When pursuing a big goal, do you ever wonder: How practical should I be?

In this article, I’ll share three questions you can ask yourself that will provide additional insight on how to move forward.

As a coach, I’ve worked with clients who faced many different face scenarios. These included:

  • wanting to start a business and needing to pull money from their savings as startup capital. The amount was more than they’d invested in their dreams before, and it “didn’t seem practical.”
  • considering a long-distance relationship with a special person, even though they’d swore they’d only date locally.
  • weighing the pros and cons of a once-in-a-lifetime vacation opportunity that would require they take more time away from work than they’d prefer.
  • thinking about having kids and feeling worried about how it might impact their career.
  • believing they’d found a shortcut to their success, but worrying about having been burned by their risky choices in the past 

In all of these situations, practicality was a hot topic. Because there is rarely a perfect answer, I invited clients to consider the following three questions. 

Question 1: Where do you typically fall on the practicality spectrum?

While your location on the practicality spectrum may vary day to day, you probably have a spot where you feel most comfortable in general. If you typically focus on making practical decisions, you likely spend your time farther to the right. On the other hand, if you eschew practicality for options that feel exciting or interesting, you may hang out closer to the left side. 

Wherever you are on the spectrum is fine. Our goal here is not to change you, but to raise your awareness about your default setting. Awareness is the first step to making conscious decisions. 

Question 2: What are the benefits and challenges of your default setting?

Most human behaviors have pros and cons, and it’s the same with your default level of practicality.

For instance, being impractical might mean you enjoy plenty of spontaneous opportunities after work — some of which lead to important connections or business opportunities. To do so, however, you sacrifice your self-care. This might mean you get sick more often, put on excess weight or sabotage your peak performance (if you’re under-slept or hung over, you aren’t on top of your game).

If you’re extremely practical, you might enjoy having impeccable self-care, but feel stuck around reaching goals that require you to trust your gut over probability. Even though you’ve cultivated the physical, mental and emotional fortitude to chase your dreams, you can’t seem to pull the trigger.

Both the tendency to be practical and the tendency to be impractical can keep you stuck. 

Question 3: What is the ideal level of practicality for my goals (NOT my comfort zone)?

Imagine that an extremely practical person — let’s call her “Dana” — dreams about being a full-time wedding photographer. In fact, she sees it as her life’s goal to become an expert at capturing special moments between two people.

Because Dana is so practical, she chose to work for the federal government when she started her career. There, she has lots of job security and an excellent salary.

But there’s a catch: She hates going to work every day.

Dana knows she’s a good photographer, and has spent the last three years developing a solid client base. Nevertheless, when she thinks about quitting her job, a little voice whispers: That’s not practical!

Dana would certainly make less income, at least for the first year. And being a full-time entrepreneur could also be more risky. If the economy tanked, photography could be seen as a luxury that many would choose to forego.

Despite her history of choosing the most practical option, Dana can’t shake the gut feeling that she’s meant to grow her business. She’s been as practical as she can be, doing things like creating a budget for her predicted income, and now she has a choice. Does she stay where she feels most comfortable on the far right side of the practicality spectrum? Or does she allow herself to drift to the left so that she has the chance to pursue her calling?

If she stays on the right side of the practicality spectrum where she’s most comfortable, Dana will work for the government for another 10 years. She can always have her business after she retires! This is the sort of decision she’s accustomed to making, and yet it flies in the face of her goal. 

Dana decides to take the calculated risk. While it is initially uncomfortable, and her practical friends and family keep asking “are you sure?”, she ultimately creates a successful business in which she feels fulfilled and makes even more than she did working for the government. While breaking her default habit of being extremely practical initially felt scary, Dana is so glad that she did it.

Dana is based on several of my real-life clients, who consciously decided to shift their location on the practicality spectrum. In this case, being less practical paid off. I’ve seen this be the case in other scenarios, including having children because there’s “no right time” or enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that required some serious catch up after returning to work. In the end, people were happy to have taken the less practical route.

In the case of others I’ve worked with, becoming more practical was the key to next-level success. For instance, someone who had a goal of building their wealth began to more carefully research investment opportunities, as well as to set better boundaries with people who asked for financial favors. 

Take a look at your goals and consider these questions above. Choose the level of practicality that would most serve you, and get plenty of support to stay this new course!

If you liked this article, you may want to check out my programs, learn more about me or book an intro call to talk about working together.


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