Goals And Their Breakdowns

15 March 2013, by A. Cedilla

When it comes to making sure I stick to my goals, I tend to visit blogs on the areas I’m struggling with. The advice that really resonates with me come from people who’ve lived through the same issues that I’m currently facing, and were able to articulate how they found their way though. These people have been there and done that, and I get read their ‘shirts’ for free, so to speak.
So it was a nice coincidence that just when I was getting ready to give up on an important personal project (out of frustration at how slowly things were going), I remembered “My Resolution Revolution” on The Simple Dollar.

In this excellent article, Trent Hamm presented a well-reasoned argument about why so many New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside. Many big goals are presented in a way that’s inherently unattainable because they’re stated in a manner that is absolutist, and so don’t factor in our very human natures, and how time affects that. Stark goals like:

  • “Lose 100 pounds.” Or “Gain 25 pounds of muscle.” {more}Or other things like dropping X dress sizes.
  • Save 200 dollars every two weeks. Cut down on spending by 25% immediately.
  • Exercise every day. Eat only nutritious food.
  • Finish cleaning out all the junk and clutter in the basement. And the closets. And the attic. And the garage.
  • Double the size of my mailing list in X months.

Goals like these can look all fine and worthy on paper, especially at the start of the year, but we’re far enough from that to see that in daily life, goals like these can suffer in their execution. Generally, without commitment, careful attention and discipline, goals fade into wishes.

  • When I say I want this and I am going to do this — and I don’t do it: I am a lazy slug with no willpower. (Or, use your favorite self-insult here.)
  • When I try and it seems like nothing is really happening, I find it easier to ‘finish’ sooner each time.
  • I don’t want to feel bad so — “It’s not that important anyway. I can always do it later. Tomorrow. Ish.”
  • Usually followed by, “What’s taking so long!” then by, “This is stupid. I quit!”

If your remember that DO ALL THE THINGS!! meme you get an idea of the wild-eyed enthusiasm (and the impossible goals) that someone determined to DO ALL THE THINGS!! exhibits.

Without careful tending, enthusiasm can lead to crashing and burning, and feeling powerless and bereft of choices, which can lead to even more deadly paralysis.


In his book “The 100 Thing Challenge,” Dave Bruno clarified the difference between a dream and a fantasy: a dream is a reasonable hope, while a fantasy is an unattainable fever

When we set ourselves up to fulfill a fantasy, we’re basically laying out a course towards disappointment and missed opportunities, because we’re going for the unreal. In doing so, we bypass chances to actualize the genuine, in-our-power dreams that we have in our lives.

Here’s a tip: Scale up, scale down.
Scaling up and scaling down helps you handle things in perspective. You drop down from desirable goals into doable actions. You break down an overwhelming sea of stuff into smaller buckets you can handle. If you get trapped in the exhaustion of work, you take several steps back, to see the bigger picture while you rest.


If this was an operation to excise unattainable goals, your surgical tools will include reason, logic and experience, supported by deliberate, guided action.

  • “This time next year, you may very well wish you’d started today.” If you feel down about accomplishing nothing big, take a step back and look at what inroads you’ve already managed. Had you not done them before, you’d just be starting out right now. You made your time count, and if you go on even in small steps, you still are.
  • Maybe you get fed up at how slow things are coming along. Take a closer look and relax. Big projects aren’t built in a day, and you’re on track to getting to that thing you want so badly to happen. Keep going. Stop trying to be a rock-star in a month.

Try to recall you basic grade-school math and how you were taught your numbers. You may already may recall what a number line looks like. There’s negative numbers to the left of the zero (right in the middle) and regular numbers to its right.

In real life, you can track progress in halting steps, in regular and more steady ones, or sometimes in jumps. Two steps forward, a sudden setback, a sudden break…mostly you just keep going. Step by step you’ll get there.

Don’t forget to check on the scale of what you’re attempting. You may be doing better than you think when you break your goals down instead of the other way around.

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