Take Control of Your Life (Part Three: Why?)

Why do so many people set goals and not reach them? I would maintain it is because we generally look at goals the wrong way. We tend to see goals as the end, rather than the means.

Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder

What is the the point?

You might continuously fail to reach your goals and end up asking yourself, “What is the point of setting goals if I do not have a way of achieving them?” In a previous blog post and podcast episode, we looked at the process of setting goals. You have to develop a vision based on your core values, and your goals have to build up to that vision.

So what are goals, really?

Goals are the means, not the end. Goals should build up to your vision, which is based on your core values. If your vision is to become a firefighter, be sure that public service and helping people are part of your core values. But remember, the goal is not to become a firefighter, that is the vision.


In order to figure out what goals actually are, and to see them established as the means to an end, it is important to ask, “Why? Why is this a goal? What is this accomplishing? What do I want to see, feel, or experience?”

A goal that is related to becoming a firefighter might be, “Sign up for the entrance exam.” While this seems like an obvious step, the cognitive benefits of setting and achieving small goals within a larger context are less obvious.

Dig deeper.

Get to the root of why a goal is a goal. Signing up for the written test to become a firefighter leads to becoming a firefighter – but becoming a firefighter is based on the desire to help people and serve the community. Keep asking why a goal is a goal until you can no longer ask why.

Keep digging.

You don’t actually just sign up for the written test so you can become a firefighter, you sign up for the written test so that you can become a firefighter, help people, and serve your community – because that is part of your core values, because your father was a firefighter, and you were raised to help people and serve the community.

Compound interest.

I recently had a chat with a friend who is really into cross fit. He’s an athlete. He said that when people learn how to do just one “double up” (while jumping rope, jumping high enough for the rope to pass underfoot twice consecutively) they tend to rapidly compound the successful attempts. One double-up goes to five, then to ten, and then to twenty – rather than simply increasing one at a time.

Similarly, when we set goals, the neuroplasticity of our brains allows for this to happen on a cognitive level. It is as if we are earning compound interest on our investments. One small goal tends to compound into several small goals or one larger, much more significant goal.

Do not just set goals.

Set goals based on your vision, which is rooted in your core values. Ask yourself why the goal is a goal until you cannot ask why anymore. Break it down to the simplest answer. The goal is not the end, but the means to a much larger end.