How ambitious should our goals be?

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February 18, 2021

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We are often pulled in different directions when setting our goals. We feel that we should go big and be ambitious. At the same time, we want a goal that we can accomplish, a target we are able to hit. We are debate between these two extremes: the 10X go-to-the-moon and our to-do list. Neither of these extremes is helpful. If a goal is so big that we don’t know how to start, we get demotivated and give up after the first try. If a goal is too small it will take us nowhere new and it will be one more thing in our TODO.

The following 5 questions will help you find the right balance for your goals.

1. When does this goal end?

Before we worry about how big or small the goal is, the goal needs to have an end date. This is a time when you will stop and create a new goal. Are you giving yourself a month for this goal? A year? 

At Heron we recommend three-month goals. This is long enough to allow you to experiment and short enough to give us a sense of urgency.

2. Do I know what to do to reach my goal?

A good goal is one that we don’t know how to achieve. It forces us to experiment, to try new things. If we know how to reach this goal, if we are confident about it, the chances are that it is not ambitious enough. Go bigger.

3. Do I know what to do this week to get started with this goal?

A good goal is concrete enough that it feels actionable. We may not know how to reach it but we should know how to get started this week. Otherwise, we will never get there. When goals are too high level sometimes we don’t know where to start. Goals are meant to help us move forward, do things. Go smaller.

4. How much of my self-worth is tied to this goal?

Sometimes goals are very important to our self-worth. Failing at this goal makes us feel like a failure. If this is the case, consider playing it safe and making the goal more achievable. 

Having our self-worth attached to a goal is a tremendous source of energy because so much is at stake. At the same time, not achieving the goal is painful and demotivating. This perspective is often associated with a fixed mindset.

On the other hand, when we see the goal as part of a learning path that is ongoing, we are able to make it more ambitious. Failing to reach it won’t feel like a personal failure. Instead, we will reward ourselves for how much we moved forward. This perspective is more often associated with a growth mindset.

5. What is my energy level for this period of time?

Sometimes we are just exhausted and we need to cruise a little. Prioritizing taking care of ourselves is productive. At Heron we noticed that every 6 or 9 months folks need an easier goal. This is a period of recharging, getting the inner house in order. It is an active decision to slow down. When we are in one of these periods, go smaller.


Goals are meant to drive you forward, to help you DO things. The trick is on finding the right balance between ambition and execution. 

Steps to figure out the right size for your goal:

  • Have a clear time period. At Heron we recommend 3 months goals.
  • Make it big enough that you don’t know how to achieve it.
  • Make it small enough that you know how to get started.
  • Take care of yourself. Achievable goals are important when they are tied to our sense of self worth. They are also appropriate when our energy is low.
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Feb 8, 2021
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What do we really mean by having a "goal"?

A ‘goal’ can mean different things depending on how much time we are allotting to it. Let’s have a look at how it all fits together.‍ 

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