The Power of Goals, Both To Do Good and To Destroy You

Let me begin with a real life example…which seems innocent enough.

A while back, I gave a high schooler in our little town an old road bike. He loved tearing around the countryside on the old Centurion 10 speed. Then he took the next step and bought a nice bike, made by Felt, from the local bike shop.

The next thing I know, I’m hearing that he has set getting on the Garmin-Slipstream Team as his cycling goal. All because he’s riding a Felt bike and they’re riding Felt bikes. He hadn’t even been in his first race!

It’s all innocent enough, right? No harm, not foul?

Not so fast, maybe it’s time for someone to tell the Emporer he’s wearing no clothes.

In this installment I’ll explain why frivilous goals can be devastating, just as ‘well-done’ goals can be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal.

Can You Have It Both Ways?

Having been a Chiropractor for 25 years, I’ve been exposed to a enough ‘natural’ remedies to fill a wheelbarrow…or two. I’m sure many of them are helpful, but others would be better placed with the manure in that same wheelbarrow on its way to the garden.

There’s an common message associated with a lot of the natural remedies, and it really ticks me off.

I’ll often be told, “This Wonder herb’s extremely powerful. It’ll heal your _______ like nothing else has ever been able to do…and it can’t hurt you, because it’s all natural.”

I don’t buy that sales line.

If something has power to change things for good, it has power to change things for bad, too.

Hammers have the power to drive a nail into wood, but they also have the power to smash your thumb a good one too.

Which Brings Me to Goal Setting

It seems the common sentiment toward goals is to set them however you want, with no regard for their power to be destructive.

It doesn’t help that an ‘American Idol’ mentality has mesmerized Americans for quite sometime. But, what’s ‘American Idol’ have to do with goal setting?

Well, the message bombarding our citizens is that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, as long as you set it as your goal and never give up!

Oh really?

I’d like to play center for the Los Angeles Lakers. I’ve set it as my goal, and won’t be satisfied until I become the first 5 foot 8 inch NBA center in the history of the league.  I hope you can see the foolishness of that goal.

But is there really any harm in it?


The Power Of Fool’s Goals

Three outcomes can be expected from seemingly harmless ‘FOOL’S GOALS’, and the results can be devastating in the long term.

1).  As time goes on, the unsuccessful goal setter ascribes less and less value to goal setting, because they start to see that while time is marching on, they’re getting no closer to the goal than when they set the ‘unbelievable’ goal to begin with.

Goals start to become wistful wishes, instead of the power-packed driving forces they could be. After a few non-accomplishments, the goal setter will ‘wake up’ and decide that goal-setting isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.

That’s not true, and that’s a very real loss.

Proper goal setting is like dynamite inserted into holes that have been drilled in solid rock. When the dynamite is set off, the explosion may be muffled and not all that spectacular, but the mightiest of obstacles are split apart.

There may not be a lot of fireworks, like winning the Tour de France.  But there’s a lot to be accomplished short of the pinnacle of the sport… like steadily improving enough to upgrade from a Cat 4 to a Cat 3 in USA Cycling, or getting in sufficient shape to ride your first century.

That’s the power of properly set, BELIEVABLE goals.

2). Foolishly set goals lead to integrity issues. By that I mean the goal setter’s integrity. Other people don’t take what the starry eyed goal setter says seriously.

But an even deeper cancer starts growing inside. Unless the goal setter can stay in denial all their life, they start to not take themselves and their goals seriously either.

On some level, they recognize that they have a habit of lying to themselves. I don’t know if there’s such a concept as the loss of ‘self-integrity‘, but I know that no amount of self-esteem ‘rah-rah’ events can cover up the mess that occurs inside of someone who knows they have a problem with lieing to themselves when it comes to goal setting.

3). Foolishly set goals rob us of satisfaction.

Another example…my daughter’s on a College track team and a new freshman runner has shown up. He’s got a lot of potential and could enjoy a lot of satisfying races in his College career.

But he’s set an inflated goal, destined to suck the satisfaction of running good races right out of his bones. He’s decided that he’s going to run in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter that he isn’t even winning races at a NAIA College…it’s the Olympics or bust.

Now before you get on the ‘naïve wagon’, do some research and some serious consideration regarding the odds of making it to the Olympics. I’ve been as far as the 1984 Olympic Trials marathon.


So it’s not too likely to happen and in the mean time, there’s the likelihood that smaller achievements, such as winning the conference, or making it to the NAIA Nationals will provide no satisfaction.

Too bad, because there’s a lot of satisfaction out there to be plucked off the ‘achievement tree’.

Don’t Treat Goals Like ‘Fairy Dust’

Getting back to the young guy who set the ‘I’m gonna ride for Garmin-Slipstream on a Felt bike’ goal…

Do you suppose that having set the goal to dominate the European cycling circuit led him to triumph victoriously in the local bike racing world?


It’s turned out that there is no domination of opponents… outside of some local group training rides …and then not always.

UPDATE #1:  Our local hero no longer rides his bike.

In the mean time, the power of PROPER goal setting has had some water splashed on it. Splash goals a few too many times and they become as effective as soggy dynamite.

Worse still, he may start realizing that he can’t trust himself with the truth.

Why didn’t someone take him aside and instruct him in the necessity of setting BELIEVABLE goals?

It’s just like the healing herbs that can do so much good, but absolutely no harm. We fail to acknowledge that goals aren’t ‘value-neutral’.

UPDATE #2:  Our aspiring Olympian no longer runs…he’s taken up playing a guitar.

How Are Proper Goals So Powerful?

There are those who’d ascribe mystical powers to goal setting. Believe what you may, but I’ve been around long enough to be able to observe some ‘real world’ reasons why proper goal setting works.

Some of it’s a lot like the ‘Red Mustangs are everywhere I look’ phenomenon.

You know, once you buy a red Mustang, you start seeing them everywhere you drive.

And that’s how it can be with focused goals…

…you start ‘seeing’ the little crumbs of bread along the path that you previously just ground into the dirt under your feet. You interpret your world around you in light of your goals.

“Heh, that’s not just a random bread crumb, that’s a beacon guiding me on my way to my goal.”

The other day, I was out in the woods shooting arrow at targets set throughout the forest. Because of severe winter storms in our area, the path from one target to the next was often covered up with downed trees and branches. My goal was to make it from one target to the next and guess what?

I started noticing the ‘little things’ that got me to my goal.

I noticed the standing trees who’s branches had been trimmed many years long ago to make way for the trail.

I noticed old cut logs, indicating tree clearing efforts when the course was put in years ago.

I saw patterns of earth that were indented by previous shooter’s boots througout the years.

You get the picture…

Whereas previously I’d have blundered down the trail; now that I had a focus, I was able to see the ‘hints’ of what was needed to reach my goal.

In cycling, that may be ‘noticing’ a magazine article touting the need to get enough sleep. A magazine article that you’d have previously glossed over.

Or ‘noticing’ that the successful riders very seldom ‘put their head out in the wind’ during a race. Without the goal of placing well in your Category, you’d wouldn’t have noticed how the best riders stay ‘in the draft’ as much as humanly possible.

Your goal of winning a bunch sprint may cause you to take note of which gear the guy who wins all the sprints to the ‘city limits’ signs changes into before he ‘jumps’.

You get the picture…setting goals focuses your attention on what it takes to achieve what you’ve set out to accomplish.

Goals aren’t magic…they’re great focusers.

Goals And The Power To Plow Through The Towering Waves Of Tough Times!

It takes no genius to tell you that Christopher Columbus sailed his little ships through some seriously stormy seas on his way to the ‘New World’.

And you’ll face some serious set-backs too. Like cycling injuries…chronic fatigue…family commitments…lack of motivation…you know the ones.

But, with a set of well-thought-out and carefully-planned goals you’ll have resolve to stay the course…with you riding your bike through many obstacles on the way to your ‘believable’ promised land.

About the reviewer: Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for ‘all things cycling’. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike…and looking for good cycling products.

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