5 Realistic Expectations That Set You Up to Achieve Unrealistic Goals

Yesterday I said that when it comes to goals, unrealistic is not synonymous with impossible. But my Microsoft Word thesaurus tells me that it is synonymous with improbable.

This post is about how to approach your unrealistic goals in a way that makes them less improbable.

It has to do with your expectations.

(By the way, this post is a follow up from yesterday’s about how not to set goals. If you haven’t read it, check that one out, then bounce back for this one.)

5 realistic things you should expect when you strive for unrealistic goals

It’s easy to think romantically about unrealistic goals. You picture Tim Keller dreaming big of church planting in Manhattan, and then – ta daa! – all of a sudden he has achieved unparalleled success.

If you bring that expectation to your big, dangerous goals, then you’re in for serious disappointment. You haven’t considered the hard work unrealistic goals require. Your expectations are out of whack. Improbable turns into impossible.

But, if you can bring some realistic expectations to your unrealistic goals, you will be well on your way to surprising yourself with what you accomplish. There’s five. Four now, one later.

1. Expect to need help from others: An unrealistic goal stretches you beyond your own resources and requires you to enlist the help of others. Oftentimes, the change you desire is related to a weakness you have. Therefore, you will need to capitalize on other people’s strengths.

2. Expect to fail along the way: When you fail, remember these two things: 1) Failing along the way is not the same asfailing all the way, and 2) you actually accomplish more when you fail at something big than when you succeed at something small.

3. Expect to improve your strengths and skills: If you didn’t have to get better to accomplish the goal, you probably would have accomplished it already. If you want to challenge the status quo outside of you, be prepared to challenge itinside of you, too.

4. Expect the goal to change your reality when you meet it: You will not be the same person after you accomplish this goal. Your church will not be the same church. A transformation takes place. That’s kind of scary. New realities mean new problems, which will require new unrealistic goals.

The common denominator: expect hard work and strive for a penetrable comfort zone.

2 examples of unrealistic goals, and realistic expectations that go with them

Here’s two examples of unrealistic goals, and how they fit the above criteria. These don’t each necessarily relate to pastoral ministry per se, but they do relate to pastors.

1. Lose 30 pounds: This could be unrealistic for someone who has always been overweight (think Jared the Subway guy). (1) Expect to need guidance on what exercise regimen and diet is best for your body type. (2) Expect the scale to go up and down. You just want more downs than ups! (3) Expect to learn how to cook differently. (4) Expect to have more energy, and, therefore, less excuses for your next unrealistic goal.

2. Invigorate evangelistic effort in your church: This might be an unrealistic goal for a small church with lots of love for each other, and no desire to disrupt their church “family.” (1) Expect to network with other pastors who have successfully accomplished this feat in their church. (2) Expect people that want the same “warm” church to leave when it feels different. (3) Expect to train folks who do stick around on how to share the gospel, lead Bible studies, etc. (4) Expect the chair that perfectly fits your bottom to be occupied by someone new, because they didn’t know it’s been your spot since “Shout to the Lord” was the #1 worship song. Additionally, how are you going to welcome and integrate all the visitors?

The last realistic expectation of your unrealistic goals

5. Expect your goal to require 100% commitment from you: Unrealistic goals are only worth setting if you are all in. It has to mean that much to you to get you through the resistance (inner an outer) that you will inevitably face. No toe-dipping. Opt for the cannonball.

We’re getting close, but we’re not quite there yet. We’ve decided not to tolerate small goals. We’ve talked about how to get ourselves mentally prepared to take on big goals. But we haven’t talked about how to get big, unrealistic goals underway.

That’s what we’ll cover next.