The sweet spot?

I have struggled over the years trying to find a sweet spot for ambitiousness. I do not want to set my goals to low and fail to reach my potential. Nor do I want to set my goals to high and frustrate myself with never reaching them. In general, I have not been a risk taker. I always seem to pick goals that are a challenge, but always doable without significant struggle. Sometimes, after reading books like Atlas Shrugged, I am motivated to push myself to my limits as Dagny does over and over. But I don't.

Some of my goals, such as completing my undergrad in Physics or my PhD in Management, were challenging and time consuming, but never to the point that it stretched me. I was fortunate that I did not have to work part-time outside of my PhD program for extra income. As an undergrad, I did have a part-time job, but I lived at home and my parents took care of all my bills and managed the house.

The hardest goal I set for myself was starting a career in web development. While living on my own, I changed careers from teaching/tutoring to something that I had zero experience doing. So of course no body wanted to hire me. Yet, I needed someone to hire me to get experience. My solution - I offered my services for free. I built websites for organizations I knew and for family businesses. But of course, doing this work for free meant that I had no income. So I picked up some part-time jobs here and there while I struggled to make ends meet for over 6 months. Finally, I was able to find a job at a .com company willing to take a chance on me. With experience in that company, I was easily able to transition to work at other companies when the .com went belly-up.

My second hardest goal was completing a marathon. This really did push me to my limits, but only for a few hours. The first half of the marathon was easy (as most marathoners will tell you). But around the 18 mile mark, the arch of my foot became extremely sore. I slowed to a walk, then a slow jog, back to a walk, back and forth for the next 8.1 miles. All the while, my foot throbbed. That last hour was extremely difficult, but I pushed myself through it and made it to the finish line.

The older I get, the less motivated I am to push myself to my limits. I no longer want to complete an Ironman. I no longer want to work 70 hours a week, week after week. I no longer want to take large financial gambles. Yet, I know that if I do push myself I can achieve much, much more and potentially bring myself immense happiness. This is definitely something I will have to give a lot more thought too.

1 comment:

  1. I find this to be a very fascinating topic. I've done a lot of thinking about this in the past few years. For some time, I have subscribed to the philosophy that if you achieve a goal, it was probably too low. I've gone back and forth on whether that is the right approach for me or not, ultimately deciding that it is. You raise a good point about setting goals so high that you get frustrated. I've become more than frustrated. What I've ultimately determined, however, is that the frustration is what I need to address, not the goal. The goal is fine. The frustration can be addressed. I've come to embrace that "goal seeking/goal failing" aspect of myself as a good thing, and rather than getting frustrated, looking at what I DID accomplish. That being said, I'm not suggesting the goals should be so ambitious that they're silly. Then the point is lost. I also (although I hate this way of thinking in some ways) look at how hard I tried. In other words, did I "do my best". When I view it that way, my lofty goals are a good thing. PS: this box is too small.