Why Setting Goals Doesn’t Work

It’s the received wisdom that we should set goals and work toward them. But amidst all this positive thinking, no one ever talks about why it fails. Laziness and lack of motivation are obvious reasons, but I think another important reason is that people get focused on the milestone instead of the behavior that leads to it. They focus on the product instead of the process. Some examples:

“I just want to lose ten pounds”. This is a classic example of stupid goal setting that leads to stupid counter-productive behavior like juice fasts and other crash diets that destroy the muscle that was keeping your metabolism high, screw up your hunger-regulating hormones, ensuring that you’ll get fat faster in the future. Weight is a meaningless number, after all. If you told me you gained or lost 10 lbs in a month, the first thing I would ask you is how much of it was muscle.

“I wish I could get her phone number/get her to go out with me”. Ok, and then what? Getting a girl to go out with you is just a milestone in the whole process of attraction. A lot of guys focus on getting girls’ phone numbers, not realizing that that’s actually the easiest part. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way. I have a lot of numbers in my phone of extremely hot women, most of whom don’t text back. That’s ’cause I didn’t take the time to develop a real connection with them BEFORE I asked for their phone numbers, because I was stupidly focused on getting the phone number as though that was the magic key.

“I wish I had a million dollars”. Most people who win the lottery end up bankrupt and in debt within a year, because they haven’t learned how to be rich, successful people.

Instead, for each of your goals, you need to dig a little deeper and figure out what you REALLY want, and not just look at the outer signifiers or the milestones.

“I just want to lose ten pounds”. No, you don’t. You want to be a fit, healthy person. But that’s not a two-week project. It’s a lifestyle change. But trust me, it’s worth it. And the two-week crash diet will just make you miserable in the short-term and fatter in the long-term. It’s scientifically proven.

“I wish I could get her to go out with me”. No, what you really want is to be so attractive that women like her actually WANT to go out with you. That requires you to work on yourself and improve your social skills. But it’s worth it.

“I wish I had a million dollars”. No, you don’t. What you really want is to be successful. The million dollars is just a trophy that proves you were successful.

Try this with all the goals you set for 2015 and see if you’re focusing on dumb external measurements instead of the things you really want.