Have you ever made a list of goals for your life? Most of us have. I’ve tended to make such lists when I’ve gotten disgusted with myself. When I feel stuck, I pull out a notepad and make a list.
It’s a good thing to make concrete goals and put them onto paper, isn’t it? Sometimes, yes. But I’ve slowly come to realize something about my elaborate plans and goals.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve realized lately that I’ve mostly made those lists as a way to make myself feel better — and as a way to avoid having to take action toward what I wanted.
That’s right. My goal-setting has usually been pure fantasy. Wish lists. I might as well have been asking a genie to grant me three wishes.
I don’t have one of those lists in front of me right now, but I wouldn’t share it with you if I did, because all it would do is show you how ineffective I’ve been at pursuing my goals. I’m really good at complaining. I’m pretty good at talking.
But I haven’t been very effective at doing.
I’ve recently realized that there’s plenty of competition in this world to be heard as a complainer or as a talker — but the field for real “doers” is wide open.
There’s a dirty little secret about pursuing real goals. Every goal comes with a cost. When we’re making lists of goals, it’s easy to write down whatever sounds good.
Yes, I want to lose weight and get into shape. Yes, I want to save a million dollars in the next five years. Yes, I want a better romantic relationship than what I have right now. Yes, I want to own homes in three different places. Yes, I want to build a business that will make me wealthy.
Look at the things you say you want. If someone gave those things to you — like our magical genie — would you take them? Of course.
I’d like to be in better shape, but I really want this ice cream right now. Yes, I want to save a million dollars, but I can start next month. Maybe next year. Yes, I want love and connection with someone, but I’d rather not have to find someone new. That’s difficult. And on and on and on.
I want everything on every list I’ve ever made — but I have rarely been willing to pay the price that comes with each goal I’ve set.
Life is full of tradeoffs. I say this all the time. It’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life. If I want something great for next year, I have to go through some pain and discomfort right now. It always seems to work that way. And when I’m unwilling to go through some discomfort — to face issues I’m afraid to face — I won’t have that great thing next year.
And my list of goals will remain just a wish list.
I’ve been thinking lately about all the things that’ve been on my lists of goals and plans. They all sound good, but I’m making some tough decisions and marking some of them off my mental list. Why?
Sometimes I count the cost of something I say I want — and I realize I don’t want it enough to pay the price.
What if you’re not sure whether you really want something or not? What if you know you want something better — new job, new relationship, new city, whatever — but you don’t know whether you’re willing to go through the pain and discomfort of making a difficult change?
Flip a coin. I’m serious.
One of two things is likely to happen. When the coin is in the air, you’re suddenly going to know which choice you’re hoping will land. Or when the coin lands and you see what it chooses for you, you’ll feel either relief or regret — telling you what you had really been hoping for.
Go with what you hope for — in that crucial moment — that the coin flip is about to show. That’s what you really want.
Now just go do it, whatever the cost is. And stop making excuses.