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Why Bigger Goals Can Be Easier to Achieve

An unusual insight about why it’s often easier to achieve goals that seem bigger than anything you’ve done before.

This builds upon the Chapter 1 vs Chapter 2 idea shared on yesterday’s review call, but I don’t think you need to have heard that part to understand this.

[The idea I shared on the review call was based on a common piece of advice for new fiction writers – that you should delete whatever you wrote for Chapter 1 and begin your book with Chapter 2. This is because your original Chapter 1 will typically include too much backstory and exposition, and it’s frequently better to get into the juicy parts of your story sooner. I used this as an analogy for setting goals, suggesting that people ought to skip past the Chapter 1 version of their goals (which often involve overly mental or numbers-based framing – boring!) and get into the juicy parts of Chapter 2 and beyond by focusing on the meaning, ripples, and emotional journey.]

Acknowledging Your Old Story

When I was in my scarcity phase of life, I was very sensitive to prices. Since money was tight, I saw anything free as so much better than anything paid. If something cost $5, that would feel sooooo different than free. Even $1 vs free was a big deal. If I would buy a veggie sandwich at Subway, I would skip the avocado for $1 extra, even though I loved avocado. Would that $1 difference really matter? It felt like it mattered.

There’s still a part of my mind that thinks this way today because I conditioned it to think that way in the past. But it’s also linked up with relatively low-cost expenses because that was my training data set at the time.

As my income increased, I formed different associations to more expensive items. So part of my mind still wants to run extra assessment cycles over the difference between a $5 and $10 option, but when I think about a $500 vs $1000 expense, those land in my abundance training data set, so that seems easy because I don’t have major negative associations to those kinds of expenses. Consequently, it feels like $500 expenses are cheaper than $5 ones because I have less resistance to spending an extra $500 than I do to spending $5.

Same thing goes for taxes. Paying a $50K tax bill seems easy. Paying a $1K tax bill seems more painful. Those two tax bills are associated with different training sets and different chapters of my life.

Even today I will often think more about whether a $5 expense is worth it, but I can spend $500 like it’s just free money.

This also applies to the income side. It feels difficult to try to earn an extra $100. But earning an extra $20K or $50K is easy, and earning an extra $100K just seems fun and flowing. And I think that’s because with respect to those numbers, I’m not struggling with past associations getting in my way.

So that’s an interesting oddity about moving into a fresh Chapter 2 reality. It gives you a chance to break through your old associations and write a new story for your character.

Stretching Your Intentionality

Trying to fight or overcome my character’s pre-trained tendencies keeps me stuck in Chapter 1. But if I skip ahead to Chapter 2 in my imagination, there’s a blank page where I can write something new, if I’m willing to take the leap into unexplored territory.

This is one reason it’s so important and useful to stretch your intentionality further forward. Stretch beyond the story that’s already been written by your past, and extend your mind and goals into open spaces. You can often make much faster progress that way.

This requires the willingness to stretch your character and identity. Can you start seeing yourself as a different person? It helps if you’re able to stretch your character into some unexplored territory where you can begin writing some fresh story, so you can bypass some constraints of your past story.

It’s a bit like moving to a new city or going to a new school. If no one in the new territory knows you as your past self, you have more freedom to write a fresh story. I felt like I became a different person each time I had a significant move or school change. Same goes for getting into a new social circle.

It’s extra crucial to connect with a social group that gives you room to grow and that won’t keep associating you with your Chapter 1 self. It’s best to loosen up those connections that will resist your efforts to write some fresh story for your character. I think we do a good job of this in CGC by fostering a culture that encourages exploration and change, not tying anyone to stick with their past selves. You probably won’t find many members here who’d try to talk you out of writing a fresh chapter of your life story, but I know that some members struggle with other social connections that resist those kinds of changes.

Keep in mind (and in heart) that when you break free and begin writing your Chapter 2 story, you encourage others to do the same, even if they may initially resist what you’re doing. You’re not really serving anyone by clinging to Chapter 1.

The Power of Unwritten Story

One pattern I see frequently in people who have some great transformational breakthroughs is that they stop focusing their attention where the resistance is, and they head for fresh territory. They start writing their new story where the story hasn’t been written yet.

Chapter 1 is the story of the old reality. That’s where all the problems and difficulties are. It’s so tempting to focus your attention there by saying, “I need to clear all of this out, and then I can begin writing Chapter 2.” But that will almost always keep you stuck in Chapter 1, which will just keep generating more of the same kinds of problems to anchor you there. You’ll probably never make it to Chapter 2 with that approach. Usually life doesn’t reward this approach very well either. You probably won’t get much cooperation, so you’ll have to self-power your way through every little problem and project, which becomes exhausting after a while. I really don’t recommend this.

It seems like a cheat to start writing Chapter 2 before you’ve finished Chapter 1, but is it really? If you were writing a novel or a movie script, would your best inspiration and motivation come from writing about the old reality? Do you think George Lucas got inspired to write Star Wars by thinking about a farmer boy with some droids? Did he finish writing Chapter 1 before giving much thought to what would come next? Seriously… who finds the inspiration for great story from anything in Chapter 1? You may begin writing there, but the inspiration for the story comes from much further along.

When people focus on Chapter 1 goals – the telltale signs being that the goals are super objective (often numbers-based), lack motivational fire, and don’t involve any meaningful character or identity shifts – they usually don’t get very far with them. And they often wonder what’s the point. And they’re right. There’s little point in working on such goals. It’s like watching Luke Skywalker setting quarterly goals to optimize the farm.

You’re munching on your popcorn watching Luke on the screen, and your mind is wondering when the real story will begin because you know that you’re just seeing the pre-transformational backstory during the first several minutes.

And oddly it’s easier for Luke to become a Jedi than it would be for him to optimize the farm. When he leaves Tatooine, he’s free to write fresh story. While his new reality may seem more daunting, it’s also 100X more motivating, and that makes all the difference in the galaxy.

He still, however, takes his (newest) farm droids with him on his new journey, so he doesn’t entirely break free from his past. But that doesn’t matter because he’s writing such a completely different story that the droids can’t offer any meaningful resistance. They get swept up in his new story too and become helpful allies. C3PO’s whining serves as humor and to remind us how much Luke has grown, but C3PO is powerless to derail Luke’s new story.

I find that to be the case in real life as well. When writing fresh story, I still carry elements of the past with me, but they no longer serve as anchors to resistance. The new story gives those old story elements new meaning. For instance, fretting over a $5 expense serves as a reminder to appreciate abundance and not to take it for granted, and that actually sweetens the experience. It also makes it easy to relate to people who struggle with finances because that mode of thinking is still with me. I wrote some extra script after that part of my story, but scarcity thinking is still part of my story. The scarcity mindset plays a different role now, anchoring to gratitude and compassion instead of to resistance and frustration. Sometimes I think of it as cute, much as you could see R2D2 in that way.

Finding Your Best Motivational Fuel

Chapter 1 doesn’t provide the motivational fuel to get through Chapter 1. That fuel comes from hooking your body, mind, heart, and spirit into Chapter 2 and beyond. Once you anchor your intentions into your new reality and your new identity, your perspective on Chapter 1 will shift. How this plays out is different for everyone, but it generally involves finding shortcuts that speed you through Chapter 1 and/or realizing that some of the old problems don’t even need to be solved or dealt with anymore.

Did Luke ever go back to Tatooine and wrap up his affairs with the farm? Did he inherit the place from his uncle and aunt after they died? Did the Empire seize it for unpaid taxes? Did he turn it into a rebel burner commune? Does it matter?

It’s hard to find people who regret getting into their Chapter 2 story, even when the transition out of Chapter 1 is messy and inelegant (which it usually is). The #1 regret is that people wish they’d done it sooner, often many years sooner. People regret spending so much time figuring out, optimizing, and trying to advance their Chapter 1 story. In retrospect, they look back and wonder why it took them so long to progress to the juiciest and most engaging parts of their story arc. In many cases they waited until life kicked them out of Chapter 1, and they were forced by circumstances to finally get into Chapter 2, but then it wasn’t the Chapter 2 experience they’d have chosen if they’d done it more consciously and deliberately.

Look at your goals and ask yourself if you’re drawing motivation, inspiration, and story progression from Chapter 2 and beyond… or if you’re still trying to optimize the farm. You can tinker on the farm – that’s your choice – but life won’t likely open up the floodgates of support and synchronous aid till you make a more interesting story pitch.

Your own body is unlikely to cooperate much with a Chapter 1 story pitch either. It probably won’t fill your heart with the best motivation and your mind with the best idea flow until you give it a compelling reason to amp up the energy flow. That compelling reason won’t be found in Chapter 1.

Original post: StevePavlina.com

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