The Missing Step In The Goal Setting Strategies

Posted on September 25th, 2012

One of the problems that I have noticed about many popular goal setting techniques is that they teach people to believe that they can achieve whatever they want on top of what they already have. However, in my personal and professional experience it does not work exactly this way.

Lets look at one popular technique that asks people to determine what they want to have, who they want to be, and what they want to do in their life. Here is an example from The 4-Hour Workweek book by Timothy Ferriss: 1

Create two timelines - 6 months and 12 months - and list up to five things you dream of:

  • Having (including, but not limited to, material wants: house, car, clothing, etc.),
  • Being (be a great cook, be fluent in Chinese, etc.),
  • Doing (visiting Thailand, tracing your roots overseas, racing ostriches, etc.)

Difficulty identifying what you want in some categories? Consider what you hate or fear in each and write down the opposite.


  • Do not limit yourself.
  • Do not concern yourself with how these things will be accomplished.
  • Do not to judge or fool yourself.

If you really want a Ferrari, don’t put down solving world hunger out of guilt. For some, the dream will be fame, for others fortune or prestige. All people have their vices and insecurities. If something will improve your feeling of self-worth, put it down. I have a racing motorcycle, and quite apart from the fact that I love speed, it just makes me feel like a cool dude. There is nothing wrong with that. Put it all down.

When I first did this technique myself, I was very pleased with all the great ideas that I came up with but accomplishing them wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be. I think that Albert Einstein has said it best:

Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. - Albert Einstein

My problem was that I was trying to create a number of new experiences in my life while maintaining the same ways of thinking and behaving. I completely forgot that if I would continue doing what I was doing, I would keep on getting what I would get.

What you now have in your life, who you are as a person, and what you do on the daily basis are the maximum of what you can possibly achieve with your current level of thinking and behavior. Confused? Let me explain it to you, before you can do anything, you have to do something else first. Specifically, you have to:

  • Determine what you are willing to give up before you can get something new.
  • You have to choose who you will no longer be as a person before you can choose to be someone else.
  • You have to identify what you need to stop doing before you can do something different.

You have to first clear some space in your life to have room for all the new adventures and things that you want to have in your life. Your time and energy are limited, which means you can only relocate them rather than expand them. Thus, a proper approach to goal setting would look like this:

  1. Identify your desired state of things (have, be, do)
  2. Decide what you are willing to give up (not have, not  be, not  do)
  3. Create the strategies that will help you to achieve your goals
  4. Think of the people who can help you
  5. Take action

The goal-setting technique described by Tim Ferriss is one of the best I know of, but you have to remember to identify what are you willing to give up to achieve your desired results. When your thoughts and behavior are driven by both, motivation towards to and motivation away from something, you ability to achieve your desired outcomes will greatly increase.

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