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Aiming Beyond the Target
by Elroy Carter


Most full-contact martial artists, including boxers, karateka and others, know that when they strike a target, they do not aim at the surface of the target, but, rather, several inches behind the target. The boxer does not aim for the chin, but goes for the back of the opponent's head and (incidentally) smacks the jaw on the way through. When breaking those big slabs of concrete, the martial artist does not hit the surface of the concrete, but aims for the floor or air behind it. The follow-through ensures that the target is hit, and hit effectively, because when you aim beyond the target, the target itself is hit as a matter of course.

I have recently begun to apply this mode of thinking to the goal-setting process. Now, most people say that to set an outcome effectively, you must be as specific and definite as possible. That way you will know what target you are going to hit. The thing is, I have found that by doing this, my efforts sometimes stop just short of getting my goal in its entirety, or getting a taste of the outcome, but no more. In other words, I have been aiming at the surface of the target.

What would happen if you were to take whatever goals you happened to have, and ask yourself, "What's something even better that I could go for? What is an even juicier outcome than this? What other things could happen, beyond what I have originally desired? When I get this outcome, what kinds of great side benefits will I get from it?"

Asking these kinds of questions not only ramps up your motivation, but also flushes out any limiting beliefs about your ability/deservingness to get/have this outcome, as well as any ecological considerations you may not have known until now.

Say you had a specific sales target of $100,000 per month. What if you raised the bar yourself, and made $120,000 the new standard to which you hold yourself? $150,000?

What if you wanted to get someone's phone number? How much more inspiring does it feel to make your new standard "to make this person feel utterly wonderful to be with me, to ensure that I totally fascinate and attract this person to me, so that they feel irresistibly drawn to me, and dream about me with glorious passion"?

Or how about if you wanted to get good enough grades to enter a certain course you wish to take? Does it feel better to move beyond that surface concept and think about how you can become one of the top students in that course, and have the admiration of the lecturers and other students? What would it feel like to have other students come to you, because you are the person who studies most effectively, comprehends the subject matter the best, and can explain it perhaps even better than the lecturer? When you look at the marks posted on the notice boards, does it feel good to see the highest mark next to your name, knowing that you were the one who put in all the effort, and have fully learned everything you needed to make that happen?

Pretty neat, huh? By aiming for something beyond what you originally wanted, you are virtually guaranteed to meet the primary objective.

Another application of Aiming is to think about your meta-outcomes, the "thing that getting your desire will get for you." A person who wants to make zillions in the stock market could be doing it for the fame; maybe they want to be the next Warren Buffett. They could be doing it for the ability to go anywhere and do virtually anything, the heightened levels of freedom that large material wealth can confer. What will having your goal do for you? Keep asking this question, going up further and further until you reach a large-chunk "fluff word" like freedom or happiness or security or even a combination of those.

Stop for a moment and begin to imagine, with as full an internal experience as you can, just what it would be like to have that meta-outcome fulfilled. To have the freedom, the happiness, the satisfaction you really desire. Feels fantastic, doesn't it? Let that feeling seep back down through the list of meta-outcomes that you've made, until it gets back to your original, suffusing it with the high-level outcome that you really want. Let THAT power your actions as you continue into your future.

You may also find it helpful to begin to find ways to get those high-level meta-outcomes into your life, in as many ways and places as you can. Did you discover that you want to be more creative? What are some ways that you can use, starting now, to make different areas of your life more creative? What can you do more creatively? Or if you wanted more recognition, and the meta-outcome of that was to "feel as if you'd accomplished something," well, what if you have? How does it feel to truly accomplish something, to have the acknowledgment of others? What lies beyond that?

As you continue to spread your meta-outcomes (which may indeed be values) into your life, you'll be satisfying yourself at much deeper levels, in rapport and congruence with who you are and what you want.

Something to consider:

I was driving to work, as I always do, and that morning I was in that robotic daze that often accompanies such things. I was watching the car in front of me about to turn into the next street, and I continued along, assuming that it would turn before I got to the intersection. When I realized that that car had stopped (which roughly coincided with my slamming on the brakes to narrowly miss its bumper), I realized that there were some people crossing the other road, and the car in front of me had stopped to let them through.

After I had passed, I shook myself out of my robotic sleep and asked myself, "What's the lesson here?" The immediate answer was, "Look ahead to see why something is happening." I then realized that this could be applied on a much greater scale than merely driving, although driving became the teaching metaphor. To aim beyond the target, you need to be able to perceive WHAT IS beyond the target. I'll tell you, though, it took another couple of weeks of driving to get this lesson into me, at least in the driving arena. ;-)

I wonder how many ways we can perceive what lies beyond the immediate situation, how many things we can find?

What are you aiming for, and what lies beyond?

Elroy Carter


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