There is a natural human desire to stand out and be noticed and remembered. For many people, there is also a personal desire to feel accomplished by doing something special. In many cases, these desires translate into a goal of being exceptional and performing beyond average, not just for ourselves but universally.
While there are a few occasions where striving for exceptionalism is the right goal, too often this will set you up for failure and unhappiness. In many cases, the goal of being the best may not have been what you needed in the first place.
Choosing Realism Over Exceptionalism
There are some goals where aspiring to be exceptional makes sense. For instance, if your goal is to be an Olympic gold medal winner, your goal is to be exceptional. But for most people, aspiring to be an Olympic gold medalist is far beyond what they want to accomplish.
All the same, it is not unusual for people to take that idea of being spectacular and apply it to their day to day goals. There are different flaws with this approach, including:
- Extreme Goals are a Burden – Olympic athletes put in thousands of hours of training every year to be as good as they are. For many people, that is neither sustainable nor desirable. It often is also not a reasonable trade off for the chance of being exceptional and trying to attempt it can lead to burnout.
- The Goal Does Not Reflect Who You Are – There is a difference between striving to be the absolute best and wanting to do good. You can still complete very meaningful goals without wanting to be the best. In fact, by setting and striving for goals that are most reflective of who you are, you set yourself up for success and greater satisfaction upon meeting those goals.
- Exceptional Has a High Rate of Failure – Theoretically, there is only one person that can be the best at anything, which means that everyone else striving for the same goal will fail. Choosing a goal that involves being your best as opposed to the best will deliver challenges that are in line with your abilities and a high chance of future success.
This is not to say that you should not set goals to be exceptional. But you should be honest and deliberate in your goal setting by identifying where setting a goal of exceptionalism may be a powerful motivator with a rewarding payoff, and where it might simply be you striving to be someone other than who you are.
The therapists at Long Island Counseling can help you with setting goals. We meet with patients in our new office in Roslyn Heights and in our longstanding locations in Rockville Centre and Garden City to provide effective therapy wherever you are located on Long Island.