Have you ever stared off in to the distance, maybe at the beach where the sea meets the sky, or on a wide open plain where the land stretches to meet the horizon in the distance? Did you ever stop to think that though we’ve internalized the idea that the horizon itself exists, in reality, if you started walking toward it, you’d never reach it? The horizon is real, but only in our minds. It’s a mental construct that can never be physically reached.
Just like the mental construct of the horizon, we also create ideals that we use to think about and create our futures. These ideals serve as mental reference points that we use to establish goals, to motivate ourselves, and to get through periods of difficulty in our lives. They exist only in the mind and, just like the horizon, are impossible to reach.
It’s great to have ideals, in fact, they’re necessary, but they can also do some very real damage to our psyches—and, as a result, our confidence.
Every day at Strategic Coach, we work with entrepreneurs who have such a wide variety of extraordinary skills and proven track records that we wager there isn’t a person who would not find their stories impressive.
Yet, along with their talents, many also have a sense of perfection that hobbles their capacity to recognize their successes. Because they measure their achievements against their ideals, they live in the negative zone. The result is a sense of constant failure despite their successes—and a continual draining of their confidence, a “skill” Dan Sullivan believes is the number one responsibility of every entrepreneur to protect.
Measuring your progress against the ideal is an exercise in frustration. Like the horizon, your ideals are always shifting ahead. This creates a constant gap between your accomplishments and your ideals. The experience of measuring yourself against your ideals is one of failure, disappointment, and low self-esteem, no matter how high your achievements.
Instead, allow the ideal to play its proper role—as a source of inspiration and direction when you’re setting your goals. Measure your progress by looking back at the goals you’ve accomplished, and be sure to celebrate these successes. After all, you’ll always be further ahead than you were before. And that qualifies as an accomplishment.
Using this new “measurement mindset,” your goal-setting experience can be one of satisfaction, optimism, and confidence.