The Goal Triangle Setting and Achieving Ambitious Goals To Become… Unstoppable!


The Addiction of Being Right

Addictions to "being right" feel good - initially

Addictions to "being right" feel good - initially

Being right is addictive.

That small pleasure you get when you prove someone wrong is like heroin.

But like heroin, it’s temporary.  Soon enough the high wears off and you need another hit.

You need to prove yourself right again.

Oh, you’ve convinced yourself that you are a good person and you are not proving the other person wrong.  You are just proving yourself right.

Tell that to the person you just proved wrong!

And like heroin, the addiction of being right erodes.  (And in a moment I’ll tell you how it prevents you from achieving your goals.)

Soon your true self-worth is supplanted by the subconscious fear that if you aren’t right, then you aren’t worthwhile.

You’ve all met the extroverted know-it-all who gets in your face when she’s right.  She loves it and lets everyone know it.  Maybe she knows how annoying she is, or maybe not.  But in her wake she leaves fragile relationships and tentative partners who avoid her when possible.

Now before you assume that everyone who is addicted to being right is a loud-mouth, there’s another type.

The “introverted, be-righter”.

It’s hard to spot them (not that I’m saying you need to seek them out).  And maybe, just maybe, you are one of them.

How would you know if you are an introverted be-righter?

-          Do you not admit to being wrong?

-          When hearing someone make their point on some trivial issue do you stop listening and start thinking of rebuttals (even if you never speak them)?

-          Do you even spend time later trying to gather evidence?

-          Are you a “yes…but…” guy, who pretends to agree with someone, and then bashed the other guy over the head with your wisdom?  “Yes, that’s a great idea, but it will never work because you forgot that the dorsal fin only has a thermic generation of 1.98.”

It’s hardest when you see it in one of your kids.  You see their craving for filling some unseen hole that apparently can only be filled by being right.  It might start with correcting a younger sibling.   Then as a teenager kids tend to think their parents are always wrong, right?  Most people outgrow all this.  Did you?

I know this addiction well.  I love being right.

Proving others wrong has been a massive motivator for me.

I’m not saying it’s all bad.  One of my businesses was in part fueled by my desire to prove other people (those who said I couldn’t do it) wrong.  Actually, it’s often fear that motivated us.  What if they were right?  I can’t let that be the case so I have to prove them wrong!

But here’s the insidious danger in being right all the time.

So What’s This Got To Do With Goals?

Being right all the time can turn into blaming of others for your situation.

After all, if you are always right, and yet your choices or decisions or inaction or mistake leads to pain, then of course it can’t be because you were wrong.  It must be because someone else didn’t fulfill their role.  Or they lied to you.  Or they cheated.

Sometimes the blame is victimless.  The “universe conspired” against you.  For example, my daughter couldn’t find one of her lipsticks.  She “knew” that she left it on the counter.  So it started with blame to her sister.  “You must have taken it because I know I left it here.”

When the errant lipstick was discovered in the wash, in her jeans pocket, she still couldn’t admit to being “wrong”.  “Well, I know I left it on the counter so I don’t know how it got in the wash."


Like all addictions, the psychological defenses we prop up to feed our habit are mind-numbingly illogical.

It’s relatively harmless when we’re talking about a missing lipstick.

But what about when it’s failure on a test (when the real failure was setting the right goal – to get a good grade – and identifying the steps to get there)?

Or when you not only fail to lose your 20 pounds of fat but actually gain 5 more?  Victimhood is akin to being right – you don’t want to be wrong so you blame your genetics or your wife or something else.

When actually, your goals were off.  Your workplan was off.

Setting great goals starts with accepting full responsibility for their achievement.

And you will fail sometimes.  You might be wrong and set the wrong goal.  If you can’t admit to being wrong, you won’t learn from the experience and tweak the goal and action plan so that you can actually excel.

And when setting goals, there are so many unknowns.  You might not have planned for slipping, falling, and having a leg cast for 8 weeks.  That would mess up a lot of goals.  But if you are addicted to being right – and therefore looking to find fault elsewhere – you’ll be blocked from finding a creating way to STILL achieve your goals even though you have a cast on.

How Do I Change?

Most of us who are addicted to being right have had years of reinforcing habits.  Extracting ourselves from the mesh is no easy task.

It starts with small things.

If you can learn to simply let the small things go, you are on the road to recovery.

Don’t argue with the waiter over whether or not you said you wanted the dressing to the side.  It doesn’t matter who is right.

True self confidence comes not from proving to other people who is right and who is wrong but proving to yourself.  And admitting to yourself when it is you who is wrong.

If you can start with the small things, you can eventually work up to admitting that you gained 5 pounds of fat because you set poor goals or because you failed to follow through.

And without trying to prove yourself right (and other people wrong), you’ll find creative ways to achieve all your goals.

Am I right?

Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Not like I’m just trying to be right here. . . but “heroine” is a female hero. I think you meant “heroin,” an addictive drug. Sometimes, even “spell check” can be wrong. . .

    I don’t think Darrin is making a case for being wrong. After all, there is nothing wrong about being right. But, a failure to admit when one is wrong is certainly NOT right. We can and should learn from our mistakes. Most of us make enough mistakes that we ought to be learning at a pretty good clip!

  2. @Gene. Wow, that’s embarrassing! I’ve corrected the article but kept your comment as an ironic reminder to myself to accept my mistakes. In this case, I just hope the small mistake wasn’t too distracting from the message!

  3. So, is it wrong to correct people when they are speaking incorrectly about things that they have little to no knowledge of, and by doing so are leading others to believe what they are saying, even if it is untrue? It seems to me that the greater damage here is being done by the person who is believing that because they have a thought, that it must be right, rather than by the person who has the knowledge from some experience in correcting them.

    I completely agree with you that when you cannot admit your own short-comings or wrong-doings that there is a problem. But what if you really are surrounded by a perpetual group of people that try and ply of their ideas as being truth, when they are in reality nothing more than notions founded on semi-understood ideas?

    Just looking for some insight here, thanks.

  4. @Jared – In the context of goal setting, we’re talking here about the danger of assuming you are always right. If you do, after reflection, believe you are right then go live your life. If you come to realize you are wrong, adjust your life. But “correcting” others is a whole different topic, one I’m admittedly not an expert on. I’d ask yourself WHY. Why are you correcting them? To prove yourself right, or to help them grow? If it’s the former, then stop. If it’s the latter, then you must make sure they are receptive to your advice/correction and you have to do it in a way that promotes that growth.

    In the end, if you are surrounded by people who are asserting falsehoods I would suggestion changing your crowd.

  5. Thank you for writing. I have struggled with this issue since i was a little girl too. And when your young, your often wrong and my desire to be right was so strong that it made me quite the stubborn child. As I got older and better at being right(or at least that’s what my inner “introverted be-righter” tells myself) I got even more addicted to this pattern and feeling. And I enjoyed how you acquainted being right to an addiction because it really is how i feel when I am right and prove others wrong, it’s a high i can barely contain myself from smiling (this is the truth even though it sounds awful!). My family saw this awful addiction since i was a child and my desire to compete and grow which lingered on my ability to be right and therefore prove others wrong. However i could never quite pinpoint my real problem and why wanted to be right was a problem? I could never understand. I would ask myself, “What is so wrong with being right? and what is so wrong with wanting to be right? Does not everyone want to be right?” Well, i realize now, apparently not as much as I do. And this article has helped me realize that the wrong is not so much in being right, or improving myself, but the wrong is being blinded by desire to be right that i am not able perceive my wrongs, my shortcoming and not blame others when I fall short. Thank you for writing, i would love to know how you came to understanding this pattern in yourself?

  6. Even in my writing you can tell i have a way of looking at life through a: “I am right. why does not everyone see that?” attitude:P God help me…

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