26 December 2009

Goal Setting Debunked

Traditionally, the start of a new year is a time to set goals. According to, top new year’s resolutions include the following:

- Lose Weight
- Manage Debt
- Save Money
- Get a Better Job
- Get Fit
- Get a Better Education
- Drink Less Alcohol
- Quit Smoking Now
- Reduce Stress Overall
- Reduce Stress at Work
- Take a Trip
- Volunteer to Help Others
- Health-e-Cards for Holidays and New Year

Their web page even has links to help you with each goal.

Many books, speeches, classes, websites, etc. have been dedicated to helping make and achieve personal goals. This article is not an attempt to duplicate any one of them in a thinly veiled act of plagiarism. Instead, I am here to debunk a common goal setting myth. What, you didn’t know there were any goal setting myths? Then you will be twice educated. First I will introduce the myth (you might have heard it before), then I will debunk it. No, this will not be as visually entertaining as say MythBusters; but then again their show sets about “busting” myths which is a highly visual term. Debunking, on the other hand, is my objective.

Interestingly, the word debunk originates from a speech given during the 16th Congress, but I will not bore you with the details here. According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (of course), to debunk is, “To expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of.” I will focus primarily on the ridicule bit because it is of course so much more fun.

Common Goal Setting Myth: “Aim for the stars and maybe you’ll reach the sky.”

Reinhold Niebuhr, US Protestant theologian and critic, penned this quote in The Serenity Prayer (1934).

Taken literally, this makes no sense at all. First, let’s assume that when Niebuhr said “sky” he meant the beginning of outer space, which starts anywhere from 100 to 1000 kilometers (that’s 62.1 to 621 miles) from the Earth’s surface, depending on how you define the distinction between atmosphere and open space. Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, is 4.3 light years away. So, if NASA intended to reach Proxima Centauri and only made it to the sky, then their spacecraft would be 25283999999379 miles away from the intended destination. Put another way, this would be like setting a goal to earn one billion dollars and in fact earning just over two cents but being happy about the results anyway.

Some might cry foul here and argue that Niebuhr was not to be taken literally. Fair enough, as I have never read The Serinity Prayer, I do not know the context in which this was written. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt and contemplate the “spirit” rather than the “letter” of the quote. The spirit of the quote would seem to say that when setting goals we should consider a suitable goal then aim so high above it that we eventually reach the aforementioned acceptable level and are satisfied. This is bunk. This is self-delusional and ultimately disappointing. If we make impossible goals that we never really intend on reaching we have defeated the primary purpose of goal setting – goal achievement. That said, if you had a reasonable end in mind to begin with, why not just set it as the goal itself? Granted, we should choose goals that stretch our abilities to the maximum, cause us to learn and grow, and are difficult, but obtainable. The ideal goal is something that if we try our absolute hardest we have about at 50 percent chance of achieving. Any better chance and we are not challenging ourselves enough. Anything less likely to result in success and we are only setting ourselves up for failure.

So the next time you set a goal, be it on New Year’s Day or not, do yourself a favor and put some thought and effort into setting a realistic goal. You will find that goal achievement is very rewarding and be more likely to continue setting and achieving productive goals for years to come.

20 December 2009

Do you have a Zombie Plan?

In the past couple of months, my kids have had the flu, then bad colds, then H1N1 (the swine flu), and are currently suffering from major ear infections causing temperatures of 105-plus degrees, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and just to make things interesting one even has pinworms (see previous post).

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s only a matter of time before one of them, or someone else, contracts a zombie virus. So I ask, what’s your zombie plan?

15 December 2009

Greetings Human

Hello, my name is slick. What? You say you don’t know me? Well, we’ve met once before – I’m sure you remember. Oh, I see, you didn’t know I had a name, or that I could blog for that matter. Well that’s just na├»ve. After all, everyone has a name and this is the digital revolution. It’s amazing the micro-technology available these days, and at such a low price (don’t worry; I used your credit account not the debit, so the bill won’t show up until after Christmas – you’re welcome). What about access to the internet you ask; well, let’s face it, you’re no techno-geek and the laughable 128 bit encryption on your wireless network took less than a day to hack.

Now you’re really curious who I am, aren’t you? I suppose I was a bit misleading when I said we had met before. Actually, I saw you but you didn’t see me. You did however meet my twin brother stinky. How can I be so certain? Let me refresh your memory. Remember yesterday when you were ever so overtly casing our home? When stinky came out to see what all the ruckus was about you nabbed him right from our front porch. I heard all the rude things you said about him and “our kind” in general. Well all I’ve got to say is this. He’d better be safe. If you’ve harmed him in any way you’ll live to regret it – I’ll make sure of it. You see, our kind, we stick together. That’s right; there are more of us than just my brother and I… many more. And some of us are considering taking up residence elsewhere, if you know what I mean. Yes my friend, wrong us and The Brotherhood of Pinworms will stress you by day and haunt you by night. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Note: Nikki brought it to my attention that my post was unclear. My apologies. Bottom line (no pun intended) is this -- one of my kids has pinworms... yuck. And yes, I did see one squirming around you-know-where. There, I said it. Did you know their eggs can live up to three weeks on clothing and linens? And adults usually get infected by inhaling them when a sheet or something moves around? Now that's a happy thought -- breathing in a worm egg. That's going to be a real pain in the...


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