Monday, January 26, 2009

The Shadow Goals

Seth Godin had a brilliant post up the other day, about the goals we don’t often admit on New Year’s Day, whether to ourselves or others:

What you rarely hear is, "I don't want to fail," "I don't want to look stupid," or "I don't want to make any mistakes."

The problem is that those goals are really common, and left unsaid, they dominate...

Think about how often your goal at a conference or a meeting or in a project is, "don't screw up!" or "don't make a fool of yourself and say the wrong thing."

These are very easy goals to achieve, of course. Just do as little as possible.

The problem is that they sabotage your real goals, the achievement ones.

Every good trait has a shadow trait. Neatness’s shadow can be compulsiveness. Striving can turn into perfectionism. Creativity can be eaten alive by disorganization.

shadow We can have shadow goals, too. A goal to get published can be crippled by “I don’t want this sentence to suck.” “I don’t want people to think I’m a terrible writer.” “I don’t want to write a query an agent will make fun of.”

I make a goal of my fears. I once made a goal to write one blog post that embarrassed me each week, LOL. I made a goal to come up with 365 stupid ideas, 52 awful pitches, and 12 boring proposals.

Whatever puts the shadow out in the light.

What about you? Do you have shadow goals? Ones that lurk in your mind, hiding behind your real goals? How do you deal with them?

24 bonus scribbles:

Merry Monteleone 1/26/2009 02:25:00 PM  

I ignore them and hope they go away!

I'm being obnoxious, but in a real sense it is kind of true. I think if you focus too much on the negative it's almost a self-fulfilling prophesy... you make it happen by focusing too much on it.

I'm trying to do the opposite, focusing on what I want to acheive a bit each day, and kicking myself to keep tabs on the steps I have to take to get there - If you don't come up with a gameplan, a lot of things will just remain pleasant daydreams rather than reality.

Eric Mayer,  1/26/2009 02:27:00 PM  

Maybe it's my shadow goal of not wanting to bore people that's kept me from posting much of anything on my blog for months!

Travis Erwin 1/26/2009 02:49:00 PM  

I try not to think about failure but with each novel I write and send out without success those shadows seem to grab hold just a bit more.

Edie 1/26/2009 03:14:00 PM  

Great post, Spy! I love your shadow goals! This one is me: "Creativity can be eaten alive by disorganization." If you saw my desk ...

We will fail. We won't be terrific writers all the time. We won't please everyone. So do it anyway. I'd rather be one of those horrible dancers who dances anyway than someone who never dances because they're afraid of looking like a fool. (Though, really, I'm not a bad dancer. Singing ... that's another story.)

Mary Moore 1/26/2009 04:26:00 PM  

I think we all have shadow goals, some we don't even want to admit/acknowledge to ourselves! Good post!

Lauren 1/26/2009 05:11:00 PM  

I like the thought of "Shadow Goals" and that is so true. I think that frequently our "Shadow Goals" shout louder than our real ones because they come from a place of insecurity and are what hold us back from reaching what we want. Actually, when I don't make my goals or am not hitting my milestones, I always try to probe deeper and ask why...and I always find a "shadow goal" hiding out there.

Thanks for this post :).

Charles Gramlich 1/26/2009 06:16:00 PM  

I rather embrace those kinds of things. I like having a goal not to suck, at least too badly.

StarvingWriteNow 1/26/2009 08:02:00 PM  

Shadow goals... my shadow goal for today was "Fake it, fake it, fake it!"

Long story. Highly aggravating. But I shall rally.

McKoala 1/26/2009 09:43:00 PM  

Not to make a fool of myself is pretty high up on my list!

colbymarshall 1/26/2009 11:19:00 PM  

of course that whole I don't want to be a failure thing lurks, but when it comes around, I just hit it with a baseball bat.

Robin 1/26/2009 11:21:00 PM  

My husband has been saying for years that what motivates him is not striving for success, but the fear of failure. I keep up with the newest developments in my field so I won't look stupid! Ha!

spyscribbler 1/26/2009 11:54:00 PM  

LOL, Merry! I think that's an excellent strategy. Seriously.

So true about the gameplan. I've been really working on a lot of game plans, lately.

spyscribbler 1/26/2009 11:57:00 PM  

Aw, Eric! You're right, it's been awhile. It has been awhile!

You've never bored me. Post away!

spyscribbler 1/26/2009 11:58:00 PM  

Travis, those shadows are creepy that way. (Okay, sorry, I'm sleepy and slap happy, and I'm cracking myself up.)

But seriously, I think that's the hardest thing a writer has to go through.

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:00:00 AM  

We will fail. We won't be terrific writers all the time.

Edie, I love that! I was just thinking that the other day. I was looking over my past stuff, and just thinking that all the work you produce is not going to be your best work. I look at my stories and just have to shrug, because they are simply not as good as others. What can you do? It's part of the whole deal, I guess!

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:00:00 AM  

Er, Edie, by "you" I meant "one," not you in particular! LOL!

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:01:00 AM  

Mary, definitely! Some I don't even know, hidden in my subconscious!

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:03:00 AM  

That's a smart way to work, Lauren. I think I run and hide from myself when I don't hit a goal. :-)

Your way is better!

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:04:00 AM  

Charles, come to think of it, I have that goal, too. :-) Of course, I always say that I'm quite comfortable with sucking, LOL. I enjoy berating myself into better writing.

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:05:00 AM  

WriteNow, um... I'm pretty sure the image that came to my mind was not the way your day went, LOL! (I close my eyes and see Meg Ryan in a diner. ;-)

I hope tomorrow is better!

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:06:00 AM  

McKoala, making a fool of myself is something I've grown comfortable with. Life is more fun that way!

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:07:00 AM  

Robin, amen to that! LOL! Come to think of it, I'm thinking those are more powerful motivators than regular goals!

spyscribbler 1/27/2009 12:07:00 AM  

Colby, LOL! One of the many reasons I adore you!

Barbara Martin 1/28/2009 10:54:00 AM  

I tend to procrastinate with sending work out to agents or publishers while thinking 'it's not good enough yet, it needs another review or more tweaking'.