Understanding Goals


We’re one month into 2017 and the new years resolution posts, tweets and open letters to ones unwanted fat cells have vanished.

Yes, the cessation of such posts gives us much to be thankful for. But I don’t think we should abandon goals just yet. Let’s begin by understanding them.

It’s hard to imagine our ancestors having goals. But they did. Just one:


Survival is being. It’s in even our name (human being), our language and surprisingly it’s not on our to-do list.

You and I don’t think of survival much. We can order food to eat, swipe right to procreate, turn a faucet to drink and take a pill to sleep. We’ve reached the ‘inherent survival’ point of humanity.

This is a pretty recent development for mankind and we don’t know how to handle it. While it’s unlikely a giant predator will attack us at the watering hole, we are wired to expect it. “Stay with the herd, it’s safer. Follow the crowd, it’ll be easier. Don’t get out of line, you could be noticed.”

All of us have one thing in common: impending doom is our default operating system. Our impending doom operating system (idOS) developed over thousands of years, and its sole concern is being. Being safe. Being secure. Being comfortable. Our imagination is strong, rooted in fear, and determined to keep us safe (for the record, we live in the safest time in history).

So what does this have to do with goals?

Goals have nothing to do with being.

Your favorite stories have someone accomplishing a goal while being scared shitless. Or being under qualified. Or being too this or too that.

Yet most people totally miss the point and set goals about being. And that’s why they’re stuck. Their idOS kicks in and they STOP – fear derails their effort.

So just get rid of fear – that’s it? No, eradicating fear is not the point – without fear we’d cease to be human. The point is to recognize it’s there and to do the shit we are terrified of anyways. Or as my grandfather called it, courage.

While fear is all about being, goals are all about doing. Real goals have three questions attached to them:

Can you measure it?
Can you put a timeline on it?
Can you fail?

You only have a goal if ‘yes’ is the answer to all 3 of those questions. Especially the last one – the chance of failure is what makes it a goal instead of a guarantee.

Do you want to be fit? It’s not gonna happen overnight. Instead, go get your body fat measured and decrease it by 2% in 6 months. That’s exercise, diet, and sleep – all packaged into one goal.

Do you want to be free of credit card debt? Great, grand, wonderful, but most Americans take on more consumer debt the more money they make (baffling, I know). Start getting out of debt right now with a real goal. Make $200 a month payments on that debt for 6 months.

Do you want to be more thankful? Simple – write down 5 things you’re thankful for every morning before you start your day for 1 week.

Last week, a friend texted me every evening with a productivity score ranging 1-10. If he did not text me a score, I would punish him. He’s a perfect example of taking the pseudo-goal of “being more productive” and turning it into an actual goal that was measurable (1-10), he had a timeline (1 week) and the possibility of failing.

The best way “to be” something is to start doing it today. Make a real goal. Tell a friend. Can you answer yes to all three questions? Great. Now get out there and do it.

And please, no #squadgoals, ok?


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