and get the same results you got last time. But what if you wanted a breakthrough? What if you needed to complete the job in less than a day? We’ll assume that you still want it done for free without hiring a professional. Can you get that it can’t be done given your beliefs, given the box you are in?
Obviously, the first thing to do is unlearn the beliefs about who you can ask, what percentage of them will agree to help, and how long it will take. What if there is nothing you can’t do to complete the job in a couple of hours (without paying someone to do it)?
Imagine your own solution with no limitations
Before you read one version of how to be unreasonable, ask yourself: If I had no limiting beliefs regarding this project, what could I do to complete the job in just a few hours? … Really, spend a minute and imagine no limitations. How could you get help completing the job in just a few hours? …
Okay, you’ve probably just found a viable solution on your own. But let me give you just one possible scenario. Instead of asking just your close friends, ask almost everyone you know. Ands instead of asking them to help you do some work, ask them to come to a painting or wallpapering party, where you will serve food, play music, meet new people they don’t know, etc. When they arrive, put them into teams and have prizes for the team that accomplishes certain tasks the fastest with a predetermined level of quality.
This isn’t necessarily the best solution and there are probably ten other approaches that would work if you assumed no limitations on how you could achieve your goal.
By committing to a goal that seems impossible (that actually is impossible given your existing limiting beliefs), you are forced to unlearn those beliefs to reach your goal. That enables you to achieve what initially seemed unreasonable.
What’s wrong with reasonable goals
Reasonable goals are consistent with what is predictable, what’s likely to happen, and are consistent with your existing beliefs. To use a cliché, they are goals that exist “inside the box.” You might achieve such goals, but they will never be remarkable; they will never be breakthroughs; they will never change the world.
An unreasonable goal, one that cannot be achieved in the current box, one that is not consistently with existing beliefs, requires you to unlearn existing beliefs. Breakthroughs require unreasonable goals. If what you accomplished was not unreasonable to begin with, what you accomplished wasn’t a breakthrough.
A few examples of unreasonable goals
Roger Bannister did not merely set a goal of winning the mile race. He set a goal of breaking the four-minute mile, something that had never been done before.
Google did not merely set a goal of building an effective search engine that would make money for the company. It set a goal of making all the world’s information available to everyone, immediately, for free—something that had never been done before.
Remember Apple’s 1997 “Think Different” ad campaign. It featured people who had achieved significant breakthroughs, including: Dylan, Einstein, Picasso, and Gandhi. These were all people who saw things differently and who then went on the transform the world as we knew it. They didn’t choose goals that were incrementally better than what they or others had already done. They challenged the assumptions that most people had made about what was possible.
Real innovators don’t operate in the same world as the rest of us
As I said in a prior post, “The biggest barrier most people have to happiness and success is not an inability to deal with the world ‘as it really is.’ Their biggest barrier is a world filled with many self-imposed limitations. They live in a reality of their own making—a world in which they are inadequate, in which they can’t get what they want from others, in which lots of things can’t be done, etc.”
Unlearn the beliefs you have that describe the world in which you are setting your goals. Then you won’t have to think “outside the box”; you will have eliminated the box altogether. Then the goals that would have been “unreasonable” given your old beliefs (and perhaps the beliefs of most other people), become “reasonable.” Think about the scenario I described above where you had a project you needed help with. Can you get how unlearning your beliefs turned your unreasonable goal into a very reasonable one?
We look at the people who changed the world and might think their accomplishments were miracles. But those people didn’t see their accomplishments that way. Given their beliefs about what was possible and their lack of beliefs about what was impossible, their goals made perfect sense and were perfectly reasonable.
Would you like to change the world?
More people would take on the job of changing the world—making it a better place to live for everyone—if they thought it was possible. If you are one of those people, here’s how to create the mindset in which it becomes possible:
If you make a goal and it seems reasonable—something that you can achieve with enough time and effort—discard it. Create a goal that seems totally unreasonable given everything you know. Then challenge what you think you know and unlearn the beliefs that make the goal seem impossible. After you’ve dissolved “the box,” create a new goal that would have been totally impossible at the start of the process. If there are still any beliefs in the way of going after that goal, unlearn them.
What can you expect if you do as I suggest? A life lived on the edge. A life filled with excitement. A life that truly makes a contribution. A life filled with achievements that most people would consider impossible. A life that’s truly worth living.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please post your questions or comments about living an unreasonable life. Disagreement is as welcome as agreement. Your comments add value for thousands of readers. I love to read them all and I will respond to as many as I can.
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Copyright © 2014 Morty Lefkoe