Tag Archives: Goal Setting

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem and Guilt When Working toward Your Goals

Today, I’ll discuss two possible obstacles that keep you from realizing your goals and how to overcome them.

If you make your goals all about yourself, you might not have the motivation to achieve them. This happens especially if you have low self-esteem.

The results you get in your life reflect your self-esteem. There’s nothing wrong with having low self-esteem as long as you’re willing to improve it.

If you have followed my blog in the past few weeks, you know by now that I recommend Nathaniel Branden’s work to increase your self-esteem.

Nowadays, I’m going through the audio program The Psychology of High Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. It’s a lot of work to complete the journaling exercises, but they’re worth the effort.

Low self-esteem is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think you aren’t worth and/or capable of achieving the goals you set. As a result, you fail your goals, which leads to reinforcing your low self-esteem.

How are you going to break the vicious circle of low self-esteem?

If you make it all about yourself, you won’t make the  effort to increase your self-esteem because that’s a lot of hard work and you probably think that you aren’t worth making that much effort to increase your self-esteem.

How are you going to motivate yourself to improve your self-esteem?

If you think you aren’t worth the effort, make it about other people. How are other people going to benefit from you being a better version of yourself?

  • How is your significant other going to benefit from a better you?
  • How are your family and friends benefit from a better you?
  • How are your employer, colleagues, or your employees benefit from a better you?
  • How is your community benefit from a better you?
  • Last but not least, how are the humanity at large and the planet going to benefit from a better you?

If you can’t motivate yourself to do something good for yourself and to work toward your goals, then do it for the other people that are going to benefit from your improvement and from the realization of your goals.

The second obstacle I want to discuss is guilt. You’ll feel guilt, if you believe that by improving yourself and realizing your goals, you’re taking away from other people and making them worse off.

If you have that type of limiting belief, you can ask the same questions as above. If you can’t come up with any answers to those questions, you’re either blind to the benefits of you realizing your goals to other people or your goals are really selfish.

By selfish, I mean goals like, I’m going to become the richest person on earth, and by doing that, I’m going impoverish everyone else. I can hardly see anyone who’s reading my blog to come up with a goal like that.

Sometimes, we look at our goals from a personal point of view. If we have low self-esteem or guilt, that personal approach to goals can backfire. To overcome the disempowering effects of low self-esteem and guilt, you can focus on the benefits of your goals to other people to motivate yourself to work on them.

Drafting a Life Plan for Success and Satisfaction on Multiple Levels

David Allen defines a six-level model for work in his book Getting Things Done.

  • 50K+ feet: Life
  • 40K feet: Three- to five-year vision
  • 30K feet: One- to two-year goals
  • 10K feet: Current projects
  • Runway: Current actions

This model is not only useful for categorizing our work but for all kinds of resource allocation.

We can extend the model with further levels.

  • Legacy
  • Life
  • 10 years
  • 5 years
  • 1 year
  • Quarter
  • Month
  • Week
  • Today
  • Now

Legacy is your answer to the question “what do you want to leave behind when you’re dead?” For all the other levels, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What do I want to accomplish in this timeframe?
  • What do I want to experience in this timeframe?

Life Areas

You can divide each timeframe into different areas, such as family, work, recreation, and so on.

All timeframes and life areas are optional. Pick the ones that work for you and work with them. For example, legacy might not be something that is important to you.

You might want to follow Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice and focus on “the clouds and dirt,” in other words, legacy and now. You might even want to follow Eckhart Tolle’s advice, focus only on the now, and let go of everything else.

You can combine different life areas with different timeframes. For example, you might not be interested in starting a family now, but that might be the first item on your 5 years list.

Different Subpersonalities

When you’re drafting your plan, take into account the wants and needs of all the subpersonalities that are operating in your psyche. If you ignore one of your subpersonalities, they might get triggered unexpectedly and sabotage your progress, leaving you puzzled.

When you’re doing this exercise, I recommend a reverse engineering approach. That is to start from the end and come back to today and now.

You do that by taking a goal from a longer term and ask what you need to accomplish in a shorter term to achieve the long-term goal. For example, “what do I need to accomplish in 5 years to achieve this 10-year goal?”

Don’t Forget the Rewards

And of course, don’t forget to add rewards here and there in your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly plans. Otherwise, you’ll be risking an extinction burst, and your whole plan will collapse.

As I mentioned before, this plan isn’t only about time management. Resource allocation goes further than that. It includes allocating your finances and energy.

Multi-Objective Optimization

All of this might sound like a lot of work, and it is. You need to balance different timeframes and the wants and needs of different subpersonalities. Some of those requirements will be conflicting with each other, and you’ll need to make some decisions.

The benefit is that you’ll make conscious choices. The alternative to that is to burn yourself out, or one of your subpersonalities taking you over, and making you do the things that you regret later.

The main benefit of this practice is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you’re making progress toward consciously chosen goals.


We have numerous wants and needs in different timeframes that pull us in various directions all the time. As a result, we don’t make as much progress as we could.

The solution to that challenge is to draft a life plan that takes into account different timeframes and the wants and needs of our various subpersonalities.

When It Comes to Setting Goals, Put Things into Perspective

A few days ago, I published a post called Setting Realistic Goals Leads to Success. In summary, we tend to set big hairy audacious goals. When we first set those goals, we get excited and inspired.

After a while, that initial enthusiasm fades out. We realize that we haven’t made much progress toward our ambitious goal.

When we work for an extended period of time but don’t get any rewards in return, we become subject to extinction burst. As a result, we give up.

To avoid the extinction burst, we can apply a few strategies. First, we can set realistic goals that we can attain in a reasonable time. Second, we can reward ourselves periodically.

Nevertheless, realistic goals and periodic rewards miss the inspiration and excitement that the ambitious goals provide. Can’t we have the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls of both? Today’s post is about exactly how to do that.

Putting Goals into Perspective

The idea for today’s post came from a comment by Edward Stanfield to one of my posts. Edward recommends setting two goals at the same time, a big picture goal and a little picture goal.

The big picture goal is the big hairy audacious goal. The little picture goal is the attainable one. For an athlete, the big picture goal is to become a major professional player. The little picture goal is to compete at one level above your current level.

By having two goals at the same time, you have the excitement and inspiration of the big hairy audacious goal, and you have something realistic and attainable you can work toward today.

Needless to say, both goals need to be in alignment. The achievement of the little picture goal must get you closer to the big picture goal.

Connecting the Big and Little Picture Goals

To emphasize the effect of the perspective, you can add more milestones between the big and little picture goals. That way your unconscious mind sees the connection better and has more faith in the accomplishment of your big hairy audacious goal. That’s how you minimize the chance of an extinction burst.

Let’s say your big hairy audacious goal is to write a bestseller and your realistic goal is to publish a blog post per day. How can you bridge the gap between them? Let’s start with the ultimate goal and come back.

  • Write a bestseller.
  • Publish a hardcopy book that sells 1000 copies.
  • Publish an ebook that sells 100 copies.
  • Send an email newsletter every week to maintain a following.
  • Write 500 words per day toward a book.
  • Publish a blog post per day to build an audience.

The first goal is the ultimate goal. It’s exciting and inspiring, but it might take a lifetime to accomplish. It might require years of work without seeing any results. Therefore, it involves the risk of getting discouraged and giving up.

Every goal in the list is easier to accomplish than the one above it. The goals lower in the list are less inspiring, but they serve the goals above them.

There’s a perspective between these goals, from the daily goals to the lifetime goal. The accomplishment of daily goals leads to the lifetime goal.

There’s a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day and also a feeling of progress toward the life goal.


Big hairy audacious goals are inspiring and exciting at the beginning but involve the risk of frustration and extinction burst. Realistic goals are attainable, but they aren’t as motivating as ambitious goals.

The solution to this challenge is to set an ambitious goal and a realistic goal at the same time, and to have several milestone goals between them.

That way, we’ll always have something to work on today, a lifetime goal to be inspired by, and a perspective that helps us cultivate the faith in our lifetime goal.

Setting Realistic Goals Leads to Success

A few years ago, I had a conversation with someone who used to work in a day job but also wanted to work on a few creative ideas as side projects.

When I asked them which idea they wanted to start with, they told me that they wanted to work on all five of them at once.

I asked them how much time they could spend on those side projects per week, and they answered 15 hours.

When we talked the next week, they told me that they neither spent 15 hours nor worked on all the side projects.

This is a typical error we make. We want to achieve as much as possible, as soon as possible without taking into account our resources and habits.

“We greatly overestimate what we can do in one year. But we greatly underestimate what is possible for us in five years.” Peter Drucker

The Appearance of Progress vs. Real Progress

In a Joe Rogan podcast, Jordan Peterson explained his conversation with a student. The student spent four hours in the library every day without getting much done.

Peterson asked the student how many hours they actually worked in the library. The student answered that they worked only fifteen minutes per day if they subtracted all the distractions.

Peterson advised the student not to go to the library next week and work at home for half an hour every day. The student followed the advice and doubled their working time.

Bring the Target Closer to Yourself

Tony Robbins had a similar story about him advising the military trainers. Robbins told the trainers to put the target very close to the first time shooters. He instructed them to move the target farther away from the students gradually.

That way, the students start with a success and build confidence. Slowly but surely, they approach their goal distance over time. This is much better than starting with the required range and keep failing at it.

A Surefire Way to Get Frustrated

Tai Lopez explains the reason in his interview on the Impact Theory. When you set too high a goal and fail at it, you get frustrated, and you lose your motivation.

Think about a student who didn’t make 10K a year in their life but sets an income goal of one million dollars a year. It’s better to set a realistic goal first and then scale from there.

1% Improvements

I agree with Peterson, Robbins, and Lopez. I recommend measuring your baseline first and then making 1% improvements on that baseline.

Let’s say your goal is to quit wasting time on social media. Instead of quitting it cold turkey, measure how much time you spend on social media on a given day. Then, reduce that time 1% every day until you bring it to an acceptable level or you are comfortable giving it up entirely.

The 1% improvement method might not inspire you as big, audacious goals do, but there are two facts you have to consider.

First, 1% daily improvements result in a 38 times yearly improvement. That’s 3800% yearly improvement. Second, when you set a big, audacious goal, you risk hitting a plateau and quitting it altogether.


We tend to set big, audacious goals because they feel good and inspire us. In reality, those big, audacious goals rarely work.

A better way of setting goals is to measure our baseline and try to improve it 1% continually over time.

5 Steps to Accelerate the Accomplishment of Your Goals

Most of the time, we set having or doing goals.

Having Goals

  • I want to have a 5 bedroom home.
  • I want to have a car of this make and model.
  • I want to have a net worth of X dollars.

Doing Goals

  • I want to get an MBA.
  • I want to start a business.
  • I want to start a relationship.

What most of us don’t realize is that there’s a third category, being goals. Being goals are on a deeper level than the having and doing goals.

You might want to have a net worth of 10 million dollars. You might want to achieve that by building a business. But have you ever asked yourself who you have to be to achieve those goals? The answer to that question would be your being goal.

Three Levels of Goals

Whenever you set a having goal, also set doing goals if you haven’t done so. And whenever you set a doing goal, come up with a being goal underneath. Here’s an example.

  • Having Goal: I want to have a net worth of 10 million dollars.
  • Doing Goal: I want to start a business.
  • Being Goal: I want to become an entrepreneur.

The article Primal Leadership, the Hidden Driver of Great Performance by Daniel Goleman, et al. has a five-step process to achieve your being goals.

The article is also available in the book HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself, one of the top 12 personal development books that I recommend. The version in the book includes some extras such as the Idea in Brief, Idea in Practice, and other extra material.

Step 1: Who Do You Want to Be?

The first step in realizing your being goal is to define who you want to become. Imagine yourself you are already that person.

  • What do you see?
  • How do you feel?
  • What is your mindset?
  • How do you approach life?
  • How do you approach your day?

Step 2: Who Are You Now?

We need to know the differences between who you are now and who do you want to be in the future. To do that, answer the same questions for who you are now.

What are the differences between who you are now and who you want to be in the future?

Maybe you want to become an entrepreneur, and you think that an entrepreneur has a network of business partners. How many business partners do you have now?

Step 3: How Are You Going to Bridge the Gap?

It’s normal that there’s a gap between who you want to be and who you are. We need that gap to make progress. Now, ask yourself how you’re going to bridge the gap.

In the example above, the answer would be to build a network of business partners.

You’d probably come up with more than a single difference between your current and ideal self.

You need to come up with an action plan for each gap.

Step 4: How Do I Make Change Stick?

This step is especially important if you’re bridging the gap by cultivating a virtue or developing a personality trait.

Suppose that you’re an introvert and you’re cultivating extroversion. First, you become aware of your introversion. Second, you make a conscious effort to be an extrovert in certain situations, like networking events.

Your ultimate goal in learning is to get to the level of unconscious competence, the final one of the four levels of learning.

In the unconscious competence level, you’re behaving in the desired way automatically, without any conscious effort. Getting to that level requires repetition. A few successful tries won’t cut it.

Step 5: Who Can Help Me?

In this step, you can find a coach or mentor. You can also start or join a mastermind group. You can ask for feedback from your boss, peers, and subordinates.

If you ask for feedback, make sure you acknowledge that feedback and take it in. Don’t reject it or explain yourself. If people see that you don’t use their feedback, they will stop giving you feedback.


Setting having and doing goals is the first step to success. There’s a deeper level of setting goals that will accelerate your accomplishment of having and doing goals. That deeper level is the being goals.

You can set being goals by asking the question “who do I need to be to achieve my having and doing goals?”

Once you set your being goals, determine the details of your being goal, find out the differences between your ideal and current self, and come up with an action plan to bridge the gap between the two.

Don’t forget that you need repetition to get to the level of unconscious competence. Also, ask for help and feedback from the people around you.

Make the Achievement of Your Goals Inevitable

Before we start today’s post, take a moment to answer the following questions.

  1. Do you have any goals?
  2. Are they specific and measurable?
  3. Do they have any deadlines?
  4. Are they written down?
  5. What are the actions that you took in the last 24 hours and in the previous week toward your goal?

Those questions reveal your approach to goals. I hope you have answered “yes” to the questions from 1 to 4, and take at least one action toward your goal every day.

If not, promise yourself to write down at least one specific, measurable goal with a deadline after you read this post and take action toward it every day until you achieve it.

Working toward Your Goals from a Different Angle

Those are the basics of setting and working toward goals. Today, we’ll go one step forward. We’ll look at working toward goals from an entirely different angle.

Today’s advice comes from two billionaire investors, Charlie Munger and Ray Dalio. Charlie Munger calls it inversion and Ray Dalio explains it in his book Principles.

It’s a two-step approach to working toward your goals.

  1. Determine what keeps you from realizing a goal.
  2. Eliminate it.

When we think about working toward our goals, we think about taking action toward them. This approach is excellent, and it’s a necessary part of achieving our goals. However, it doesn’t address an essential ingredient of life: obstacles.

Find and Eliminate Roadblocks

When working toward our goals, it’s inevitable that we’ll hit roadblocks. Taking action when we don’t have any obstacles is the easy part. What separates successes from failures is how we deal with the roadblocks.

Sometimes, these roadblocks are so subtle that we don’t even recognize them, but they effectively prevent us from reaching our goal. When you take action toward your goals and still can’t accomplish them, ask yourself the following question.

What keeps you from reaching your goal?

Your answer to that question is your roadblock. You need to eliminate those roadblocks to achieve your goal.

How can you eliminate that roadblock?

The answer to that question requires a different set of skills compared to working toward your goal.

You can formulate your version of the question as a problem and use your problem-solving skills on it.

Find the Root Cause of the Roadblock

The first step to eliminate the roadblock is to find its root cause. You can do that by using the 5 Why’s Technique. Answer the following question.

Why do you have this roadblock?

You might come up with one or more answers. Now, ask the same question for each answer. Do this until you go five levels deep.

If you go five levels deep, you’ll have a clear picture of what keeps you from reaching your goals. Maybe, one of those obstacles will stand out among others. That would be the root cause. Maybe, a set of them will stand out. Then, those are the root causes.

You have to eliminate the root cause or causes to achieve your goal.

Brainstorm Solutions

Now, take one of the root causes, and write down 20 solution ideas. Think about this as a brainstorming session. You don’t need to come up with great ideas at this moment. Just flex your creativity muscles to come up with 20 solutions. They could even be silly answers.

If you complete 20 solution ideas, you’ll see that one or two of them are excellent ideas.

The Ideal Solution

In this step, go over all the ideas you’ve generated in the previous step and try to come up with an ideal solution. Imagine you didn’t have any external or internal limitations. Imagine you had virtually infinite resources and no inhibitions. What would be the ideal solution?

Write the ideal solution with as many details as possible.

Come Up with an Action Plan

The last step is to come up with a detailed action plan. In this step, we’ll write down a realistic version of the ideal solution that we can apply in practice.

The realistic version has to be applicable in practice, but at the same time, as close to the ideal version as possible.

First, write down an outline of a few steps. Then go over each step and break them down into smaller steps. Keep doing it until you come up with action items that you can carry out right away.


The default way of working on our goals is to take action toward them directly. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but sometimes, we hit subtle and not-so-subtle roadblocks that keep us from making progress toward our goals.

If we don’t make any progress toward our goal no matter how hard we work, it’s time to take a break and look for the roadblocks that keep us from reaching our goals.

Once we determine them, we can formulate the roadblocks as problems and use our problem-solving skills to eliminate them.

When we eliminate the roadblocks, the achievement of our goals becomes inevitable.

Determine and Cultivate the Personality Traits that Serve Your Goals

When we first start setting goals, we set “having” goals.

  • I want to have a million dollars in the bank.
  • I want to have a Ferrari.
  • I want to have a five bedroom home.

There’s nothing wrong with “having” goals, but after a while, we quickly realize that we need “doing” goals to achieve our “having” goals.

  • I want to get an MBA.
  • I want to start a business.
  • I want to sell my business.

Most of us get stuck in the “doing” goals and have a hard time achieving them because there’s a lower, subtler level we are missing. That lower level is the “being” goals.

  • I want to be decisive.
  • I want to be resourceful.
  • I want to be courageous.

We need to set and achieve our “being” goals to achieve our “doing” and “having” goals.

Setting Being Goals

Here are a few questions for you to reflect upon.

  • Do you have any “being” goals?
  • Which “being” goals do you have to set to achieve your “doing” and “having” goals?

That second question isn’t that easy to answer, because most of us lack self-awareness. Sometimes, we don’t even know the criteria that we have to evaluate ourselves with. It’s in the domain of what we don’t know we don’t know.

Most of us know that we need self-discipline to succeed. Some of us are also aware that success requires courage as well. But have you thought about being decisive?

  • Do you consider yourself decisive or not?
  • How does that affect your success in your private and professional life?

Which Personality Traits Do You Need to Cultivate?

Take a moment and think about which personality traits you need to cultivate to achieve your goals. Can you come up with a list?

It’s not that easy to see flaws in our personality. If you aren’t lucky to receive feedback from others, you might remain unaware of them for the rest of your life.

Going over a list of personality traits and virtues can help you evaluate yourself and find your weaknesses. Then, you can set being goals based on your evaluation. I’ll share three lists with you in this post.

Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues

Benjamin Franklin practiced 13 virtues. He focused on a single virtue per week. You can read more about his practice in his autobiography.

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

The Big Five Personality Traits

If you do a google search on personality traits, you’ll come across lists that consist of hundreds of personality traits. That might be overwhelming, and you might wonder where to start.

An excellent place to start is the big five personality traits, which covers the basics.

Openness to Experience

Are you more inventive and curious or more consistent and cautious? My life experience taught me that we need to have a balance between these two polarities.

When you’re stuck in a particular situation, innovation, diversification, and inventiveness pay off. When you find a job, business, project, or relationship that offers substantial benefits, it’s a good idea to focus on it, and be consistent and cautious.

It’s also a good idea to find an occupation that satisfies your openness to experience. Entrepreneurs are more inventive and curious, where else consistent and cautious people are drawn to jobs such as engineering, medicine, and law.


The polarities of conscientiousness are efficient and organized vs. easy-going and careless.

Our culture glorifies being efficient and organized for a good reason. But I do believe you have to add some easy-goingness and carelessness to the mix. That would open you up to new ideas and opportunities.

You can include both polarities in your personality. The more efficient and organized you are, the more room you have to be easy-going and careless.


The polarities of extraversion are being outgoing and energetic vs. being solitary and reserved.

Being extroverted is praised in our culture, but we are missing all the work done by the introverts. Think about all the technology developed by engineers.

Sure teamwork is important, but at a certain moment, someone has to sit in front of a computer and get the work done to make the rest of the system work.


Are you friendly and compassionate or challenging and detached?

This can be a sensitive subject for many because it’s connected to relationships. We all know a person that is too nice and taken advantage of. We also know someone who is too challenging and detached for whom we have some choice words.


The polarities of neuroticism are sensitive and nervous vs. secure and confident.

I guess no one would like to be nervous, but I think we need to add some sensitivity to the mix. Being overconfident can result in overseeing some severe mistakes and cause disasters.

Using the Big Five

Even though our culture glorifies one end of the spectrum for all of the big five personality traits, I recommend you cultivate a balance on all of them, even on neuroticism.

Here’s how I’d use the big five to set “being” goals.

  1. For each personality trait, determine where you are in the spectrum.
  2. Does your place in the spectrum serve your goals?
  3. If not, cultivate the opposite polarity to move toward the optimal point in the spectrum.

Remember, the optimal point is rarely on one end of the spectrum. It’s mostly somewhere in between those polarities.

It’s a good idea to work on your personality traits to modify them to serve your goals. It’s also a good idea to adjust your goals to match your personality traits. That way you’ll end up with a better match between your goals and personality and maximize your chances of success.

638 Primary Personality Traits

If the big five personality traits and Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues aren’t enough for you, here is a list of 638 primary personality traits.

You might want to go over that list once in a while to determine your own dozen or so personality traits to work on.


Most of us are focused on having and doing goals, but there’s a subtler, yet more effective dimension underneath them. That is who we are.

To achieve our having and doing goals, we need to set being goals that serve those high-level goals. To do that, we need to evaluate ourselves and determine which personality traits we need to cultivate.

Once we determine and cultivate the necessary personality traits, our doing and having goals are achieved almost on autopilot. They come as a byproduct of our personality.

A Four-Step Exercise to Come Up with a Congruent, Viable, Compelling Vision

Yesterday, I shared 12 personal development books to read over the next 12 months. The goal is to read one book per month and apply the ideas in your life for the entire month. One of those books is the classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

The second habit of the seven habits is to determine the outcome you aim for. This is a critical step in your personal success.

You need to have a compelling vision to work toward. That vision must be crystal clear and viable.

Let’s admit it. Most of us don’t have a crystal clear, viable, compelling vision of where we want to be in our lives ten years later. This might be the most essential task in our lives, but we never take the time to get it done.

We all have some vague ideas about what we want in the future. Most of the time, these ideas aren’t congruent. They contradict each other. As a result, they aren’t viable, and we don’t believe that we will realize those dreams.

Here are some reasons why we don’t come up with a vision for our future.

Dreams vs. Visions

Most of us think that dreaming about the future is the same as having a vision. That’s incorrect. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but a dream isn’t the same as a vision.

A vision can be based on a dream, but unlike a dream, a vision is specific and feasible. A vision doesn’t have any contradictions. It has sufficient details for greater clarity. If you have dreams, that’s great, but you have to process them to turn them into a vision.


It’s the last sentence in the previous paragraph that keeps many people from having a vision. Some of us consider working on a vision a waste of time. We spend most of our time on tasks that benefit us within a month.

Most of us spend our time on two things.

  • Working toward the paycheck next month.
  • Instant gratification, e.g. entertainment.

When is the last time you did something for a goal that would take more than a month to accomplish? A vision would take at least a year to achieve.

If your attitude is “why bother with something that would take a lifetime to create,” then that’s why you don’t have a compelling vision.

Emotional Barriers

Working on a vision can trigger some intense feelings. You might be worried about the future or get too excited to come up with a reasonable vision.

You might feel apathetic, and think “what’s the use? I won’t accomplish these goals anyway.” You might feel overwhelmed by the number and magnitude of the challenges that you face in the future. All of that might keep you from working on your vision.

If that’s you, keep on reading, because I’ll share some tips to overcome your worries.

Lack of Know How

You might not know how to approach the task of creating a vision document for your life. That’s exactly why I’m writing this post. My goal is to provide you with a step by step exercise to come up with a compelling vision document.

Invest the Time

First of all, block some time in your agenda to invest in your future. We’re all busy with all kinds of tasks for our next paycheck or for our immediate survival. Yet, if you don’t invest any time in your future, your future won’t be any better than your present.

It would be ideal to block a complete day to work on this document, but if you can’t do that, it’s also OK to work on it for an hour a week until it’s complete.

Write Down Your Complaints and Worries

The first step is to write down your complaints and worries. The self-help literature tells you to be positive and not complain or worry. But for the sake of this exercise, do it once.

Write Down Your Desires

Write down everything that you want to attain in the future. Your dreams, wishes, and wants.

Create Scenarios

Now, go over both lists and pick the item that is the most important to you. It could be a complaint or a desire. Write a scenario for that item only.

  • If it’s a complaint, what would be the ideal solution to it?
  • If it’s a desire, what would be the ideal manifestation of it?

Don’t think about limitations. Don’t think about how you’re going to realize that goal. Focus only on the end result.

Imagine you have magical powers and you can create a parallel reality where this ideal solution can be real. Add as many details as you want.

Once you complete this exercise for a single item, repeat it for the next most important item. Repeat it for as many items as you want.

You can even come up with several scenarios for each complaint or scenario. The idea here is to let our imagination loose so that it can come up with the most interesting solutions.

We also call these solutions scenarios. That’s a lighter approach and allows us to be more creative and overcome our worries and limiting beliefs.

Another tip to overcome your worries is to approach this task as if you’re working on the life of another person. Imagine you’re a writer that’s working on a character in a fiction book. That will help you set aside your worries.

Merge Your Scenarios

At this step, we’re going to merge all the scenarios into a single vision. It’s OK that some of your scenarios contradict each other.

You might be living in New York in one scenario and in Paris in another one. You might be a businessperson in one scenario and a free spirit in another one. This is expected, because we all have contradicting desires, wants, and wishes.

With the previous step, we acknowledge all of our desires. In this step, we have to make a decision. We will create a single, coherent vision.

Look at all the different scenarios from the previous step and merge them into a single vision. If there are contradicting scenarios, look for ways of integrating them.

You might be a businessperson during the week, and a free spirit in the weekends. You might live in New York throughout the year and spend your vacations in France.

If you can’t integrate them, it’s time to make a decision. You might need to let go of some of your scenarios. Don’t throw them away, keep them in a separate section. It’s also important to be aware of which desires you decided to not realize.

Every time you feel those desires again, you’ll remember that those desires don’t fit your vision, and you’ll let them go. That way, you’ll free up some considerable mental capacity in your mind.

Focus on What, Not How

This exercise isn’t about how you’re going to realize your vision. It’s about finding out what your vision is. Don’t jump to conclusions and look for ways of realizing each scenario at this moment.

Your goal is to come up with a congruent, viable, compelling vision. How you’re going to realize that vision is the subject of another exercise.


Having a congruent, viable, compelling vision is a critical step in personal success. Yet, most of us avoid it. Some of us don’t have the time. Some of us get overwhelmed by the idea. And some of us don’t know how to do that.

You can come up with a vision in four steps.

  1. Write down your complaints.
  2. Write down your desires.
  3. Write down the ideal solutions for the most essential complaints and desires.
  4. Merge the solutions into a single vision.

The Optimal Emotional State for Long-Term Audacious Goals

Regulating our emotions to overcome our dysfunctional patterns and to maximize our performance is a topic that fascinates me.

Getting into a specific emotional state works much better than just “thinking” about giving up a bad habit or performing well. Emotions have greater power than thoughts.

There are three steps to use your emotions to get a specific outcome.

  1. Determine the outcome you aim for.
  2. Determine the optimal emotional state for that outcome.
  3. Get into that emotional state.

Determine the Outcome You Aim For

This sounds like an obvious first step, but I included it anyway. Most of the time, we want to live a good life and be an exemplary person. Yet, we don’t define what living a good life and being an exemplary person is.

We have vague ideas about those goals. Do you know which specific daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals you need to achieve to live a good life and to be an exemplary person?

If yes, that’s great. If no, you need to define those specific, measurable, timed goals first. You can read my posts on analyzing, prioritizing, and scheduling your goals and tasks for that.

Determine the Optimal Emotional State for the Outcome You Aim For

Once you decide on the exact outcome of each moment of your day, it’s time to determine the optimal emotional state for that outcome.

  • I’m going to write my blog post.
  • I’m having a meeting with my colleagues.
  • I’m going to the gym.
  • I’m going to have dinner and relax in the rest of the evening.

There’s an optimal emotional state for each of those activities, and they can be different from each other.

Finding the right emotional state is critical to your success in each of them. You have to find the optimal emotional state even in each situation of each event.

Doing the actual exercise and resting between the sets require different emotional states when you’re in the gym. You need to know those states. It takes time to figure them out and to learn them.

Make an If-Then List for Common Situations

Mel Robbins, the author of The 5 Second Rule, recommends that you make an if-then list of all the situations that you encounter regularly and the reactions you’ll give in each case. I like that idea.

Just write down all the situations you encounter frequently and write down the optimal emotional state for them. Then go over that list often and practice it until it’s a part of your operational knowledge.

The Optimal Emotional State for Long-Term Goals

Finding the optimal emotional state in a given situation is not trivial. Imagine you were an American prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. What would be the optimal state to cope with that situation and to survive?

You can imagine that being pessimistic and getting depressed won’t work well in such conditions. Those POW’s gave up and died quickly.

But what about the positive ones who dream of getting released in the next Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving? Being an optimist should work out, shouldn’t it? After all, this is what the famous Law of Attraction is all about.

That type of optimism didn’t work out well either. It only postponed the tragic end. The optimistic POW’s survived longer than the pessimistic ones, but at the end, they got heartbroken and died.

The Stockdale Paradox

There’s a third group who survived the brutal imprisonment. They had a specific mindset. They believed that they’ll succeed at the end, but it will be a long, brutal experience. This mindset is called the Stockdale Paradox.

The name comes from James Stockdale, a senior American officer and POW in Vietnam. He used this mindset to survive his seven and a half year brutal imprisonment. You can read more about the Stockdale Paradox in the book Good to Great by James C. Collins.

Get Into That Emotional State

Knowing the optimal emotional state for a given situation isn’t enough. You should be able to get into that emotional state whenever needed. That means you need to develop that skill in advance.

This is crucial if the event in question doesn’t happen often. You probably don’t make a public speech or a job interview every day. However, you can practice the necessary emotional state by yourself or in other situations in your daily life.

Getting into a specific emotional state at will is a critical skill for success in life.


Success in life requires knowing the outcome you aim for at each moment, the optimal emotional state for that outcome, and the ability to get into that state at will.

Sometimes, the optimal emotional state for a specific outcome is more complicated than we think. It’s evident that pessimism doesn’t work, but blunt optimism doesn’t work either.

Long-term audacious goals require being optimistic about the outcome but at the same time being brutally honest about the facts and facing them. This mindset is called the Stockdale Paradox.

Getting into an emotional state at will is a critical skill. In some cases, you need to practice that skill in advance, especially when you don’t have enough opportunities to practice it in real life.

In essence, know your outcomes, know the optimal emotional state for those outcomes, and learn how to get into that state at will. That’s the way to maximize your performance and success.

Setting Goals for a Stress-Free, Fulfilling Life

Yesterday, I watched an interview with Vishen Lakhiani on Impact Theory. The ideas shared in the video are in line with my post called Are Your Goals Your Drug of Choice.

In that post, I shared an exercise to find out the unmet needs behind the goals you set. It’s a simple exercise where you ask yourself a simple question.

“Imagine you have realized your goal, then what?”

Keep asking the same question for your answers until you can’t find an answer anymore.

When we do that exercise, most of the time, we start with a material goal like financial freedom and end up with a basic need like freedom or security.

Our real goal is the basic need, but instead of working directly on that basic need, we work on the material goal.

That way, we don’t take the responsibility to meet our basic needs now and postpone that responsibility.

Means Goals vs. End Goals

Vishen distinguishes between two types of goals, means goals and end goals. We pursue our means goals to realize our end goals.

Most of our goals are means goals. When we question our means goals with the “then what” exercise, we find our end goals.

Vishen says that our means goals are mostly decided by the society for us. These are goals like becoming a lawyer, engineer, or a doctor.

Find Your End Goals

He states that there are other ways of reaching our end goals, but first, we need to find them. The “then what” exercise is one way of finding our end goals.

Vishen explains a complementary exercise. He divides the end goals into three categories.

  1. Experience Goals
  2. Growth Goals
  3. Contribution Goals

The idea is to make a list for each category.

Experience Goals

To find your experience goals, ask yourself the following question.

What do you want to experience in your life?

Here are some examples.

  • I want to visit a different country every year.
  • I want to have enough time to spend with my family.
  • I want to complete a triathlon.

Growth Goals

How do you have to grow to realize your experience goals?

You don’t go for a material outcome with the growth goals. You work directly on yourself. You increase your ability to produce greater value.

Material outcomes are mostly out of your control. Going after them stresses you out. Growth goals are entirely under your control.

Material results come as a byproduct when you work on your growth goals.

Working on your growth goals is a saner approach than working directly on material goals.

Contribution Goals

How are you going to contribute to the universe as you make progress with your growth goals?

Pay attention to the formulation of that question. It doesn’t say “once you reach your growth goals.” It says “as you make progress with your growth goals.”

You don’t need to wait until you reach a certain level to contribute to your fellow humans.

As a matter of fact, starting to contribute right now is a great way to make progress toward your growth goals.

Here are some examples.

  • I’ll publish a book.
  • I’ll reach 100,000 people with my public speeches.
  • I’ll help people to reach their potential.


Vishen Lakhiani argues that most of us adopt the goals that the society wants for us. Those are most of the time means goals.

We need to look behind those means goals to find our end goals. We can do that with the “then what” exercise.

Once we find our end goals, then we can find our own way to fulfill our end goals.

Vishen recommends that we come up with three lists to find our end goals, experience goals, growth goals, and contribution goals.

I suggest that you question your goals to find out whether they are means goals or end goals. If they are means goals, do the exercises in this post to determine your end goals.

Go directly after your end goals, and you’ll have a much more fulfilling life.