Imagine: It’s. All. Yours.

The stacks on stacks on stacks. The blog with 100,000 daily views. A wardrobe with style that Kanye can’t touch.

The six pack stomach, or if you’re into that kinda thing, the guy with the six pack stomach. The bubble butt, hourglass shape, and voluptuous set of twins up top, or if you’re into that kinda thing, the girl who’s got that full-body package.

Whatcha think? If you set these things as goals and managed to make ’em happen, would life be significantly better one year later? Would you wake up more excited, feel a deeper sense of accomplishment, and live a more passionate and rewarding life?

Curve ball: If you answered “yes / sort of / probably / let’s be real here / of course”, what if I showed you that this belief was a *trap*? A trap which, ironically, prevented you from being as psychologically stable as you’d like to be?

Make the money, don’t let the money make you.

Psychologists call all of the above *extrinsic* goals  (the money, the fame, the beauty, the power). And some super smart geeks who spend copious amounts of time doing scientific, peer-reviewed, social research have come to some important conclusions that you should know about.

Goals that focus on extrinsic incentives not only give us a quickly fleeting feeling of happiness, but they [in my best “OMFG, can you believe it?” face] actually lead to higher levels of narcissism, anxiety, and depression, as well as worse social functioning.

Yikes! So not only are those goals short-lived, they often times do more psychological harm then good.

Of course, growing up in the MTV culture that we did, this is EXACTLY what we were told to shape our aspirations toward.

No bullshit. I want those stacks on stacks on stacks of money too. Find me a cutie with a booty that makes me howl to the moon. Sensophy starts getting the quantity and quality of comments that Marie Forleo gets? Fuckin’ dope!

Listen, we don’t need to completely eliminate extrinsic motivators, but I want to make sure you watch out for the pop-culture, narcissistic, consumeristic trap of thinking that this’ll bring you fulfillment.

The alternative? *Intrinsic* goals

These are things that are interesting/satisfying to us which don’t leave us feeling the need to reach an outcome to make the engagement worthwhile. Make sense? Basically, we like doing it just to do it – not because we think one day it’ll make us happy.

Do you know what self-determination theory is?

Essentially, “it’s a macro theory of human motivation, concerning people’s inherent growth tendencies and their innate psychological needs. It’s concerned with the motivation behind the choices that people make without any external influence and interference. SDT focuses on the degree to which an individual’s behavior is self-motivated and self-determined.” (Wikipedia)

Now the take-away that SDT provides us with (not to be confused with the take-away of an STD) is that we all have three innate needs for psychological health. We need…

  1. Competence (acquiring, developing, and using our skills)
  2. Autonomy (the need to choose and shape our life in a way that authentically reflects who we are)
  3. Relatedness (the feeling of connectedness and belonging)

So when it comes to setting goals, if you’re looking for psychological well-being (no pressure, it’s your call), then we wanna set goals that focus on…

  1. Growth
  2. Contribution
  3. Relationships

It’s that simple.

Now this doesn’t mean you need to give up your dream of being a life coach/artist/entrepreneur. But it does mean you should check-in and ask yourself *why* you want that.

Is it because everyone will admire you, you’ll be part of the latest trend, and be able to sip Mai-Tais in Hawaii while you work on your tan? Or is it because you’ll be able to learn/teach wisdom which you’re passionate about in a way which helps people raise the quality of their life (while you get to meet and connect w/ fascinating people along the way)?

Why goal accomplishment is like peeing…

Think about a few of the major goals you’ve ever reached in your life – the degree, the promotion, the $ in your savings account, etc… How long did the excitement of that accomplishment last? Really, how long?

Goals are great. But not for the reason we think. Most of us fall into the trap of “when/then” thinking… *When* I move to a new apartment, *then* I’ll be happy.

We  unconsciously assume obtaining our accomplishments will provide us with a hidden gateway into an infinite stream of euphoria. But here’s what no one pays attention to:

The excitement and joy that accompanies the accomplishment of your goal generally lasts a very short time.

Hedonic adaptation suggests that we adapt to positive (+ negative) changes in our lives fairly quickly and that, within a relatively short period after reaching our goals, we’ll feel the same as we felt prior to their fulfillment.


Accomplishing most of our goals is actually much more like a sense of *relief* than a stage of prolonged joy. Perhaps the way peeing feels when you’ve been out drinking all night. Ahhhh…

The real reason goals are so great is because they provide us with an autonomous path to walk on. Goals give us meaning, direction, a mission, a project, and/or a sense of purpose.

If we choose long-term goals that align with our values, passions and purpose, then we get to enjoy all the daily/weekly/monthly micro-goals that bring us toward the bigger picture. This could last for years (!!) while the satisfaction you feel from obtaining your goal may just last for days.

Pick goals that put you on a path to grow, to contribute, and to connect with like-minded people who get horned up over the same things you do! You may even howl at the moon on occasion.

Taking it from inspiration to action!

If you’re inspired to apply the science of successful goal setting to your own life, and are willing to be held accountable for what you say, you may be a good fit for our 2 Month Coaching Program. Apply here and we can check if we’re a good fit – it’s a sure way to grow, relate, and make a meaningful contribution.

What do you think?

Here are some questions we’d all love to know your answers to…

  • What’s one goal you’ve set in your life that’s brought you the most fulfillment?
  • Are your current goals meeting any (or more than one) of your psychological needs (competence, relatedness and autonomy)?
  • If you had all the time and money you’d ever need, and were guaranteed to succeed, what intrinsic goals would make you feel alive, free, and on purpose?

Let us know in the comments below!

Privacy Preference Center