Scott H Young

You Can’t Set Goals to Fix Your Flaws


Broken

I used to think with enough hard work and ambition, you could achieve the things you want. I don’t believe that anymore.

Instead, I believe you can only achieve goals from pursuits you enjoy. Self-improvement works best when it maximizes who you already are–not trying to erase every flaw you see in yourself.

Over 90% of Dieters Fail–Why?

Dr. Martin Seligman writes that over 90% of dieters fail to stay thin for more than a few years, and for many diets this figure is closer to 97%. If the 80% supposed failure rate of new businesses sounded discouraging to you, this statistic is despairing.

Dr. Seligman offers a number of reasons why this might be the case: that dieting doesn’t work, that our society has a warped body image, that long-term calorie reduction is impossible. And I feel he is probably right on many of those points.

But, I think there is also a more general reason why so most dieting attempts fail. Most dieters approach their goal out of an insecurity about their perceived flaws. I believe any goal based on that insecurity is doomed to fail–whether that goal is to lose weight, become rich or find a girlfriend.

Setting Goals out of Interest or Insecurity

There are really only two reasons to set a goal:

  1. You want to fix something about your life.
  2. You’re interested in a pursuit and your goal is just a crystallization of that interest.

I want to argue that, as with dieters, 90% of people who set the first goal will fail. And of the 10% who do succeed, it’s either through enormous inner strife, or because they accidentally convert their goal into the second type.

I’d say a lot of the cynicism about personal development and self-help books, is because so much of it is aimed at this first group. Marketing at people who feel fat, lonely or poor, and who want to escape those feelings of insecurity.

Most of the business of self-help isn’t marketed at the opposite group: enthusiasts. People whose primary motivation for a goal isn’t because society tells them they are flawed, but because they are genuinely passionate about the pursuit itself. However, these are the people who are most likely to be successful in any personal development effort.

The business half of this blog is mostly a monthly rapid-learning tactics program I run. Of the people who’ve been successful with the program, virtually every one I could describe as a “learning enthusiast”. In other words, their primary motivation for joining was because they were incredibly interested in ways to learn more–not trying to fix a perceived flaw in their life.

Insecurity is a Terrible Motivator

The reason self-improvement efforts trying to fix flaws often fail is that insecurity is a terrible motivator. Yes, feeling lousy about yourself can give you the kick in the ass you need to get started, but it rarely allows you to finish.

For all the failed dieters–feeling fat can give you the motivation you need to get started. As Dr. Seligman cites from the research on dieting, most diets will allow you to lose weight within one or two months. The problem is that almost everyone will eventually put that weight back on.

To have the motivation to work at a goal for years, you need the opposite emotion: enthusiasm. You need to be deeply interested in the pursuit. The people I know who have excellent physiques aren’t just desperate narcissists, they’re obsessively interested in nutrition and whatever exercise they pursue.

Those who succeed as professional bloggers or internet marketers are probably as rare as successful dieters. I’ve seen no formal surveys, but a 1-2% success rate wouldn’t surprise me. What does interest me is that the people who do succeed are almost always obsessively interested in running their business. The primary motivation comes from that passion, not from hating their day job.

Insecurity can motivate, but it also eats you up inside. Eventually the damage of using insecurity as a power source outweighs any fixes it can attempt in your life.

Why This is an Extremely Hard Lesson to Learn

The lesson that insecurity is a terrible motivator and most self-improvement efforts based on it are doomed to fail doesn’t come easily.

I can still remember several years ago when I was terribly insecure about my social life. I had no girlfriend, few friends and little confidence. If any area of my life could have been describe as a gaping flaw, that was it.

My initial self-improvement efforts in that area failed miserably. It didn’t matter how much effort or work I put in, everything seemed to slide back to zero, and I was getting burnt out and frustrated by trying.

The way this finally turned around, surprisingly, wasn’t even from trying to fix it. It was from finding social activities I enjoyed and new groups of people. I joined Toastmasters, which helped me work on my speaking and confidence while allowing me to meet new people.

For a time, I still largely saw my social life as a flaw I needed to fix, but that no longer was the sole motivation for why I met new people or joined new groups. I did them because I actually enjoyed the activities.

Today I’m lucky to have a lot of friends and to have had some great relationships. But I still have insecurities. And almost always when I fall into the trap of pursuing some self-improvement goal based on those insecurities, I fall flat. It’s only when I’m driven by enthusiasm for the pursuit itself that I am successful.

Accept Your Insecurities, But Don’t Make them Your Destiny

My current advice would be to accept the insecurities you have about your life and yourself. Set your goals based on the desires you have, but within the pursuits that genuinely interest you.

But don’t make your flaws your destiny. Instead of going through cycles of insecurity and spurts of action, open yourself up to alternative possibilities. You don’t need to commit to them, simply expose yourself to enough of them. Because you might find, like I did, that some of the pursuits you really enjoy and are something you would be happy setting goals on.

If I were to go back to give my former self advice, it would be to adopt this attitude mixing acceptance and openness. I should have accepted my lousy social life fully, but at the same time left myself open to possibilities of joining new groups or taking on new activities.

If someone felt insecure about their body image, I’d probably offer similar advice. Don’t force yourself to go to gym programs you hate and take on diets that give up everything you love to eat. Otherwise, you’ll probably just be one of Dr. Seligman’s statistics in the long run with little to show for your effort.

But at the same time, open yourself up to the possibility that there might be some way to live a healthy life you could be really interested in. You might really enjoy mountain climbing or salsa dancing, but just haven’t had the chance to embrace those alternatives.

Is it Possible to Fix Your Life?

I might be going against the anything-is-possible, infinitely-malleable human nature ethos of our times, but I’d say no: it’s not possible to fix your life. At least if that’s how you phrase the question.

It’s certainly possible to live a better life and to become a better person. I wouldn’t be writing here if I didn’t believe that. But we might have to give up the notion that we can fix everything we don’t like about ourselves.

There is enormous potential to create, and our ambitions can be well-rewarded if we work hard and persist at them. But this creative potential has to be driven from an enthusiasm for the road ahead, not the doubts we all have about the place we’re standing.

Image courtesy of CarbonNYC.


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45 Responses to “You Can’t Set Goals to Fix Your Flaws”

  1. Dave says:

    Good article. This is an attitude that I have been developing, but you put it into words so much more clearly.

  2. Adam says:

    Great post Scott. I found it very insightful into some of my own misperceptions and failed ambitions.

  3. Anthony says:

    I think this is the best post I’ve read of yours yet. I second what Dave says.

  4. Dave says:

    You’re looking at this from a very black and white perspective. I think that both enthusiasm and insecurity can work well together. For example, your insecurity about your social life led you to join Toastmasters and ultimately be more social. Your current social success started with your insecurity.

    Moreover, some people are motivated by moving away from pain (myself included) and some people are motivated by moving towards pleasure. However, your advice that pain is a bad motivator is flawed. In contrast, both pain and pleasure can be great motivators and I can give you numerous examples to disprove your argument.

    The bottom line is that everything comes down to our perceptions. Two different people can view the same thing in different ways. For example, to an obese person, working out is agony. Whereas, for me I love the way I feel when I’m working out.

  5. David says:

    I would like to suggest a new idea:

    Working on your weaknesses will only give incremental improvement.
    Working on your strengths will multiply your improvement.

    The only scenario in which working on your weaknesses should be required should be the hard work in improving character flaws (lacking in integrity, getting the job done, honesty, etc). Those things seem necessary even if their improvement is incremental

  6. Anders says:

    I don’t agree. Enthusiasm is important, but not as important as diligence and discipline. Most people fail because a lack of discipline. It’s not easy to keep yourself thin and healthy if it’s more comfortable to go to McDonalds instead of cooking your own meals. It’s easier to get ugly and cry about it than it is to actually toughen up and go to the gym and work your ass of. Nobody cares about the initial motivation, whether or not that is backed by dreams, insecurities or personal flaws — the most important thing is discipline. The brain is plastic, like everything else here in life, nothing is linear. Being disciplined about things is one of the most crucial, yet difficult things in life, but will reward you in the end.

    “Instead, I believe you can only achieve goals from pursuits you enjoy” – I mean seriously? Discipline dude. It’s not even in your equation. People may or may not like to write a 10 page long essay, but with discipline things get easier. They write and move on. They do it again – and again. And after some time, you passthe so-called frustration barrier of yours and you start liking it, and maybe even liking it some more.

    Provocative article though, nice work.

  7. Scott Young says:

    Anders,

    Yes–discipline and diligence are important, I won’t deny that. But I believe they are most important *within* the context of pursuits you’re deeply interested in.

    Exercise is something I’m disciplined towards, but it’s also something I have a large interest in.

    Perhaps my article takes the point too far, but I believe for any long-term, sustained pursuit that requires more than just a few simple habits, driving yourself out of pain/insecurity has a much lower chance of success.

    -Scott

  8. Scott, this is one of the most personally impactful articles of yours I’ve read in a while. It’s incredible how clearly this aligns with some of my life struggles.

    I agree with some above posters that it’s not a catchall for every task in life, but ‘long-term goal’ is the crux.

    I work as an RA in the dorms at my school and it was a continuous struggle until I (almost by accident) went to a large RA conference. I met a ton of RAs from around the country who love their jobs who somehow filled me with legitimate enthusiasm about my job. All of a sudden, I began getting more involved with my floor, in addition to doing the more menial tasks, barely having to think about it. The stress dissolved when the enthusiasm developed, and I now confidently believe I can do it for my final two years.

  9. AHA says:

    And of the 10% who do succeed, it’s either through enormous inner strife

    What are the inner qualities of those with this enormous inner strife ability? Those are the people I would like to model. Because converting everything to be pleasure-driven is not always an option, IMHO.

  10. AHA says:

    What Scott is describing can also be called “acting out of fear” or “having scarcity mentality”. In RA Wilson’s terms, it could be called having biosurvival anxiety.

  11. Jason says:

    woah thats deep

  12. Iair says:

    Scott,

    Another great post from you.

    Iair.

  13. Yes, but it got you started, and with discipline it can get you to the finish line as well. Of course enthusiasm is important, I’m just saying for people with only one in a life chance of say, getting the scholarship they want, it sure as hell isn’t only enthusiasm they need. They need the discipline to go through with it and actually do the things needed. We know, from neuroscience now though, that many of these driven, ambitious traits could be correlated with an expression of certain genes. We know that there are certain genes that have an effect on the synthesis, reuptake, etc. of dopamine, which definitely has a profound effect on motivation and ultimately discipline. But that’s no excuse. The brain is plastic, and you can try to do your best with discipline. Some people are just luckier than others, and for people with faulty DA systems amphetamines might just be the answer.

    It makes sense why so many people have ADHD evolutionary speaking; impulsivity, novelty seeking and poor executive function results in a lot more pregnancies.

  14. Scott Young says:

    Anders,

    I think maybe we’re not talking about the same thing. I’m not trying to argue against discipline, or argue that it’s even unnecessary in achieving goals. I definitely don’t believe that.

    My point is, rather, any long-term self-improvement effort that starts out as an insecurity, such as feeling poor, fat, alone, etc. generally has to transition into an interested pursuit if you want to make progress as a whole.

    Long-term (several years or more) pursuits aren’t the same as one-off projects which can usually be grunted out only with discipline. If you get into the really long picture (like 5-10 years) counting on sustaining discipline over that time is ridiculous–either your efforts need to become so habitually automatic that they don’t require thinking or you have to actually like the pursuit.

    Areas like social life, health, academics (in the long term, not specific classes), career, relationships fit more into this category.

    Good thoughts, thanks for continuing the discussion!
    -Scott

  15. Anders says:

    I understand that, but you have to understand that we can easily condition our brains, Pavlov style. Say you start out with being fat and you begin by running every other day. You continue to do this, because of discipline and because of small rewards activating the nucleus accumbens and ultimately conditioning your brain to make a link between running and said reward. According to you, this said link will be broken after a certain amount of time because it was driven by a flaw/insecurity in the beginning, my opinion differs. Could you please tell me how you see this link is broken? Because a lack of enthusiasm (not a very well defined term anyway) doesn’t really make scientific sense.

  16. Qrystal says:

    I find it surprising that there is a debate in the comments about how enthusiasm isn’t as important as discipline. Where does discipline come from, if there is no enthusiasm to build it in the first place?

    It is much easier to develop discipline by convincing ourselves to embrace the things that garner enthusiasm, rather than by beating ourselves up and creating negative feelings that we will then associate with the activity. Negative perspectives tend to enhance each other, just as positive perspectives do to each other; why not focus more attention on the positives ones, since they feel much better when applied?

    With proper encouragement and positivity, we are more likely to elevate ourselves to be our best selves, and (perhaps more importantly) our mental state will be much healthier if we are fulfilling an inspiration than if we’re merely responding to our own negative self-talk. Thus, I strongly believe that it is incredibly useful to convert our demands upon ourselves into things that will draw us towards our ideals, because it makes the discipline easier to find and embrace.

  17. Tassia says:

    Great thought-provoking post, Scott. The best kind!

    Both your example of your social goal and Komdat’s RA issue are, to me, examples of what I call ‘reframing.’ This is where a goal may have its roots in insecurity, but along the way your mental framework shifts and changes as you learn and understand things in a different way. The same goal is still there, perhaps, but the reasons you continue to pursue it have shifted from being negatively motivated to being positively motivated.

    Discovering that positive spin, whether from ‘giving up’ on the negatively-inspired goal (your initial social goal) or from new positive insights (Komdat’s being an RA) is where we win.

    I’m hoping for more posts to help us do just that.

    Granted, we still have to deal with physiology – on the diet front, I’d recommend David Kessler’s book, for instance – and we are clearly not all wired the same, but finding positive ways for us to move forward in our lives can ameliorate some of the distress of relying on only discipline and grim determination.

    Thanks for the post.

  18. Tassia says:

    On rereading my comment after it posted, I realized my wording made it sound as if I was claiming I’d come up with the idea of reframing. Alas, I am no so wise.

    It’s hardly a new concept but it’s one that often works for me when I am, ahem, disciplined and determined enough to work at it.

  19. liber says:

    Hi Scott,
    This is an excellent post. I agree with you that self-improvement is not about fixing our faults. To spend our time and energy trying to fix ourselves would be a kind of “backpedal movement”, whereas self improvement, I believe is a “forward movement”. This reminds me of the serenity prayer which says: “to accept the things i can not change and the courage to change the things i can and the wisdom to know the difference”. Philosophically the human being is a “faulted creature” and there is nothing we can do about that. But we can choose to move forward in spite of our faults. So instead of trying to focus on fixing our faults i agree with you that we should spend our efforts to seek and develop new possibilities and may be by doing that we can override some of our “faults”. As they say, there is no use fighting the darkness. You just have to seek the light and bring it in and the darkness disappears. Keep moving forward Scott!

    Liber

  20. liber says:

    I want to share my experience with working with students. In the past we used the “fixing flaws” approach. We identify where the students are weak or where they have committed “mistakes” in their lives and then tried to remedy those with “fear motivations” like, if they don’t fix their mistakes or faults they would be dismissed from the institution. For sometime the “fear motivation” seemed to work but it did not create lasting change in the students. And so we made a paradigm shift in our approach, by working on possibilities,that is by working hard to help the students find “better, more interesting reasons” for making changes in their lives. It took us a longer time to effect the changes we wanted but we noticed that the “possibility approach” had more permanent impact on the lives of these young people. In other words, when we helped the students find more reasons to be enthusiastic, we were able to initiate a process which had lasting effects in their lives.

  21. Khoi says:

    This is personally so true to me. I means it happened to me.

    Focus on negativity is bad, everybody know that. But how about doing something that stir up dark emotion? That’s a big no-no also.

    Guys, you better listen to Scott if you know what’s good for you.

  22. Nick says:

    Scott-
    This, and the previous post, are two of the best I’ve seen on your site.
    Very insightful.

    In response to Anders’ thoughoutful post about discipline- discipline is extremely important, yes.

    I’d like to balance this post with Cal Newport’s post on finding/discovering your passions. He said that many people think passions are something we come upon, but in reality passions are something we develop. We develop passions because they give us a personal reward of some kind.

    Discipline is important to any goal, and trying to fix our insecurities might be a good first push in the right direction, but when we get to developing and finding rewards in our goals…thats when I believe we move into the “being interested” phase of the goal, and when things become “easier”.

    Hope that made sense…

  23. Neha says:

    Hello,

    Really nice and thought provoking post!
    Atleast in my case, I have seen that a disciplined approach automatically sets in when I enjoy doing something , but for things which i dont enjoy I hardly find the persistence in my efforts in order to set a disciplined way of life for myself. But may be that’s a flaw in me :)

  24. Matt says:

    Just on the dieting front, I’d suggest having a look at http://www.marksdailyapple.com and reading Good Calories, Bad Calories. Most logically sound nutritional information I have ever come across. Much of the prevailing conventional wisdom is flawed – both the above resources look at the flaws as well as solutions.

  25. Jerry Kolber says:

    Scott,
    This is great advice, and dovetails with my own experience that behavorial change that isn’t couple with long-term paradigm shifting enthusiasm is destined to fail (i.e. all those corporate weekend retreats where incredible new ideas for the business are created, then fizzle out in weeks because they aren’t connected to long-term enthusiasm).

    There’s another piece of this to me, which is that enthusiasm for something (rock climbing, writing, yoga, whatever) still has to have short-term wins to keep your biologically wired “short term” brain happy. So even if you are enthusiastic about yoga or running, it’s still important to have short-term wins – like going to class 3 days a week, or mastering a new route, or adding a mile to your weekly long run. To use Scott’s example, if you abandon the goal of “weight loss” and commit to some physical activity you are passionate about, and also create short-term winnable “goals” within that pursuit, you are likely to achieve the goal of “weight loss” without worrying about “weight loss”. The only people passionate about weight loss are the people who write diet books and run Weight Watchers.

    One other thing that seems to have been misunderstood from Scott’s article is that enthusiasm for something does not mean it is easy or that you are always playing to strengths. Anything you are enthusiastic for will eventually bring you face-to-face with limitations, and the more enthusiastic you are for the process (NOT the end goal) the more likely you are to come up with some cool creative way to work through those challenges. It won’t be easy – mastering a yoga pose, re-writing your novel, or learning to run faster all are challenging – but you are carried through the difficulty because of your passion for the pursuit.

    To extend a metaphor about the role insecurity may play in all this: Insecurity may be the rocket fuel that gets you into orbit, but trips to outer space aren’t about launch – they’re about what happens once you get into orbit, and enthusiasm is the slow burn energy that keeps you on track. Insecurity may motivate me to check out yoga, running, climbing, cycling, but enthusiasm for whichever I end up loving is what’s going to keep me coming back to sweat day after day.

    Okay, now i have to go for a run! Thanks for the great article Scott!

  26. shreevidya says:

    very nice article for me. especially an insight on the real problem that i am having in my life. thanks for your valuable words. tc

  27. Alex says:

    Anders — Your hypothetical person is also conditioning himself to feel bad every time he runs. He’s starting every run with the thought “I have to run because I’m fat.” Most people wouldn’t sustain the habit of running, in spite of the endorphin reward, because of that depressing start. But I think Scott’s point is that if said person instead started to think, “I wonder how far I can run today” or anything that is based in curiosity and enthusiasm, not insecurity, he’d be more likely to sustain the habit and truly make a change in his life.
    Good stuff, though. Very thought-provoking.

  28. Nick says:

    Alex-
    Really liked your analyasis and example.

    Scott- do you have another example/definition of a situation in which one looks at it from a “gotta fix this problem” mindset vs. a “interested and want to go further” mindset?

  29. Anders says:

    Alex,

    Is that depressing start just not an example of lack of discipline? Even if the person is lethargic, depressed and feels like shit, the person should still just ignore those feelings and get started (hence the discipline) and once said person has done this for a long time, it turns into a habit and ultimately become rewarding. I agree that setting goals is very important, even with self-discipline, but that can still be part of the process of overcoming insecurities/flaws. Thus, one can follow a program which starts with say walking 20 minutes, and then walking 15 minutes and running 5, you know the drill.. Inner goals and programs like that make the process less excruciating, but again, ultimately, all it comes down to is discipline and stop with the excuses.

  30. Alex says:

    “Is that depressing start just not an example of lack of discipline?”

    In my opinion, no. Discipline is feeling lousy every morning about running, but doing it anyway. Scott described a different method: finding a way to not feel lousy in the first place. Discipline is required to get the ball rolling, but for most people it just can’t keep the ball rolling long-term.

    But I’m a little confused about your overarching point, Anders. Taking a hypothetical example of an overweight person, Mary, who weighs 200lbs. She wants to lose 40lbs. So for 6 months Mary goes to the gym 4 days a week. She is the model of discipline because in spite of finding exercise boring and unpleasant she never misses a day and after 6 months she meets her goal.

    Now, if I follow what you’ve written, Mary should be conditioned by now (Pavlov-style) to enjoy her workouts. She should want to go to the gym. And whether she does enjoy them or not, if she does not continue her regimen then she’s lazy. Please correct me if that is not your position.

    In all probability Mary will stop going to the gym now that she’s met her goal. Most people do. She’ll gain the weight back and be unhappy. Telling herself that she’s lazy doesn’t HELP. She might bully herself back to the gym in a few months, but that’s just creating the yo-yo cycle that so many people live with. I think this post is about getting out of the yo-yo. I don’t understand your insistence that Mary should just tell herself she’s lazy and force herself to repeat an unpleasant task. If that worked for most people, then this article wouldn’t have been written in the first place.

    When I imagine Mary taking Scott’s approach, I see a different outcome. Mary goes to the gym for a month, but realizes that she’s not learning to like it. So she tries something different, like a spinning class or something. Discipline gets her to the class everyday, but then she meets some new friends in the class, and starts to look forward to feeling like she’s on a team every work-out. Now she has enthusiasm! It’s no longer a question of discipline every day. Maybe she needs discipline to go to class during the holidays because she’s so busy, but mostly she goes because she wants to go. She becomes interested and involved, and so is able to maintain a healthy weight for years, instead of months.

    I think you are wrong if you think Mary is just lazy. She has the capacity for discipline, but she simply lacked enthusiasm in the first scenario. Discipline and enthusiasm together are required for long-term success.

  31. Nish says:

    Where do you believe is a better place for goals to come from?…. purpose, passion are some I think also perhaps setting a goal because you believe its an expression of yourself.

  32. Nick says:

    Alex-
    Adding to your post, if I may.

    Mary has the discipline to get to the gym, but she needs something externally to give her the reward/recognition she needs to continue on the goal. Mary takes up the spinning class, and finds she really enjoys the challenge of bike riding. Or, she takes up rock climbing and enjoys that challenge. She’s not thinking of her internal “flaw”, which in her mind will probably always be there. Instead, she has found something outside of her flaw, which still gives her a personal reward (the physical/mental challenge of the work), and also helps achieve her goal to be healthy.

  33. Anders says:

    Alex,

    I see your point. However, why would she, after reaching her said goal, stop going to the gym? You say that she’s not enjoying herself there. I see your point, but that’s just her not doing something actively to change the situation. Asking herself the question: Why am I not enjoying this, although I see results, and go from there. From there on, she’ll likely figure out that either she should find a friend to go to the gym with, or try something different — while still capturing the benefits from her discipline. Discipline can make her stop thinking about her “flaw” in the first place as well.. She just needs to get over the initial “lack of motivation” phase and continue going..

    Good discussion though.

  34. AH says:

    i like Alex idea of getting out of the yo-yo painful looping created by discipline-dominated approach……better replaced by enthusiasm-dominated approach……

    however, there are few situation still needed discipline-domintaed approach. eg, a old man at 60 age without qualification being locked to those people-hated jobs such as clean-up-rubblish in order to earn a living. No people can find enthusiasm to clean-up-rubblish, he must need discipline to clean-up-rubblish on day-by-day basis !!!

  35. Scott Young says:

    Thanks for continuing the discussion while I’ve been away everyone!

    My thinking is that willpower is a limited and decidedly short-term resource. It simply does not work in the long-term–especially the very long-term of major life pursuits. Enthusiasm eventually must replace it, which means every personal development effort can begin through discipline but must eventually engineer itself into enthusiasm or it is doomed to failure.

    -Scott

  36. Uzma says:

    My god! That is so true. We really need to stop cribbing and worrying about flaws and working on them in a way we don’t life. Rather build on the good and be open to finding fun alternatives. I love this perspective. Thank u for this

  37. I think all people are insecure. The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people. Or may be just plain confident human beings, is that they have learned to live with their insecurities and not let it limit them from experiencing all that life has to offer. I dealt with this topic on a very deep level and learned that we are all the same. We are more alike that we are different. Don’t allow your thoughts to control you. Don’t allow fear to keep you down. Or you may never be able to get back up.

  38. David Rahimi says:

    I agree with your last comment Scott. Will power is definitely limited, and to rely on that alone will eventually lead to failure. I used to play basketball when I was younger and had great “discipline” because I would practice over 5 hours a day. I did this for years. I also have had the same “discipline” when it comes to dieting, but they never lasted for more than a few months.

    This was obviously because basketball was a passion of mine, something I was enthusiastic about doing, so it wasn’t just my will power at work. When it came to dieting, I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do but I had no passion for it. The only thing that kept me going on for months was that discipline and will power, which eventually was depleted.

  39. [...] they see a problem with being unproductive but because they enjoy to grow and to become better. You Can?t Set Goals to Fix Your Flaws Scott H Young is a good article on the problem. [...]

  40. [...] Scott Young explains why You Can’t Set Goals to Fix Your Flaws. He says self improvement is about maximizing who you already are, not about erasing every nit-picky flaw. It’s a really interesting post. This is one of my favorite blogs. [...]

  41. This article just blew my mind, well done!

    Probably this also explains why people that get back together after a break-up often fail; because they are trying to fix the flaws in their relationship rather than enjoying and being excited for their common potential.

  42. Scott Young says:

    Maria,

    That’s really interesting, I hadn’t considered that point.

    -Scott

  43. Anonymous says:

    Wow! this makes so much sense. Maybe we should just relax and feel and think and understand for a minuet before we decide to jump on the bandwagon of trying to fix every minute detail of our lives.

  44. Louche says:

    Scott, this is so true! I have been thinking a lot about this, writing about it on my blog as well, but the way I put it is, I am choosing to think in terms of “want” instead of “should” and “need.” And it’s funny because learning about Buddhism I thought we were supposed to extinguish (“let go of”) desires, we *needed* to let go of them, *needed* to END SUFFERING FOREVER. It’s so ironic to think you can END SUFFERING FOREVER by feeling so needy about the damn thing. A goal is a want, a direction, not a need. So I wholeheartedly agree: set goals based on desires/enthusiasm rather than shoulds.

    Insecurity and the idea of “fixing” things are about right and wrong (making things right), about needs. The notion that we *need* to be secure is like an oxymoron… how can you be secure if you’re needy?

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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