May 22, 2019 | 06:06 AM

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15.01.2014The Ugly Side Of Goal Setting

Whatever it is, you have something in mind. And you want it.

Molly Cain, Forbes.com

You’re sitting there right now, having some kind of an idea about what you want in the future. Perhaps you want to buy your first house. Maybe this is the year you’re going to get that promotion you’ve been pining after for years. Or you’re ready to venture out and find a new job in a new company that actually appreciates you. Perhaps you’re committing yourself to run across the finish line of your first 5k. Whatever it is, you have something in mind. And you want it.

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So how do we make these things come to fruition? Well, step one is to stop “wanting” these things and instead deciding you’re definitely going to get them. You do that by turning them into goals.

Here is where I’d typically start talking to you about the goal-setting process. I’d give you a few steps on breaking up your goals into manageable pieces, then walk you through each. Maybe I will sometime. But not this time.

Instead, before you sit down to create the goals that could change you as a person or change the life you’re living today, I’d like to pull back the curtain. You need to know what is happening behind the scenes. Because even goals have ugly sides. Here are four of them.

Not everyone will support you (loudly). When I first decided to abandon my role in the Fortune 500 world to pursue something entirely new, I came across this situation. While I feel truly loved by the people in my inner circle, some didn’t agree with my decision and they voiced it through questions like, “How will you eat?” and “What happens if this fails?” or “How long will your savings last?”

I got a lot of questions that reeked of doubt. And while it was ultimately no one’s choice but my own, these opinions weighed heavily on my decision-making process. Today, I know they shouldn’t have. I believe I wasted a good solid year of my life second-guessing myself.

When we set goals for ourselves, we’re feeling motivated, confident and renewed. We know it may require a lot of work, but we’re ready, gosh darn it! And just as we’ve been taught, we tell people about our goal so we can set some accountability and get that precious support. Ask and ye shall receive, right? Ah…nope.

Set your goals with the complete understanding that not everyone will agree with you. And that’s ok. Generally it’s not malicious (they also may not even realize they’re not giving you the emotional backing you’re looking for). Know that if you’re not getting the support you crave, it’s not you. Most of the time, they are:

  • Fearful (that you will fail)
  • Jealous (that you might not)
  • Guilty (that they themselves haven’t done it yet)

All three of these categories do not matter. That’s their problem. Prepare for this and plan to push on.

You’ll be sacrificing something else. In The 6 Things You Should Quit Doing To Be More Successful, I share a key piece of advice I received from my yoga instructor. She told me that whenever we say yes to one thing, we’re saying no to another. This is never truer than when you’re setting goals.

Let’s say you decide to finally get in shape. So you set that goal. You hire a personal trainer at the gym or you join a fitness community like Camp Gladiator or Crossfit. Then you visit with a nutritionist. And finally, you get to work. What’s wrong with any of that?

Well, for starters, you have to create an entirely new budget with a very big section called, “healthy stuff.” Then you start getting a little dodgy about happy hours and dinner invites with friends because you need to avoid the temptations. And forget a dating life to show off that new body of yours, it’s nearly impossible to find someone who appreciates a 5am wake-up call.

Simple concept, but powerful. Understand that some of your goals, even the best ones, will mean sacrifice. Everyone eventually sacrifices something, but not everyone realizes it in advance. You’re ahead of the game if, while you map out your goals, you also think about and come to grips with the things you have to sacrifice in order to make them a reality.

It could derail you. Have you ever broken up with someone (or been dumped)? Been fired? Or experienced a major failure? If you’re not one to wallow, you take that kick in the pants and start to set some new goals to get out of the rut you’re in. But could these goals be derailing you?

Actually, yes.

Goals must be set intentionally. So if you set them to distract yourself from other things in your life, you will find yourself attempting to learn Spanish while training for a marathon, buying your first home and applying for a new job – and you’ve decided you’ll get this done in a month’s time, because you’re just that awesome. Do you seriously think you can give adequate attention to each of these major milestones?


If you don’t spend enough time figuring out what you need, you’ll end up going for everything. It’s like throwing a bowl of noodles against the wall to see which ones stick. An interesting experiment, but a messy one. You should identify when you’re setting goals just for distraction. Cut the useless ones out, then narrow down your focus and leave chance for things you can’t control.

It bites back. Just imagine crossing the finish line of an Ironman, an event so momentous in competitor’s life that they get a tattoo to commemorate it. How cool would it be to finally reach your goal weigh? Or getting that coveted window office with the mahogany desk?

The biggest goals are sometimes the worst. Because if you’re really a bad ass, you reach them.

It’s true. Big goals require dedication, hard work, commitment, blood, sweat, tears…the whole shebang. If you’re someone who responds well to these requirements, you’ll get there, because you’re willing to donate moments of frustration, exhaustion and deprivation to reach these milestones. It is because you care so much about yourself that you will, ironically, push yourself as far as you can go to reach this goal.

Then one day you do! And that’s where it goes downhill.

Sometimes, a goal requires so much of you, that when you finally reach it, you crumble to the ground in victory. And then you take a break. A really, really, really long break. Who would judge you for this? Probably no one. They’re in awe of this accomplishment.

So this is where all that hard work falls to the wayside – because you “earned it.” You decide to allow yourself a few extra slices of pizza. You’re ok skipping a few workouts. You stop reading the non-fiction books or attending networking events. You give yourself so much lenience, that the goal you so desperately wanted has now become your biggest enemy. Simply because you met it.

Be aware that this can happen and you’ll be fine. You’re obviously a goal-oriented person, so have something ready in your back pocket and get back to work.

And now that you know all the ugly secrets behind your goals, you’re ready to dream bigger.


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