… goals why make them, when you can break them?

The “art of goal setting” came up in a discussion with a client last week. What we noticed after hours of introspection and self reflection, is that sometimes, against our best intentions, we simply set ourselves up for failure. No matter how smart, educated, trained and coached we are, we simply fail to see the obvious. 

To be completely honest, I started setting up a SWOT analysis to any target I am setting, just to make sure that I am forcing myself to look at the external threats. Because sometimes, we just think we are so smart and confident, that we can do anything. And when talking about external threats, I don’t mean wars, and inflation, and tax changes, and any other global catastrophes that can be the wrench in your works, but the ones that you lay out for yourself so carefully, that after a while they become so normal, they stop being obstacles.

Let me elaborate on a personal example. This year (again), I set myself a New Year’s resolution of not buying anymore books. I know many of you are shouting out now: “WHY???”, but let’s not go there… Apparently, very easy to keep: pick up a book, pet it, kiss it — like the fishermen do, and put it back to the stack it came from in the bookstore. What I failed to see, as a built in failure to my plan, was that I am also a 1st year psychology student. Needless to say, buying no books is not an option. So with this argument found, we could consider the topic closed. But (at least in my case) this is not that easy. 

Last week, a friend invited me to the book launch of one of our favourite authors. Being a proper book launch, with author discussions and book signing, of course the first step was… to buy the book, of course. The minute my card made the beep sound on the terminal, I remember thinking: “there goes my plan, of not buying anymore books this year”. Needless to say I said the exact same thing the other six times before. But it was not a good feeling. I was disappointed and annoyed with myself. Somehow my own self-worth keeps shrinking, every time I break a promise that I make myself. Even if I can logically explain, why… 

Apparently, there is no other solution, then to plan better, and try not to set ourselves up for failure. BUT! While looking for some artwork for a training material, I came across the genius of Sketchplanations, which completely reframed my view of the problem.

The problem was not that I am a hopeless book hoarder, but that I am not Japanese! For if I were, this would not be a problem! Apparently, the Japanese have a dedicated word to my affliction: Tsundoku (積ん読).

goals tsundoku
Source: https://sketchplanations.com/tsundoku

Now this could just be putting my cognitive dissonance at ease, but apparently there are many benefits of owning much more books then one could ever read. My favourite explanation, is given by Jessica Stillman in her article Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You’ll Ever Have Time to Read. She argues, that hoarding books may be a very effective cure against the Dunning-Kruger effect. Quote: “All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people” — writes Stillman.

Now, by realising this, I am not legitimising myself to run to the bookstore tomorrow, but I am just happy I could find a way to reframe my bad feelings. Every book I bought is bringing me closer to a successful exam, every unopened book is keeping me motivated to keep learning. And even if we sometimes set ourselves up for failure, there are always new perspectives how to see our situation and make the best of it. I could not have done it, without some external knowledge, in form of a funny sketch. 

Either when needing to asses (the obvious) external threats, or facing a failure, external wisdom can always shine the light to where we need to see the obvious.


the blind and the elephant
Source: https://sketchplanations.com/the-blind-and-the-elephant

P.S.: It’s an elephant. 🙂

For exclusive contents subscribe below: