Are Your Goals Destroying You?

by Cameron Schaefer on March 20, 2008

hamsterSetting goals is one of the most common practices of the personal development crowd, an easy way to give your life some focus and direction. The exercise is also something I advocate strongly and implement in my own life. However, if one is not careful goals can actually become more destructive than helpful.

When goals become the ends rather than the means they can create a lifestyle of checking boxes rather than skilled living.

Living simply to reach goals is similar to a hamster spinning in a wheel, lots of movement, but no real progress. Without an overall purpose for your goals the practice of constantly striving can create anxiety, restlessness and eventually become more of a burden rather than a help.

These thoughts came to light in a recent discussion with my friend Glenn. After setting my personal goals for 2008 I have spent the past few months attempting to reach them, some with great success and others, not so much. Throughout the process I have had to remind myself of the ultimate purpose for setting my goals in the first place: a life lived to the hilt in worship of God and leadership of my family.

Knowing the ultimate purpose of you goals helps not only in progressing forward, but also in prioritizing your life.

The quickest way to identify your top priorities is to identify the areas in your life in which you are irreplaceable.

As a husband I am irreplaceable. No one else can be a husband to my wife, but me. As a father, I am also irreplaceable. No one can lead, care for and be a father to my child like I can. Finally, in my worship to God, I am irreplaceable. Others can serve Him, many better than I can, but no one can replace my individual worship to God. In every other area of my life someone can replace me.

At my job, there are 1,000 other pilots that can replace me as the pilot. At my church there are plenty of other people who can replace me as a small group leader. Even my blog, while extraordinary and unique I know, haha, could easily be written by someone far better than me. On that note, if you ever want to write a guest post, please let me know.

When you make goals in various areas of your life there are bound to be times where they conflict with one another. If you don’t have a good grasp on your priorities you goals can actually lead you away from where you want to go.

This morning my wife and I took our 2 month-old daughter with us to the gym. Since I was planning on running on the treadmill I took our daughter and parked her stroller next to me. At around minute 18 she began to frown…I knew I was in trouble. Soon she began to whimper and whine. I had planned on running for 30 minutes. I shut down the treadmill and took care of my daughter who was beginning to cry. While running a marathon this year is a goal of mine, being a good father is another goal and takes priority.

Knowing which goals will take priority will determine whether your goals are ultimately helping you or hurting you in the pursuit of your best life.

The bottom line: Goals are an incredibly effective way of helping move your life in the right direction, but just as important as setting goals is deciding what the right direction actually is and which goals have priority over others as you walk out this journey. Keep setting goals, just make sure they’re serving you and not the other way around.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

artistic vision March 23, 2008 at 8:03 pm

What an awesome post, Cameron — spoken with passion and purpose! Lots to chew on here.

Cameron Schaefer March 23, 2008 at 9:00 pm

@ artistic vision,

So glad that you enjoyed it! It’s definitely a lot to chew on, but that’s what I love about blogging, lot’s of opportunities to chew and lots of great people to chew with.


evslink March 23, 2008 at 10:23 pm

I certainly agree with the bottom line. I believe that goals are set to keep us directed in our lives. These are the things that we want to attain to gain personal satisfaction and happiness. Working for the our goals are just right. For these goals will keep us motivated and determined to succeed. However we should know which goal to prioritize. Work for what will make us truly happy. We should remember that the standards that we set for ourselves can somehow make us “unhappy” in the end. So we must learn to determine which goal should we start working at and goals to set aside.

julee March 31, 2008 at 3:14 pm

I love that bit about finding out where you are irreplaceable. That is the first description that I’ve heard that makes priorities so vividly clear! You are on to something with this! (This is yet another reason why we are naming our son after you…) =)

Steve April 16, 2008 at 7:16 am


Just discovered your blog and I’m working my way back through the posts, so sorry for commenting late! I think that there’s an important distinction between a goal and a resolution. I can set a goal of losing 10lbs, and then it’s done, by whatever means. Or I can resolve to eat healthily, and that happens each and every day. Of course, being a human being, I fail all the time, and that’s another difference. If I get on the scales and I’ve gained 2lbs, it’s easy for me to say I’ll never reach my goal and give up, but if I have made a resolution to eat healthily and I eat a Big Mac and fries, then I just have to get back on track and keep going.

Cameron Schaefer April 16, 2008 at 9:36 am


So glad you discovered the blog! Hope you enjoy and consider subscribing. It’s true, there is definitely a difference between a goal and resolution. My main point is just to make sure they are actually taking you towards the life you really want.


Dan September 15, 2008 at 1:02 am

Nice insights.
If you’d like a tool for setting your goals in the different categories of your life, you can use this application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A mobile version and iCal are available too.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: