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Why Does Setting Goals Give Me Anxiety?



Why Does Setting Goals Give Me Anxiety?

What is it about goal setting that causes us anxiety? Why is it that when we are planning for things we want, achievements we have in mind, and goals we hope to accomplish, our anxiety levels rise? The answer actually comes down to simple science, and the solution lies in the way in which we go about work towards our goals. Changes in our life are stressful, whether they are good or bad changes. If we are moving, starting a new job, at the beginning of a new relationship, we have stress, because there are so many unknowns. Can we achieve what we set out to do, will we be successful, and will the person like us, and will we like them? There are small goals and little goals, take moving apartments vs buying your first home for example. Both are goals, but they produce different levels of anxiety due to the pressure of the responsibility you are taking on. There are so many things we want to do with our lives, but we have to figure out the steps we need to take to have them.


Here is where the anxiety comes in.

Our brain cannot tell the difference between the things we want and the things that we already have.

So, if we do not achieve the goal we set out to do, if we cannot figure out how to get it, or if we get it and lose it, our brain feels like we are losing some of worth that was already ours. Our mind does not understand that this is merely something we want, not something that we have. When we set a goal, we convince our mind that we have already accomplished it. So, while it may seem to others that it is no big deal for us to sit down and make our annual goals list at work, or sit down and make a list of goals with our partner, it actually is as if we have already made a promise to ourselves. We have made the commitment to have that possession, to achieve that success, or to give the person we love what they most want. It does not matter if it is something that we can get tomorrow, or something that we can work towards for five years from now, our brain already believes that achieving this is essential to who we are.


Our brain actually believes that until the moment that we cross the finish line, and have achieved our goal, we have actually failed.

If we do not accomplish our goal, our mind will actually feel a genuine sense of defeat, and that we have less value.  We have not worked hard enough, or let down our partner. So, until we have reached our goals, our mind is in a constant state of flux, telling us that we are a failure, or at least remaining constantly unsettled. This is why it is important to set realistic goals, and to be able to break them down into small and manageable steps. Envision the ultimate goal like the top rung on a ladder. Now move down each rung and make it a small and manageable goal that is more easily accomplished. Make them goals that you are able to work on each day, week, or month. This way, each time you achieve this step on the ladder, you have a sense of accomplishment, and the knowledge that you are moving forward towards your ultimate goal. It gives you a sense of control and a feeling of hard earned progress.


Where do we misstep when setting goals? We can set goals that are too high, or are unrealistic.

We can set too many goals at one time. We can set goals that actually work at cross purposes, and are actually working against each other. We can also set goals that are too generic, so when we think of our ladder, we are not able to set goals on the rungs, as we cannot define what those goals might be. So our job becomes setting goals that we know we are capable of, that we know we can achieve, and that have clear steps to reaching them. Goals give us something to work toward, they give us a sense of purpose, and they make us feel like we are accomplishing something with our lives. Achieving goals gives us a sense of pride, of being needed, and of making those we care about proud. Many times we place immense pressure on ourselves to set and achieve goals as we want to improve not only our lives, but those of the people who we care about and depend on us. So we place further anxiety and weight upon ourselves.


So how do we learn to manage the anxiety that comes with setting goals?

There are many paths that we can take. We can learn stress reduction and relaxation exercises. We can learn to ground ourselves in reality and the moment, and realize that we are working toward something, we have not achieved it yet, which removed some of the stress and weight off of us We can develop small and reasonable steps that can move us towards our goals, and we can develop organizational systems that keep us on track and monitoring our progress. We need to learn to identify the source of our anxiety when we feel it building up. Many people will say that they do not know why they are anxious, and therefore cannot calm themselves. However, with some thought and insight, we can identify that what we are actually anxious about is a goal that we have set for ourselves and/or our loved ones. At this point, we can take a step back, identify the steps that we have missed, and fill in the gaps. With this newfound awareness, we can move forward toward our goals in a calm and manageable manner.

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Can You Receive A Compliment Without It Getting To Your Head?



a compliment (1)

Receiving compliments gracefully isn’t as easy as it should be for some people. How about you: are YOU ready for someone to give you a pat on the back? To be pushed to doing more? To have someone give you a supporting hand? To be picked up when you fall down?

Sure, we may think that’s what we want. But is it what we need to develop, to grow, and to get better?

If someone complimented you on every little improvement you made while learning a new skill, would you not start to feel a bit marginalized? That perhaps they didn’t really think you could do it? What about when you do something that seems pretty easy and everyone made it into a big deal?


Receiving Compliments When You Are Not Ready For It

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments

Developing new skills is never free of trouble. We all know the level of foundation that must be built to get from being a novice, before reaching greatness. In the learning process, we all know when we are in that frustrating stage of not being quite as good – but we know what we have to do to get there.

It’s in these moments that receiving compliments on your every action could minimize your efforts. That’s because if they truly knew you, people would be holding out for when you make that big, defining leap. 

As we overcome hurdles in our learning and development, friends, family members, and colleagues will know when the time is right to provide encouragement. They know that when that moment comes, those words will have the right amount of impact on you.

Think back to when you were growing up, playing some elaborate game. Perhaps you spent hours creating this game: building a fort, putting together things that the rest of your characters in the play could use. You pushed through despite the trials and problems.

It would have served absolutely no purpose for someone to congratulate you on every step (and misstep) along the way.  You would have lost your flow as you worked through the problem, constantly being interrupted – all while you were still trying to figure it out and understand where you needed to go.

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments


When Receiving Compliments Makes You Content with Present Achievements

You might never have finished if someone patted you on the back early in that moment, content in the knowledge that you “thought up” the idea and that was enough. If everyone was saying you did great simply for thinking up something new, would it have compelled you to stop?

Maybe. Perhaps you would have stopped with that compliment.

As a parent, you learn when to encourage your children. Usually, it’s not when they show up, and not when they do what kids around them are able to do as well. It’s when they push themselves to do more. When they pick themselves up and still lose, when they try something new for the first time, fall over and fail, not sure if they should do it again.

Those are the moments when kids should be receiving compliments – NOT when they have done the same thing over and over again, or when they didn’t try their best but won anyways.

Kids know this. They can feel it when people give false compliments or encouragement because they did something they’ve always done. But when it is something meaningful, something they have worked hard for, they know the encouragement will be there to help them.

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments

The reason you might not be receiving compliments or encouragement when you want to is because you haven’t earned them or don’t deserve them yet.

Maybe your coaches, leaders, parents, or other people who support you know you are not ready for it. Perhaps they need to see you making that next big leap in your growth and development.

Those compliments might not come today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. But look at those around you – the great people you have chosen to surround yourself with – and you’ll see that they are waiting to give you that push. They are waiting for you to make it happen.

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3 Ways to Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart




when your dreams are falling apart (1)

I truly believe that dreams must extend beyond wishes of self-improvement; that its goal should be to contribute to the world around you.

The heart is a fickle thing. Imagine how many amazing things wouldn’t have been accomplished if great minds simply stopped when they “didn’t feel like it”.

It’s human nature. I’m sure that during the course of over 300 bank rejections, Walt Disney had days when he felt like giving up. But he didn’t. He kept going. Why? It was because his dream went far beyond himself.

Here’s how YOU can keep going – even if it feels like your dreams are falling apart.


3 Ways to Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

1.) Remember The “Why”

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

Often times, I find that dreams extend far beyond the simple purpose of making one happy. For example, being a songwriter in and of itself does not make me feel happy and fulfilled. Imagine if my life’s work was to write songs that no one would ever hear. That doesn’t elicit any feelings of happiness or fulfillment (at least to me).

Seeing and hearing the healing effects that come from the songs I create for others to hear? Now you’re talking. Healing and helping others is the part of my dream that keeps it alive. It gives me purpose in this world that goes far beyond myself and my skills.

I’m reminded of the character Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Scrooge’s goal in life was to have money – and lots of it. He set aside love and relationships for that dream. The result of this life goal was a lonely, cold, bitter old man.

I won’t ruin the whole story for the very few of you that may not have heard it. In the end, Scrooge discovered that what brought him fulfillment and happiness were community and generosity.

So what is the “why” to your dream? How is your dream going to affect those around you? Get beyond yourself. As many have said, YOU are your biggest obstacle to success.


2.) Take Off The Rose-Colored Glasses

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

You know what I’m talking about. The “I’m going to make it big” and “I’m going to famous/rich/etc.” I hate to take a pointy realistic needle to your big ideas, but I’m doing it out of love. Here it is:

Your dream isn’t going to look exactly how you pictured it.

Take a minute to take that one in. Still here? Yes. Alive? Yes. Not Bleeding? No? Hurt a bit?

It’s OK. I know. I’ve been there. Dreams are vulnerable. We spend countless hours imagining what it would be like and how we will get there. But the truth is, in my experience, they have never turned out exactly how I have imagined. Why? We live in a world of people and circumstances that we can’t control.

Here is where the “why” comes in. The beautiful thing is that your works are a direct result of your heart’s intention…and what you put out into the world never comes back void. Here’s an example:

As a singer-songwriter, the common idea of making it big for my line of work is to have a hit song or perform in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden (I’m more inclined towards Red Rock Amphitheatre, but you get the picture).

Let’s say that I work and strive tirelessly to do everything I need to do to reach that goal. I release a song, I tour around the US, develop a large following, get on the radio, etc. Along the way, I hear stories of how this song has impacted the people who have heard it. Stories describing how it brought healing, encouragement, and hope.

To go further, what if I never even make it that far? What if circumstances happen and I can’t tour? What if everything “falls apart”? What if I end up playing at open mics for the rest of my life? What if it doesn’t happen in the next year? Two years?

Does that change the fact that my song helped heal and open the heart of a broken and depressed Vietnam Vet? Or how it helped encourage an author to keep going and writing? Or how my song started a conversation on how to look past the labels overshadowing soldiers and their families?

It’s all about your perspective of success, my friend. To me, because my “why” and my heart’s intention are to help people, those stories above are my version of success. It’s what keeps me going. If I get to Madison Square Garden (or Red Rocks), well that’s just icing on top of the cake.

Keep going on your dream. Make a plan, and in the words of .38 Special, “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” Roll with the punches and understand that even greater things can come when things don’t go according to your plan.


3.) Make Your Dream Your Job

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

No, I don’t mean quit your job and have no income while you work on your dream. That’s an entirely different article (and completely up to you). I’m talking about treating your dream like it is your job.

For example, if you completely failed at a presentation at work, would you just quit and not go the next day? No! You have a livelihood and an expectation to show up. So why quit on your dream at the first sign of failure?

Treat your dream like your job. Make a plan, show up every day, and understand that it may take a while to see any results. I know many songwriters who wrote hundreds of songs before they wrote a hit. However, they never would have reached it if they didn’t take that first step, made a commitment, and wrote 100 songs first.

Dreams don’t just happen. They take work. So go get started!

My best advice under this theme is check out the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It is by far the best resource I have discovered in my journey of living out my dream.

Here’s the deal. With every goal that I have set and achieved, I never sat at the end and thought to myself, “man, look at what I did”. Believe it or not, I was more overwhelmed with the thoughts of the journey that I had to take to get there – the good and the bad.

I would admire and laugh at the unexpected things that came. I would smile and enjoy the character it built, the person that I became in the process. In the end, the best thing about dreams and goals isn’t their achievement, but the journey that you take to get there.

Never forget that the dream in your heart was put there for a reason. You were made to make an impact on this world.

Enjoy the journey and never, ever give up. Keep going.

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