Stop 10x-ing Your Goals

I can’t remember where I first heard the idea that you should “10x” all of your goals, dreams and (probably) protein consumption, but I remember several points in my life where I wish I HADN’T heard it:

  • Like the point when you think about starting to exercise and you “dream big”, buy your body weight in protein shakes and plan your record-breaking, one-man ascent of Everest;
  • Or, when you’re starting a new blog and dreaming of giving TED talks, becoming an “authority” and drowning in book deals.

10x-ing our goals is one of those ideas that sounds like it’s what we should be doing. The idea of having a four-hour work week, during which we achieve our big, fat, hairy and audacious goals sounds like it’s what we should be striving for. As Donald Trump once said at a time when it was cool(ish) to quote him:

“If you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big!”

Donald Trump, US President and recipient of the 2019 “OH MY GOD! What the hell were you thinking of?” Award

Is there a problem with “10x” thinking (apart from the fact that it’s going to be so annoying to keep typing!), lurking in the darkness somewhere, just waiting to pounce and trip us up though?

I think there is, and that we need to address it before we start mindlessly posting pictures of Grant Cardone on our social media.

“Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll end up hitting the stars.”

Nonsensical bullshit. We’ve already seen how for every action, there is a maxim, dictum or meme to convince you of doing it.

Do you think Ben Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci or anyone else who ever achieved anything great did it on the basis of a trite proverb?

10x Thinking - Gandhi

I’m going to suggest a new idea:

Instead of “10x”, go for “1.01x”

Why? Well:

  • What if 10x-ing your life was causing you more problems than it solved?
  • What if “10x” thinking is slowly choking the life out of your dreams, rather than helping you to achieve them?

There are, at least, four faulty assumptions to “10x” thinking:

Faulty Assumption No 1: That 10x-ing your life would make it ten times better than it is now

I would like more money, but I don’t need 10x what I have now. 10x money would definitely NOT equal 10x happier.

If I was to think “10x”, and ONLY “10x”, I’d have to do something massively different. I’d have to break new ground, work hard at learning something new and make major changes. I’d be working more hours, seeing less of my family and I’d be a lot more stressed than I am now. I’d have to do more tax paperwork, build – and manage – a different work infrastructure and probably employ lots of people (for which there would be even more paperwork!).

Honestly? Just typing that is stressing me out.

I don’t want that.

I’d be quite happy with a “2x”- just getting a little bit better and being a little bit more comfortable, without all the added stresses and strains.

Faulty Assumption No 2: That “10x” thinking is the ONLY way to affect massive change

If I want to train as a bodybuilder, I can.

I won’t, but I can.

Having a competition-ready physique of a prize-winning bodybuilder would definitely be a “10x” goal for me (actually, given my starting point, it’s probably more 23x, but let’s not get bogged down in this).

Nobody becomes a Herculean god, with veins popping out of their veins, from the moment they decide to “10x” their thinking and become a bodybuilder.

10x-ing my weight training wouldn’t get me there “10x” faster – the change is far more gradual than that, probably over 10-12 years (again, given my starting point, that’s probably a drastic understatement, but let’s not bash my ego too much).

To get to prize physique status, I don’t NEED to think “10x”. I could make a small change now, then another and then another – gradually getting better – and still end up at the same destination, probably around the same time as the “10x” guys.

I could make the decision to make small changes, every single day – slowly tweaking my diet, starting to exercise and building a collection of those tiny vests bodybuilders are fond of.

Most goals are accomplished this way.

You don’t need to massively overhaul your life to get to where you want to be.

You can, but you don’t have to.

Faulty Assumption No 3: That thinking “10x” is inherently better than small thinking

Science shows that small changes are more likely to stick for longer (BJ Fogg and others have talked about this, and here is a really great article by James Clear on how to use these ideas). Making big, sweeping, “10x style” life changes, while making you feel like a godlike powerhouse for the 28 seconds you actually manage to stick to them, will surely end in ruin.

It’s the couch potato who decides to run a marathon, go level 5 Vegan, start meditating and drink only green tea. Twenty minutes later, they’re face first in a bucket of KFC and they have a fresh layer of meat sweats.

Sure, it can happen, and maybe when you do it it will stick, but you’d be the anomaly. Far better to go with the statistical evidence and choose a path well-trodden – one that works.

The tortoise really does win the race!

OK, so maybe not THIS race…

You’d be far better of thinking:

“What 1% change can I make TODAY that will make my life better?”

Want to get fitter? Do one push up today then get another 1% better tomorrow by doing two (I know the maths doesn’t quite back me up on that one, but you get the idea).

Want to eat healthier? Have fourteen scoops of ice cream after dinner, instead of your usual fifteen.

Slowly, and surely, you’ll get there. (BTW, I’m not counting “Slowly and surely” as a trite maxim, as it’s backed up by data – so NER!!).

Faulty Assumption No 4: That “10x” thinking inspires action

For most of us, “10x” thinking holds us back.

Thinking “10x” forces us to say “hello” to the gap – the vast chasm – between where we are and where we want to be.

The Gap - 10x Thinking
“I think I can make it…”

Far from inspiring us, it actually terrifies us from making the leap. We’re constantly reminded of how far we’ve yet to go – we spend our lives in a state of perpetual failure, because, like that annoying child in the back seat, we’re constantly asking…

“are we nearly there yet?”

Quiet Well Behaved Kids - 10xing Your Goals
Ahhh, Phenergan my old friend

If we focus on getting a little bit better, however, we’re working from a completely different angle –  because we’re getting better every single day, “the gap” is now behind us. We’re in a state of perpetual success – getting better all the time.

We’re not looking at how far we have to go, we’re looking at how far we’ve come.

How am I better today than yesterday…last week…last month?

We’re no longer constantly failing to live up to the 10x ideal. We’re seeing real improvement every single day and, more importantly, reminding ourselves of that.

It’s not some cheap motivational trick of the mind either, you can see, write and explain how you’ve got better:

“I had a salad for lunch today, instead of chips”
“I’ve never exercised before but, today, for the first time, I got my gear on, loaded the workout DVD and pressed play…”
“Today, when I was out cycling, I only annoyed 4,825 car drivers, instead of the usual 8 million”

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with building a “10x” vision. It’s great to have a long-term plan and hold yourself to high ideals.

The problem comes when we ONLY consider “10x” thinking as an option. We deny ourselves the joy – and real change – that comes from getting just a little bit better.

By definition, we deny ourselves the little things in life. And we all know that it’s the little things in life that makes us hap..(This sentence has been cut short, due to it containing a meaningless proverb – ed)

We rubbish the idea of doing something, purely because it doesn’t meet our standards for being “10x”.

  • You fail to take the simple act of doing some burpees while waiting for the kettle to boil because you’re waiting until the time is perfect to do that 13-mile run.
  • You hold off on doing some writing until you figure out the perfect font for your blog (Comic Sans…always).
  • You delay sitting down and spending some time with your kids until you have a completely free day when you can do everything in one fell swoop.

Small changes count. They last too.

So, what am I meant to do? Not dream big and have high hopes?

Of course not. I’m only suggesting that blindly 10x-ing everything isn’t quite the motivational panacea people make it out to be. It can leave you feeling disappointed, undervalued and can lead you into a world of procrastination.

Better to make some progress every day. Not the “best” progress, or “optimal”, just some. The way to feel fulfilled and satisfied isn’t in the attainment of the goal, it’s in making progress towards it.

It doesn’t have to be fast, sexy or “10x”. Just progress.

Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts or comments on the post, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to post them below, or yell them out of your car window while driving. I hear everything.