Pavlina+

Newsletters and Podcast Transcripts


Awesome Goals vs. Crappy Goals

September 7th, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

When you sit down to write out some new goals, I recommend that you take your first batch of brainstorms and literally toss them in the trash.

Whenever I ask people what their goals are, at least 95% of the time (I'm not exaggerating), the first things out of their mouths are absolute drivel. It's really no wonder they aren't getting what they want out of life.

Here are some representative examples of what people say when I ask what their goals are:

  • Be happier.
  • Make more money.
  • Move to a nicer place.
  • Improve my website.
  • Quit my job and do work I love.
  • Get a new car.
  • Lose weight.
  • Get a girlfriend.
  • Meditate more.

In terms of goal setting, this is pure unadulterated crap. If you set these kinds of goals, you will go nowhere. This level of thinking is a complete waste of time.

People who set these kinds of goals usually don't know what a really awesome goal looks like, so they set crappy goals by default. And they have the results to prove it — no results of any consequence, that is. Let me 'splain the difference.

Crappy goals include vague goals like be happier, make more money, and do work I love. They're wishy washy and non-specific. They're rooted in the hope that life will become better. But hoping doesn't work. Life will usually remain the same or get worse when you rely on hope. It might get better if you're lucky, but more often than not, such goals aren't going to help you. There's no point in setting these kinds of goals at all.

Crappy goals also include socially conditioned goals. Like a sheep you think you want something because you've been taught to want it. Deep down you don't really care all that much, but the goals seem like things you should want. Who doesn't want a nicer place to live or a new car after all? And wouldn't it be nice to lose some weight and get a girlfriend too? For most people these are very minor desires though, so low on the passion scale that they barely register. But more importantly, you don't need to set these kinds of goals because they'll come along for the ride anyway. You don't need to focus on the money, the new car, and the girlfriend as separate items to achieve. Those items will come into your life as side effects of working toward an awesome goal. A good flow of money is easy enough to achieve when you're doing something valuable and worthwhile, and a new car and a new relationship can both be gotten in a matter of hours. If you think those things are worthy of a place on your goals list, your thinking about goals is way too limited.

Awesome goals don't look like the ones on the list above.

When you set an awesome goal, it quickly becomes an obsession. It will infect you so much that you'll have a hard time thinking of anything else. You can't NOT focus on it.

When you get out of bed in the morning, you'll start thinking of your awesome goal within minutes. When you go to bed at night, it will be the last thing on your mind as you drift off to sleep. For days on end, you'll think about little else.

Being distracted from an awesome goal will annoy you. Even having to eat or sleep may bug you. Dammit, why do I have to be hungry again? I want to keep working on this.

When you tell people about an awesome goal, some of them will tell you you're crazy to want it... or to think you can achieve it. It will be too much of a stretch for them. They won't believe you can pull it off, and you probably won't be able to convince them.

When you ponder an awesome goal, you won't be concerned with why you want it. Your desire will feel almost like lust. You'll know with certainty that you have to have it, but you won't necessarily know why.

After setting an awesome goal, most of your pondering will be about the how. You'll become obsessed with figuring out how to make it happen. You're committed to finding a way or making one.

When you set an awesome goal, you'll feel powerful. You'll feel alive and energized and passionate. You'll move faster, type faster, and talk faster. You'll stretch and push yourself. You'll be operating at the edge of your limits.

An example of an awesome goal from my life was when I decided to graduate from college in 3 semesters. Once I set that goal, I became obsessed with it. I couldn't fully explain why I wanted it or how I expected to achieve it. I just knew I had to make it happen. It would be more accurate to say that the goal set me, as opposed to vice versa.

People told me I was crazy to attempt such a thing. No one was supportive or encouraging. But I was committed, so I tuned them out. Listening to naysayers was a waste of time. Deep down I knew they were clueless. They didn't understand the kind of power source I was tapping into. They couldn't see into my heart and know how committed I was.

An awesome goal is ridiculously motivating. Once you allow it to infect you, there's no shaking it.

Crappy goals are common to lots of people. There's nothing unique or special about them. Everyone wants to make more money, for instance. Awesome goals are yours and yours alone. They aren't someone else's goals. They aren't something you've been conditioned to want. They belong to you. An awesome goal is like a custom-made sword designed for your grip. No one else can wield it like you can.

Crappy goals are someday goals. You can get moving on them next week or next month. You'll get to them eventually. There's no rush. Notice the other meaning of that last sentence. There's no RUSH — no adrenaline, no excitement, no passion. Awesome goals are NOW goals. They're urgent and immediate. You'll find yourself working on them automatically, even when you notice you've been hungry for the past hour. Delay will irritate you.

Crappy goals are safe and timid. They've been done before. There's a process for achieving them. Awesome goals are dangerous and ballsy. In order to achieve them, you'll have to leave your comfort zone behind. You'll have to blaze new trails and figure out your own process to get there. If you succeed, other people will be following you, as opposed to vice versa.

What awesome goal lurks within the depths of your being, waiting to be consciously acknowledged? What bold and scary goal have you been trying to bury beneath a pile of crappy goals?

Isn't it about time you stopped trying to convince yourself that you want those crappy goals? I know they look nice on the surface, but no matter how ornately you try to package them, they're still boring as hell. It's like the Ikea furniture in the movie Fight Club. Maybe you should just firebomb those goals en masse and be done with them. You don't really want them anyway, do you? Even if you get there, it's a hollow and meaningless accomplishment. You might as well watch TV instead.

In the end, you'll only feel good about yourself if you know you did your best, and only an awesome goal can bring out your best. Average performance isn't good enough to achieve an awesome goal. You have to kick ass, or you'll fail. You have to get yourself to do those things you know you should do in order to perform at your best, but the crappy goals don't have the power to get you there. They just aren't motivating enough. Seriously, it's easier to watch TV.

Do you even know what your best looks like? Would you like to find out? Do you realize how incredibly good you'll feel at the end of just one day of doing your very best?

A crappy goal can't even bring out your best for one full day, can it? But what would your life look like if on most days, you could operate at or near the level of your best? You'll be so far ahead of the game that your crappy goals will end up being checked off as mere side effects of your awesome goal.

Set an awesome goal today. It's already there inside you. Look at it. Acknowledge it. Let that goal set you. When the fears and doubts come up, allow them to pass over you. Keep thinking about the goal. It's possible. You can actually make it happen — if you do your very best. Then you'll really be living, perhaps for the first time in your life.