Psssst! Stop choosing goals you don’t have control over!

Sarah Von Bargen
3 min readMar 27, 2018


Imagine for a moment that you and your best friend are cuddled up in your living room, splitting a bottle of wine and waxing hopeful about 2018.

You’ve shared your resolutions and goals. Your friend has nodded along politely and made all the obligatory supportive noises. Now they launch into their aims for the coming year.

“I think my biggest goal for this year is to change the color of the sky. I’m thinking ….yellow. Like, a smokey, muted sort of look? I just think that would work really well for me.”

And you’d laaaaaaugh because that is car-razy. No one in their right mind would make a goal based on something they have no control over, right?

And yet so many of us do this!

We set goals or make resolutions about things that are largely beyond our control. We set goals like “get a book deal,” “buy a house,” or “have a kid.”

Are you directly responsible for the ups and downs of the publishing industry? Do you set the mortgage rates? Can you will yourself and your partner into fertility?

No? Me neither! So let’s stop setting goals and resolutions we can’t control.

Here’s the thing: You can’t guarantee a win, but you can guarantee a good fight.

Rather than setting a goal or resolution that’s beyond your control, create habits that get you closer to what you want.

You can’t control the caliber of the dating pool, but you can control how many emails you send to prospective dates.

You can’t control the housing market, but you can control your discretionary spending and which real estate agent you hire.

You can’t control your professional industry, but you can control how many resumes you send out and how many networking events you attend.

Examples of habits that support your goals + resolutions

No: I will end the year in a committed relationship
Yes: I’m going to join a new dating platform and send at least two emails each week

No: I’m going to save $10,000
Yes: I’m going to bring lunch to work at least four times a week + set up auto-transfers into my savings account.

No: I’m going to get a promotion
Yes: I’m going to volunteer to lead two projects, attend monthly networking lunches, and find a professional mentor

No: I’m going to lose 20 pounds
Yes: I’m going to have a smoothie for breakfast every day

No: I’m going to buy a house
Yes: I’m going to apply for a mortgage, find the right real estate agent, and go to at least two showings each month

When we set goals we can control and create habits that help us get there, we take the stress and guesswork out of getting what we want. We’re not throwing ourselves on the mercy of a volatile housing market, a moody boss, or whoever happens to be in the dating pool at the moment.

We’re taking ownership of what we can do and taking small, repeated steps towards what we want.

Which is a million times easier than trying to change the color of the sky. ;)

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Sarah Von Bargen

Writer and teacher who studies happiness, money, and living your life on purpose. Figure it alongside me here: