The Most Effective Way To Launch Into Action and Achieve Your Goals

To get your life back on track, anti-goals will serve as guardrails.

Aamna I. Rizvi
Ascent Publication
6 min readOct 6, 2020


Source: freepik

Most of us when asked about our future goals have an endless list we could read from for days.

Why is it then that greatness is touched by only a select few? What makes the top 8% succeed while 92% of us can’t even achieve our New Year’s resolutions?

The answer to that is in the first step you take towards any goal. If you conquer the first step which is initiating a task, then you should have no trouble fulfilling your tailor-made destiny.

Sadly—no lack of motivation, no failure to exercise will-power, and no executive-dysfunction plagues us worse than procrastination.

Our procrastination brain is clever because it never tells us it won’t do something. Instead, it just tells us it will get to it at a later time.

This continues until we are out of time.

The window of opportunity closes, the good years to pursue our passion are far behind us and we are left miserable.

This is often where doers and dreamers diverge on the road to fulfilling their goals in life. The split occurs when both have knowledge of what’s best for them, but only one conforms practically to the knowledge.

How can we get closer to the version of us in our head?

The most effective way is by always keeping sight of what happens if you don’t take immediate action.

One study testing the effectiveness of negatively framed incentives confirmed this in 2013.

“We find that individuals are less motivated when an incentive is framed as a means to accrue a gain (positive framing) as compared with when the same incentive is framed as a means to avoid a loss (negative framing).”

An example of this from everyday life can be something like — when at night, you know you need to brush your teeth. Now, despite 3 decades' worth of information on why this basic hygiene principle is essential, you still can’t bring yourself to move.

Yet the moment you imagine the thousands of bucks you would spend on a root-canal at the dentist’s next year, you drag yourself out of bed and the job is done.

Another everyday example is how you know it’s important to take your makeup off before bed, but some days you just can’t get on with it — so you imagine waking up with the ugliest and the most stubborn acne on your face. And just like that, you’re propelled to act and you’re taking off the day from your face.

The hack to succeeding with your long-term goals is also through something like this.

What’s an Anti-Goal?

Setting anti-goals is like defining what route you don’t want your life to take. You do this to make the procrastinator in you to jolt into action.

It’s a high-resolution HD image you define in your mind of what your life would look like if you carried on exactly the same way. An anti-goal analyzes every nitty-gritty habit and even the absence of one to produce an “end result”. This end result is inevitable without conscious intervention from us and so keeping our sight on it — scares the daylights out of us and launches us into action.

This is contrary to conventional goal-setting.

A regular goal is often so mighty that the attainment process blurs out of focus — till it’s only us and the ideal. We dwarf in front of a perfect version of ourselves. We often fall short with conventional goal-setting for the same reason.

With anti-goals you can consciously control the trajectory of your life before it spirals out of your control and tail-spins into a cesspool of everything you despise.

What Makes an Anti-Goal Work

Make it vivid and make it hurt

You’re going to use your anti-goal to scare yourself into action every time you feel like surrendering your dreams to the flow of time.

For that to work, paint with the most vivid colors of your nightmares.

It needs to be jampacked with emotion and deliver a punch to your gut every time you see it.

This is the essence of what all your life would come down to being if you didn’t instantly take control. Reading this every time is how you set the pressure gauges for your life to your liking.

“Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.”― Tim Ferriss.

So don’t come up with weak ass shit.

Make it personal and make it hurt. We are in the business of harvesting our pain for a greater cause.

Decide the top 3 things you can never settle on

Imagine you are lying on your deathbed and your life has been exactly like the anti-goals you list down.

What parts of your life would you wish to revisit and turn around? What makes it easier to take your last breath and depart from the world a little lighter? List no more than 3 things down and zoom in on them.

Giving up on low-level goals is alright if achieving the main 3 things gives you more momentum.

If nothing then these could be the things you are always motivated towards daily.

Your top 3 anti-goals can be the milestones and achieving them will further motivate you to keep working for other aspects of your ideal life.

Think of it like adjusting the fine focus on your life; the image clears up little by little. First, we define the bigger objects and then we get to the intricate details.

Make it practical and actionable

With all the visualization and mental work we are putting into this — it is easy to slip into oblivion just like with unrealistic conventional goal-setting.

The best way to ensure that anti-goals are viable and produce results is to write them down in columns like the ones below.

Image by author. Disclaimer: we procured this image just as an example. This is not something I am actively struggling with, so you are back to having no clue of how often I actually floss.

This defines the actionable part of the “anti-goal” and shows the premeditation that went into devising the scenario we want to avoid.

Another helpful tip can be to maintain an activity log in a daily journal for habits we are trying to produce on the daily. This would come after we make the columns.

Remember, anti-goals serve you like guard-rails that separate floating through life and experiencing it with mindfulness. Unless these are tangible, properly defined and actionable — you cannot utilize them efficiently.

It is better to sit down and put in the effort to craft them properly once rather than letting whatever little effort float back into the ether.

The more time you invest in it initially, the higher the stakes, and even more likely for you to carry the entire plan through.

Update often but systematically

This again is a habit that adds more cognitive processing to an “anti-goal setting”.

If you pre-set how often you will revisit and update anti-goals according to the many seasons in your life, then you are more likely to hold yourself accountable.

This is how you check-in with yourself to see how far you have come and then realigning your goals to better suit your lifestyle at the moment.

You should set a 6-month or a year-long between updating, so you are less reluctant to follow the anti-goals in the meantime.

In Summary

  • The reason anti-goals work is because human beings are hard-wired to have a negative-bias. Negative events have a stronger influence on our minds and stick with us for longer.
  • In fact, research says positive incentives or conventional goal-setting can be the least motivating for some people.
  • You can take an example from kids who grow up with unpleasant adults around them. Though the kid might not know much about who they want to be when they grow up — they for sure know who they don’t want to be like at all.
  • Good anti-goals are the top 3 things you can never settle on, painted with the most vivid colours of your nightmares, sturdy as guardrails to lean on and updatable.
  • We can use negative incentives to push us into action and realign the path of our life with that of our dreams.



Aamna I. Rizvi
Ascent Publication

Student physician. Storyteller. Artist. Unraveling the inner workings of personal development,relationships & wellness. Join me in my pursuit for answers!