How to use humility as your greatest tool for achieving your goals.
We live in a world where we can have everything that we want.
Not only can we have everything that we want, but we can have everything that we want right now.
Modern-day technology has given us unprecedented accessibility to having whatever we want, whenever we want.
With Google, we can access the entire collection of human intelligence and history in the matter of a few keyboard presses.
With services like Netflix and Spotify, we can watch or listen to any movie or song we want right now.
We can order worldly cuisines through Uber Eats, and products through Amazon, and can expect them at our doorstep in a matter of minutes or hours, all without having to lift a finger.
We have access to galleries of thousands of potential romantic partners from anywhere on the globe, whom (provided they feel mutually the same) we can immediately start chatting and going on dates with.
We can do all of this without any difficulty or without any investing time. This has become a blessing and a curse. Although these technologies have improved the quality of our lives, they have diminished the quality of our resolve.
Since Spotify and Netflix came out, music and video piracy are at an all-time low. Even though pirating data is still a method for people to get music for free, most would rather pay to have immediate and easy access. Since dating apps came out, people make less of an effort to approach people on the street, as that requires mustering up the nerve to ask someone out when you can more easily do so from behind the safety of a digital screen.
Technology has fostered for us a world of expedience and ease, which in turn conditioned us to always pick the path of least resistance in our lives.
We have become complicit to only accepting pursuits that come easy and immediate to us. If something is challenging or takes time, we are hesitant to do it anymore. This holds true for our personal goals.
Setting worthwhile personal goals
Worthwhile goals inherently are not a product of expedience or ease. If they were, they wouldn’t be goals (for very long at least).
Imagine if your goal in the year 2020 was to ‘meet new people’ or ‘watch new movies.’ With apps tailored around dating and friend finding, you could achieve the first “goal” in a matter of seconds. With services like Netflix or Disney+, you could achieve the second “goal” in a matter of minutes (depending on how long you take on the menu screen to select what to watch). However, these two goals may have provided more of a challenge in the past. Before the internet, you actually had to muster up the courage to talk to strangers to find companions. Before Netflix (or even Blockbuster, for that matter), you had to do some research as to what films were worth seeking out.
If your goal can be completed in minutes from your couch, it isn’t a worthwhile goal.
Things that are completed from the couch using your smartphone originate from the path of least resistance. Worthwhile goals originate from the path of resistance, the road not yet travelled.
Worthwhile goals come from a premeditated understanding of what we have to do to improve ourselves, and a willingness to confront things that are challenging and time-consuming.
Common worthwhile goals that people have are things like: lose 20 pounds, write a book, learn to cook, learn a new language, get a promotion at work, meet your soulmate, etc. These things are inherently difficult and take time. Unfortunately, there is no app we can use to shortcut their fulfilment. There is no Prime delivery for learning to play guitar or getting a raise. There is no Skip-the-Deadlifts service for building muscle. These goals are going to take effort and time; this understanding is what unfortunately stops so many people from following through with them.
Establishing proper metrics for success
To follow through and achieve your worthwhile goal, you need to have the understanding that the goal is for yourself and no one else. If you are only pursuing a goal for someone else, there is a good chance that you will fail.
To ensure your goal is for you and nobody else, set internal success metrics for that goal.
If your goal is to lose weight, a useful metric for success is pounds lost per month. If your goal is to write a book, a useful metric for success is words written per day. If your goal is to learn to play guitar, a useful metric for success is songs learned per week. I’m sure you can think of some goals that you may have, and what useful metrics of success would look like for them.
The commonality between all of these goals I listed above is that their success metrics are based on two factors: a difficult task (ex. “pounds lost”) and a timeframe (ex. “per month”).
Since we have been programmed to seek out simplicity right now, instead of difficulty over time, many people try to shortcut their goals by changing the success metrics in which they are measured. Often this comes in the form of shifting from internal success metrics to external ones, from self to others.
The most common type of this is to seek immediate external validation, such as having others praise you for your intent. Since these external validation metrics are easy to obtain through social media, they get in the way and distract us from our primary purpose. Usually, they have us become complicit with their external results — leading us to not actually accomplish our original internal goal.
The trap of praise
Praise feels good, is easy to attract, and is quick to obtain.
With the understanding that goals take effort and time, avoiding falling into the trap of pre-accomplishment praise will be paramount for your success.
Praise is a trap because its a more effortless and faster metric to measure than the worthwhile internal metric you set initially. Falling into this trap will lead you from shifting your metrics from internal to external, from “losing pounds per month” to “gaining likes per post on social media.”
I’m going to give an example of the trap of praise that I’m sure you have witnessed many people fall into before. The dreaded fitness journey Instagram page.
The goal usually progresses as follows:
- Person is sitting on the couch.
- Person has a goal to get into better shape.
- Person creates an Instagram page to let everyone know their intent to get into better shape.
- Person receives praise from their family and friends in the form of likes, follows, and encouraging comments.
- Person starts working out.
- Person realizes that working out is hard and that the results are not instantaneous.
- Person stops working out. Internal validation stops.
- Person shifts focus to posting on their Instagram page. However, the initial hype for their intent has simmered down (others are not as invested in the goal as the person is). External validation stops.
- Person deletes account after the stagnation of both working out and acquiring likes.
- Person is back sitting on the couch where they started.
The person in this example fell victim to the trap of praise by overvaluing external validation from others. They shifted their internal metric, losing weight, to an easier to obtain external one, gaining likes/followers/comments. Eventually, once the easy to obtain metric came to a halt, so did they. This led them to end up exactly where they started, back on the couch and no better off in shape than they were before.
Want to succeed at your goals? Stop talking about them.
Instead, stay humble about them. Humility will be your greatest tool for achieving your goals.
Don’t tell anyone about your goals; don’t create a social media page about them, don’t tell everyone you know, don’t seek praise.
The problem with telling people about your goals is that by doing so, you are drawing external validation to yourself in the form of praise for an intention and not an action. You set yourself up to receive a social reward for something that you haven’t even accomplished yet.
Posting an intention can be done from your couch with a smartphone in minutes; therefore, as discussed earlier, seeking praise doesn’t make for a worthwhile goal.
Instead of broadcasting your intent, follow through with the goal and let your results speak for themself.
Writing a book? Awesome! – Don’t tell anyone until the first draft is done. Learning a new language? Tell people about it in that language once you’re fluent. Applying to get into law school? Let people know once you get completed the LSAT and submitted your application. Want to lose weight? Post before and after pictures to share your accomplishment after 3 months of a regimented workout schedule.
Don’t worry, you will still receive praise. Once your change is substantial enough, people will take notice, and the praise will come. It will be all the sweeter when you truly deep down know that it’s praise that you deserve — because you’ve done the work. You’ve walked the walk and not just talked the talk.
By not submitting to praise and staying humble, you overcome and breakdown the “everything now” conditioning that society instilled within you.
Allowable forms of telling others
If you are going to tell someone, tell only one person. This person will be your accountability-buddy. Be careful who you select, as this isn’t someone who is supposed to praise you. This is one close friend or family member who is the most truthful and blunt person you know. It’s someone for you to celebrate the little wins with, without letting them get to your head. This person is supposed to challenge you and keep you on track when you need support.
If you are going to start a page or something to track new goals, I’d recommend only doing so anonymously. If you create a goal Instagram page, blog, or YouTube series, don’t tell your friends or family about it. It’s much harder to gain praise from strangers on the internet, they aren’t as generous with their praise as your loved ones will be. If you earn the praise of strangers on your page, then likely you are actually achieving your goal.
The main thing I want you to take away from this article is this:
To become the highest version of yourself, you have to pursue goals that are difficult and time-consuming.
These are goals that you know you should be pursuing and are likely actively avoiding. I would wager they popped into your head several times over the past 5–10 minutes.
To succeed at these goals, do the following:
- Understand that they are for you and nobody else
- Set internal success metrics, not external ones.
- Do not be distracted by, or fall into the trap of praise.
- Avoid talking about your goals; instead, let your results do the talking.
- Stay humble, work hard.
I wish all the best for you with your endeavour. Know that although it won’t be quick and easy, it will be worthwhile.
I see you, and I believe in you.
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