One way to shift your character – and your life – in a new direction is to set a goal that’s incompatible with the limitations of your current character.
In other words, set a goal that you would never set. Then work diligently to pursue and achieve that goal.
Thinking you can’t do something because it’s out of character for you is still just a thought. You can change your thoughts, but sometimes it’s easier to change your actions and behaviors and let your thoughts play catch-up. Sometimes thoughts of who you are just get in your way and slow you down.
When you try to change yourself at the level of thought first, sometimes that works, but other times it will just lead you into a circular trap of thinking, thinking, and more thinking – and never actually doing, exploring, and experiencing.
Pay special attention to where you have desires that you tend to quickly suppress, especially with respect to ambitious goals and lifestyle experiences.
What experiences are other people having that you secretly envy?
What do you secretly daydream about doing or experiencing, but you could never tell anyone?
Have you ever thought about pulling one of those crazy ideas out of the dream space and setting it as a real goal to accomplish? Other people have already done that.
There’s something transformational about writing down a goal that doesn’t feel like you.
I encourage you to try this: Write down some goals that you would never set as goals. If you have a system for tracking your goals and projects, add those new goals to that systems. Create stub projects for them. Slot them right alongside your other goals. Notice how this feels. Does it seem unreal? A bit edgy perhaps? Realize that you could actually achieve those goals. You could make them real. They don’t have to just haunt you in the idea space.
One example is starting a business. Some people grow up believing that they aren’t cut out to run a business. Having been an entrepreneur myself since 1994 and having met hundreds of other entrepreneurs, I can tell you that a lot of people feel that way. Many still feel that way even after they’ve been entrepreneurs for years. Lots of people don’t think they’re cut out for it, even after doing entrepreneurial activities for 10 or 20 years. So if you have doubts about whether or not you can do this, join the club – you’re way more compatible with this goal than you think.
It’s odd that even after years of doing something regularly, it can still take a while for a person’s self-image to catch up. People think they need to meet some arbitrary standard of achievement before they can claim certain labels. But the labels don’t matter that much anyway. The actions and the results matter a lot more.
Another example would be to have sexual experiences that you feel are beyond you. For some it’s losing their virginity. For others it’s having a threesome or participating in an orgy. For still others it’s having a regular sex partner with whom there’s a strong mutual attraction.
If you’d like to have a lifestyle or sexual experience that you haven’t had yet, it should be on your goals list, written down plain as day. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see yourself as “that kind of person.” Add it to your goals anyway. Take action and use your problem-solving skills to move the goal forward, just like any other.
The notion that anything is beyond you is just a thought pattern. It’s not the actual truth. There are plenty of people who are less intelligent, competent, and attractive than you are who regularly experience what you rule out. You’re probably putting some of them on a pedestal; if you met them in person, you might be far less impressed.
That’s what nudged me to set a lot of stretch goals. I met people who achieved some of my stretch experiences, and I realized that a lot of them aren’t the amazing people I assumed they were. They’re just people.
When I started ruling in those kinds of experiences at least at the level of goals that I could freely set, that made all the difference. That made my mind do a double-take: Wait… we’re actually setting these as goals? Ummm… okay, why the hell not? This could get interesting!
When you set an incompatible goal as a real goal, it pushes your brain to start asking some really good questions that you should be asking, like these:
- Is this goal really impossible for me?
- Is this goal really incompatible with who I am? Does it have to be?
- Why can’t I pursue this now?
- Could I become the kind of person who could have this experience?
- If so-and-so can have this experience, why not me?
- Do I want this? Can I admit that to myself?
- Why am I so afraid of this goal?
- Are there people who would regard my resistance and hesitation as silly, unnecessary, or cowardly?
- Are there people who’d encourage me to go for it if they knew the whole truth about my thoughts and feelings on this?
- If I could be sure that this reality is a simulation, would I let myself have this experience?
That last one is a nice way to weave in the subjective perspective.
The goals you’ve ruled out will often be the most fun, the most growth-oriented, the most motivating, and the sexiest. They’ll also be the scariest because you’ll have to stretch who you think you are to get there. That’s good. An empowering goal ought to stretch your self-image. It ought to challenge you. It ought to push your buttons.
Take a possibility you’ve been dismissing, and just try setting it as a real goal. Put it on your goals list. Then let yourself feel the resistance and self-doubt. Call it ludicrous if you must. And then say: Yeah, okay, there’s some resistance, hesitation, self-doubt, shame, fear, and so on. But I still kinda want it. It would still be an awesome experience to have. Then let the goal remain on your list. Just keep looking at it when you see your other goals and projects. Just keep leaning into the realization that you could actually do it.