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


Lame Goals and the Self-Esteem Trap


pic: self esteem trap and goals

Are your goals accomplishing anything, or just feeding your self esteem?

You may have heard at some point in your life that you need to set your goals low so that you build confidence.  The idea is to set your expectations low so that you won't be too disappointed if you fail. With that attitude, it's not "if" but "when" you'll fail...

I call these "lame goals" because you are already cutting yourself off at the knees by setting your sights low.

Of course, you usually don't say to yourself that you are "setting your sights low".  What you say to yourself is that you want to keep your goals "realistic".   Aarrggghhh!  This infuriates me!  That's another reason I say to skip the R (and the S and the A) in SMART goal setting and just focus on the M and the T.

While having some easy goals can help you build momentum, easy goals are really only useful as supporting goals.  By that, I mean there are major goals and minor goals.  Major goals have many supporting goals (minor goals) that are required along the path.  I'll write more about major/minor goals in another article but here's an example:

A major goal could be "To have enough assets by 2015 that my passive income is enough to support all my basic living expenses."  Then many minor "supporting goals" follow, for example "Purchase a small rental property by August 15, 2010 that is immediately cash-flow positive and that requires less than a $20k down payment."  Or, as a really easy one, "Read 3 books on real estate investing by July 1." As I'll write in a few weeks, confusing your minor goals for major goals can cause major problems and limit your success.

Why Easy Goals Backfire

The problem with setting easy goals is that they easily slip into what I call the self-esteem trap – the idea of feeding your self esteem without actually accomplishing anything worth being proud of.

Setting goals that are too low or too easy undermine your true confidence.  On the surface, you feel good because you “accomplished” that (lame) goal.  But subconsciously, your heart and mind know you are just coasting and (again, subconsciously) you start to believe that you are incapable of achieving anything ambitious.

A Real-World Example That Hurts Individuals And Society

One real-world example area I am increasingly alarmed about that fits this description is obesity.

There are a growing number of fat people (pun intended) who are promoting the idea that being fat is ok.  Actually, more than ok.  It’s to be celebrated.

These are almost always people who have tried to lose fat, several times, and have given up.  They believe they simply can’t do it.  It’s just a belief, but they view it as fact.

Having failed at the true goal, they set a new (lame) goal of "well, I guess I'm just built this way, but I probably shouldn't get fatter".  So their new goal:  "Don't get fatter."

Let's say they successfully "don't get fatter".  Well, they accomplished their goal.  Sure, they are 300 pounds with no muscle, but hey - at least they can be proud of accomplishing their goal of not getting fatter!

In an effort to save their self-esteem, they convince themselves that fatness is ok, even good.  But that’s all external show.  Inside, they know they have failed.  And their self-confidence is cut.

Let’s get this straight- it is not ok to be fat.  It’s unhealthy and it’s selfish.  That’s an internal and an external expectation there for those of you keeping track…

But what worries me most is that they have the potential to change society’s view on obesity.  If kids start hearing from an early age that it’s ok to be fat.  And if kids “learn” that, then they’ll grow up without any inner sense that they need to be other than fat.  So it may never occur to them to have a goal related to fitness that is any more challenging that being fit enough to walk from the couch to the fridge.

Ok, let me step off the soap box and wrap up this article...

Set Non-Lame Goals

Why not set ambitious goals?  What are you afraid of?

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Another great post, Darrin!

    Anyone who reaches all of their goals must be setting some very easy goals! I would guess that MOST of what MOST of us attempt . . . fails. It’s very hard to deal with failure, and that is probably what sucks people into the trap of setting “lame goals.”

    I hope you will do a follow up article on what I like to call “looking for the silver lining.” In a sense, the fat person who quits gaining weight has done that, but done it in a counter-productive way. They need to see the REAL silver lining, and move on from there. In other words, “Hey, I didn’t gain ANY weight this month. Now, that is an improvement on last month, when I gained 15 pounds. So, that proves that I do NOT need to keep gaining weight. In fact, I can probably start losing weight.”

    Instead, they say, “See? Three hundred pounds is my ideal weight.”

    Setting ambitious goals is risky. It means you are going to fail to meet them at some point. But, if you can find the silver lining, you can pick up where you left off and reach those goals! Then, you can set NEW goals, and get moving towards them, too.

  2. By setting “lame” goals and comparing one’s self to people who’ve achieved less, people (myself included) try to raise their self-esteem.

    It happens to me in my studies when taking a lesson and the guy next to me doesn’t have a clue about anything. I feel more confident and tell myself “I’m very good. At least I’m not like that!”.

    That’s actually one of the reasons why I got a shocking grade (compared to what I should’ve gotten) in English. Now when this happens, I try to get rid of the OVER-confidence by opening up one of the topics we’re doing in Wikipedia to see how SIMPLE the stuff we’re taking is.

    It’s a constant struggle that one has to face regularly. A few days ago I discovered (out of curiosity) that my friend is lifting half what I’m lifting now and now I’m trying to focus back into what I’m aiming to reach instead of comparing myself to others.

    Lame goals come from lack of ambition, which is the result of comparison with those who’ve achieved less to try to feel satisfied and happy.

  3. Setting “lame" goals is not the problem. The real problem is if you do not increase the level of the difficulty of these lame goals. If you keep raising the bar when doing these lame goals, very quickly you will find they are not that lame at all.

    Starting with easy goals helps build confidence and momentum, and by increasing the levels, you will improve and become better person. Many people failed to reach their goals is because they have not become the kind of person who can achieve that goal. It’s all in the process.

  4. Low self-esteem is a negative evaluation of oneself. This type of evaluation usually occurs when some circumstance we encounter in our life touches on our sensitivities. We personalize the incident and experience physical, emotional, and cognitive arousal. This is so alarming and confusing that we respond by acting in a self-defeating or self-destructive manner.

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