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4 Problems With The Goals You’re Setting

Years ago, a kid named Miles Scott wrote down, “I want to be Batman” on his Make-A-Wish form.

There’s a lot of story in between then and now (I suggest you watch the documentary “BatKid” and prepare to get it in the feels), but subsequently, the San Francisco Opera, Twitter, San Francisco Chronicle, NBC, Barack Obama, Apple, the San Francisco Police Department and over 13,000 people (among so many others) dove in head first to transform that city into Gotham and actually make that happen.

I must admit that even I didn’t really get work done that day. I was way too preoccupied watching BatKid rescue a damsel in distress and arrest The Penguin on the streets of San Francisco via live feed all the way from Dallas.

Shed the now-world-famous social media phenomenon slash biggest-Make-A-Wish-celeb-ever skin, and Miles just becomes a really cute six year old Leukemia survivor who saw the world as so many of us desperately crave to. He saw it as his for the taking. He set this random, albeit unachievable, goal because it sounded awesome and completely logical to him. He didn’t set it to fulfill his short, but incredibly lived life to that point. He simply set it because it was a goal he didn’t think was not possible. Read that last sentence again to make sure you get it.

What’s the end result of that goal? Well, from a financial perspective, the day cost the city of San Francisco $105,000. From a humanitarian perspective, many thousands still cite BatKid as a reason to feel good about life and the good humans in it, including me. And a lovely couple, the Goldman’s, cited it as a very clear reason to give back (they footed the entire bill). Little Miles? Well, he doesn’t really know what he got beyond an incredibly fun day and a cool BatKid suit. But I suspect a 20-year-old version of himself will eventually realize the breadth of what truly happened.

As we grow up, we somehow lose the innate ability to toss magical goals out into the world and onto paper just as Miles did. Even worse, we forget what that could even feel like. Achieving a goal that we really want and enjoying the taste of it organically sans the social validation attached to it. Ironically, as adults, we have far more resources, brainpower and people available to us in our network than our younger selves to actually make some crazy awesome sh*t happen for us…we simply don’t.

Instead, we transition into using words like, “that’s not how we’ve always done it,” or “I don’t know where to start,” or “that person is in my way,” or “I’ll start it tomorrow.”

Once we get into that really boring, every-day-is-the-same monotonous mindset (or start to get the itching to head that way), we unload that incredible skill set our childlike selves had to make goals that can truly enrich our lives. The best kinds involve several things (and here’s a buzzword-esque explanation of what I mean by that). You need play, passion, perseverance and progress.

But more importantly, you just need to stop the madness.

Here’s 4 ways you can deal with, set and achieve your goals.

Your motivation sucks. Not the motivation to get it done (see below), but rather the motivation behind it. As I see it, goals are usually set for three reasons. Because someone else said you should (usually unavoidable if you have a job), because you’re aiming to enhance your life or because you’re creating them just for the hell of it.

Let’s attack the latter.

I know far too many people, even myself, who will create a goal just because. Because it’ll look good on social media, because someone else is doing it, because it seems cool or because it’s a notch in the belt. Not because you actually really want it or because it’s something you’ll remember forever. Things like running six half marathons in one year on a very bad knee because of an obsession with medals and the feel of victory? I did that. Yay, me. (Or rather, congrats to the orthopedic surgeon who got his mitts and bank account on that knee three months later)

If you’re craving some kind of stupid goal because you think you should do it, think on that a bit more. Your time is precious, is this how you want to spend it? Do you really need to abandon all hopes of a social life and live lonely just so you can be at the gym and get that exact body fat percentage you dream of? Or alienate everyone around you as you obsess over the perfect wedding invitation design? The biggest problem with the wrong motivation is the fact you may very well struggle in completing it and you’ll beat yourself up about it when you don’t. Or you’ll have absolutely no satisfaction when you do get there. Be intellectually honest when you set up your goal and make sure your motivation is in the right place.

You talk too much. I will straight up quit mentoring someone if they talk about their goals too much without ever getting anywhere. It’s my biggest pet peeve, to hear someone whine and wail about an issue or an achievement they hope to get, yet have no action plan and literally have the momentum of a turtle. Are you kidding? You’re wasting my time, but you’re definitely wasting your life.

Talking about goals and never doing it is torture for everyone around you and a death sentence for your future. “Oh I’m totally going to start a blog one day,” or “I’m gonna start working out,” or “I need to find a new job” — these statements have zero action attached to them and you’re literally daydreaming out loud. Worse, you’re crying wolf and no one around you will believe you the next time you say it.

Biggest sign of this issue is pre-announcing your goal. If you’re doing something for social validation (which this is), then you’re kinda already losing. Check your motivation and make sure you actually want to do this and then quit talking about it. Do it already. Then lock down your humble brag afterwards if you must.

You quit. 

Not to be confused with this piece where I tell everyone they should quit a bunch of stuff, one of the biggest problems with your goals is that you quit too soon. This is a tough one because there really are some things you should quit doing. But some of you might be confused and think they weren’t the right goals in the first place, when it’s actually that you just gave up.

A lot of people give up.

On the plus side, that’s why success is so delicious. Because most people don’t want it enough.

My Dad always used to tell me (and still does when I’m feeling whiny) that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It drove many of my decisions into adulthood, knowing that only the tough, gritty people who push slightly past the barrier they know to be comfortable, will win. Only the tough really get to the good, juicy, life-enhancing goals. There are not a lot of people floating around wearing this badge of honor.

I see a lot of quit in the startup world. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely see a lot of grit too. But I see a ton of quit. I see individuals try their damnedest to get a business off the ground (I was there too at one point) and when it gets unbearably hard, financially difficult (never impossible, but difficult is surely a thing) or absolutely miserable, they just stop and drop the mic. They take their tears of frustration as a sign from above that they’re doing the wrong thing or they’re not cut out for the business. At Tech Wildcatters, we can generally eyeball the startups and founders that will keep going when it gets tough and we greatly reward the ones who do with more introductions and connections once they’ve surpassed those tough moments, but there are always surprises (good and bad). From the mentor seat, it’s a sad moment when someone promising throws in the towel, because you know they’re capable of more. But I will never try to convince someone too hard to keep going. That’s on them. The ones that survive use the moments they’re at their brink as evidence they’re growing — the others use it as a sign to simply stop.

There’s a personality type to that game, but anyone can do it for any kind of goal. If you’re really passionate about something and want to see it to completion, you have to know that it’s about being deeply and utterly aware of what you want and what will be involved to get it. And you have to constantly readjust your mindset there, because where you started isn’t where you’ll end up, and in between you’ll be all sorts of a different person. But if it’s big and awesome enough, you’ll have to be wildly hungry for that goal and you will get it.

If you quit, there may be absolutely nothing wrong with your goal. It’s honestly just you.

You’re scared. 

In the world of entrepreneurship, everyone has a story of how they got there. For the experienced crowd, it usually involves a single day of realization while sitting morosely, embedded deep in the bowels of a corporation. The moment they walk out the door may not be right at that moment (it wasn’t for me), but it comes soon after and it’s glorious. The day you set the goal to be your own boss and actually set out to pursue it, that’s a big one. And it’s absolutely terrifying.

The reason I’m highlighting entrepreneurs is that they’re the ones I know most to toss fear into the wind. They’re the ones that realize they will languish in their corporate roles or within the depths of their regretful inner thoughts, if they don’t do something about pursuing their dream. It’s a noble move indeed and it’s the first step of removing fear.

But entrepreneurs with a corporate background are also some of the first to quit (see above). Why? Because fear will — and does — set in when you’re building a business. What if you don’t get enough customers? What if everyone hates the idea? What if you can’t find an investor? What if?! Entrepreneurs with heavy corporate backgrounds have a skill set they can easily slide back on, and many do. Because it’s just too scary.

If you’re not an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you may experience similar issues in different ways. If you dream of being a leader in your organization one day, you need to know that Imposter Syndrome is very real and it will strike you at any moment. It’s also a scary thing, being responsible and adulting.

Don’t want to own your own company or even be a leader in one? You’re not exempt. Perhaps you want a promotion at a new company, but you’re worried about showing disloyalty leaving your current boss? You’re worried about moving? You’re worried that you might not like the new job and can’t go back to the first one?

Or what if your goal is to explore the world, but what happens when you move to a new city? How do you make friends? What if it’s too cold? What if you hate it?

Maybe you’d like to stop spending every waking moment in the gym and instead want to pick up a new hobby that grows your brain or expands your cultural side? What if you lose a couple of muscles? What if your friends judge you? Alternatively, what if you picked up a new fitness lifestyle and left your unhealthy friends behind? Will they like you anymore?

I could go on and on. If you’ve got a goal, or a desire, and you sniff any scent of fear in the reason you’re not getting it done…wake up. I mean really, wake up. Being uncomfortable in your present moments means you’re in a growth mode. That your current status isn’t where you feel most at home. That’s a great sign. Remember that as you also remember there’s no place for fear in this short-lived life we have.

Go on. Start an entirely new career. Move to another country. Stop running from love. Leave that utterly boring situation. Learn how to skydive or travel to Italy to learn how to cook some pasta.

Or heck, be BatKid if you want to.

Molly Cain is the Executive Director of Tech Wildcatters the nation’s #1 accelerator for B2B startups and #5 in the nation overall according to Inc. Magazine. She’s a recovering corporate executive, regular speaker on topics inspiring women in tech and business, co-founder of Viewmarket and founder of Glass Heel. When Molly’s not in the office, she’s doing yoga, hanging with her two rescue greyhounds and finding new ways to take advantage of her ADD. 


This article was written by Molly Cain from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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