Goal setting is an interesting topic for many reasons. It is one of those subjects that has a sweet spot in the middle, a golden mean, which allows for an optimal outcome. Aim too high and you will never reach your goals. Aim too low and you’ll never get very far in life. The art of finding the middle lies at the core of creative living.
Goals are likely the source of most of the tension or creative pressure in your life. Remembering that all change requires pressure, you see very quickly that goal setting relates to pressure management. A big goal with a short deadline inherently contains or requires more pressure to achieve than a small goal set far out into the future.
That said, not all goal-related pressures are natural or inherent. Procrastination, for example tends to compress the pressure wave into a very small part of what would typically be a longer, smoother cycle. Conversely, hastening or forcing the actualization of goals crams the pressure wave unnaturally into the beginning of a creative cycle. In either case the pressure wave is manipulated arbitrarily and without respect to the natural rhythm of the cycle.
Now goal setting is only half of the picture. Achieving goals requires much more than simply setting a goal, putting one’s heals up and waiting for the goal to be achieved. As Antoine de Saint Exupéry said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” To achieve a goal you must also craft a plan. That plan must be realistic. It must take into account available resources, limitations, and opportunities. And typically there must be agreement with respect to it amongst all involved if it is to be accomplished.
Goals of any size can typically be broken down into their constituent parts, bite-sized morsels that make even the largest goals digestible by those with even the smallest stomach for change. I often find that the process of breaking them down allows me to plan for their execution more easily. In this regard it is useful to think of larger, more complex goals in terms of phases or stages. It is much easier to plan from the foundation up and the inside out than it is to try and plan the totality of a project all at once.