The Challenge of Big Goals

Sometimes I will watch my son Alec play a game. The game is way too easy, and he wins every time. I will ask him why he plays it. He simply responds that it is something he enjoys.

If a game is too challenging, he will get frustrated and stop playing. If it is too hard, it isn’t very fun for this seven year old. Ideally the goal of any game is to win and to have fun. Alec is not going to willingly challenge his mental capacities for the sake of challenging his mental capacities. At his age, that is not enough of an incentive to play the game.

As we get older, our motivations become more complex. Of course, we like to have fun, and we want to win. But we also have to add in elements of “it needs to be done” or “it will make us better.” We lose the simplicity of our childhood for the higher purpose of necessity. We force ourselves to do what we think is in our best interests. It is why we set resolutions at the beginning of the year in hopes of some monumental change. There is an inner desire to become better, to put it on paper, and commit to it. By the way, how are those resolutions going?

The commission from the church came in. They approached the candidates and asked for their proposals. They wanted something spectacular, something worthy to adorn the temple of God. They wanted a masterpiece to grace the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Imagine if Michelangelo gave them a simple proposal. Picture him saying, “Well, I can maybe paint a cross on a blue background with a couple of clouds floating in the distance.” Could you imagine the response from the ceiling committee? They would have passed on him and went to the next artist. They didn’t want basic. They wanted something that would inspire wonder in the hearts of their parishioners. Michelangelo took the job and painted the ceiling in about four years. His work would last for centuries and be replicated in hundreds of different ways so that the masses could place a reminder of it in their homes.

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our goal is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. –Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s work on that ceiling was an enormous project. His goals in the beginning were no small thing. He challenged himself, and he completed it. When it comes to goal setting, his example would be the gold standard of shooting for the moon. And what would have happened if he never finished it? What if he died in the last year of the project? I don’t think he would have been overly disappointed. Yes, of course he would have wanted to finish it, but it would not have been for a lack of effort on his part.

The opposite of the gold standard for goal setting would be to make set them too low. It would be like playing a game that is way too easy. Those type of goals do not make us better people. They don’t push us to see what we are capable of accomplishing. Today, I am going to take a moment and look at the goals I am setting for myself. Are they going to challenge me or are they going to give me a false sense of accomplishment? Am I working to become better or am I choosing to remain stagnant?

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. -Les Brown

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