Countering the Negative Effects of Goal Setting

As someone who encourages people to always have a formal, disciplined process for setting and achieving big goals, I have to acknowledge the occupational hazard of setting and pushing yourself toward your goals:

Discouragement and dissatisfaction

The process of pushing oneself to higher levels through a formal or even informal process of setting goals has the unfortunate effect of keeping our focus on the things that we want, but that we don’t yet have. It’s not hard to slip into discouragement in such cases.

One nice summer Saturday while I was a teenager, I was busy washing our family car which I had parked on our front lawn for the job. Instead of blasting music on my “Boom Box” (yes, that’s what we called them back then), I was playing a self-help, personal development talk. A friend of mine a little older than me came riding her bike down the street and stopped to say high. She was in her first year of college and had a psychology class. As she heard what I was listening to, she said that most people who listened to stuff like that became more disappointed with themselves, because they never accomplished what they aspired to. She suggested it might be better not to listen to that type of stuff.

I was a rebel, and continued listening, but I understand where she was coming from. It’s easy to fall into discouragement when your focus is on what you don’t have, but that you want, or what you aren’t, but what you are trying hard to become.

Rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, there is a practice that can ground us during the times of discouragement when working towards being better, or accomplishing our goals.


A simple exercise which can be practiced as needed, or better yet, regularly, can counter this negative effect and even accelerate the process of goal achievement. Next time you’re finding yourself discouraged in your pursuit to achieve your goals, take a pen, piece of paper and five minutes and do the following:

  1. List the top three to five people in your life that you love and appreciate. Think about why it is that you appreciate them, and how your life would be different if they weren’t a part of it.
  2. List the top three to five accomplishments that you have achieved over the past 1–2 years. Reflect on them and remember and feel how those accomplishments have positively impacted your life.
  3. List the top three to five possessions you have that mean the most to you. It could be your home, vehicle, computer or whatever.
  4. Put your life into perspective relative to the worlds population and condition. If you’re reading this article, you are most likely in a far better position than most of the world’s population. According to one study, 80% of the population live on less than $10 per day.

These simple steps can help bring you back to a position of gratitude, which is the antidote to the discouragement that sometimes is the result of pushing yourself to higher accomplishments through goal setting.

Being grateful for the people in our lives, the accomplishments that we have achieved and the things that we do have can help us keep a healthy perspective while we work to become even better.

To see how you’re doing overall in your goal achievement process take this 10 question quiz.