Problems With Arbitrary Goals

And How To Set Better Goals


6/15/202311 min read

black and white typewriter on green textile
black and white typewriter on green textile

I've always struggled with setting and achieving goals.

Year after year, I would set ambitious resolutions like getting six-pack abs, earning a specific amount of money, or expanding my social circle, only to find myself unable to follow through and repeating the same New Year's resolutions again and again.

One particular goal that has been with me for almost a decade is earning $10,000 per month. Why this specific amount?

In 2010, research indicated that people tend to experience a sense of well-being when their annual income reaches $75,000. Considering the changing times, this figure is likely higher now.

So, aiming for $10,000 seemed like a reasonable target, as it would cover our modest expenses and provide us with the freedom to travel wherever we wanted.

Additionally, reaching this goal would enable my wife to comfortably quit her job. On paper, it all made perfect sense. However, despite having this goal on my laptop for years, I have yet to earn a single dollar towards it.

It was only later that I discovered the futility of setting arbitrary goals.

The term 'arbitrary' refers to goals that are based on random choice or personal whim, lacking any logical reasoning or systematic approach.

Examples of such arbitrary goals include running a marathon in two months, Learning a new language fluently within three weeks, gaining 10,000 subscribers in one year, losing 10 kg in two months, or mastering a handstand in six months.

There are 7 significant reasons why arbitrary goals fail to work.

Lack Of Alignment With Values

a room with a chair and a sign that says what you use represents your values
a room with a chair and a sign that says what you use represents your values

One significant drawback of arbitrary goals is their potential misalignment with our core values and principles.

When our goals do not resonate with our true desires and beliefs, it becomes challenging to maintain long-term commitment and motivation. For instance, despite setting a goal to earn $10,000 monthly, I encountered several obstacles.

Firstly, I lacked clarity on how and where to start.

Secondly, the magnitude of the goal seemed daunting. In an attempt to adjust, I even considered setting a smaller goal of earning $500 monthly, but it failed to inspire me.

The pursuit of money through hard work never felt right for me personally. I have always been content with a minimalist lifestyle, needing very little to be happy.

However, with the responsibilities of raising children, it became challenging to shift my mindset about money, despite my failures in previous sales jobs. Instead, this monetary goal only evoked frustration and served as a constant reminder of past failures.

It perpetuated the belief that I needed to achieve a specific income level to prove my capabilities and identity as a "real man."

Although my wife reassured me that my focus should be on taking care of the children while she handles the financial aspect, I still wrestled with internal doubts and a desire to contribute to the household income.

These days, I have shifted away from setting goals based solely on earning a specific amount of money. Instead, I focus on goals that allow me to provide value to others.

For instance, I have made it a habit to write content for this website on a daily basis, aiming to share valuable insights and information with readers. Additionally, I dedicate time each month to explore new avenues for generating online income.

This approach serves a dual purpose: it enables me to acquire new skills and potentially earn money for myself, while also providing an opportunity to share successful strategies with others.

Unrealistic Expectations

Arbitrary goals often stem from unrealistic or idealistic visions of personal growth.

It is common to set goals that are overly ambitious or vague, without considering the necessary steps, resources, or timeframe required for success.

This approach can lead to frustration and a profound sense of failure when those goals are not achieved.

For instance, when I initially embarked on my YouTube journey, I had the misconception that my videos would effortlessly garner millions of views, similar to other videos I had seen in my genre.

I perceived these videos as not particularly extraordinary and assumed that creating similar content would be a straightforward task. However, the reality was far different.

After investing immense time and effort into producing and editing a video for 30 days, I was disheartened to see that it received almost zero views. This experience left me deeply demoralized and disappointed, as my expectations had been far from realistic.

It is important to set goals that are grounded in a practical understanding of the necessary steps, resources, and timeframe required for success.

By setting more realistic expectations, we can avoid unnecessary frustration and maintain a sense of motivation and resilience in the face of challenges.

Limited Adaptability

Arbitrary goals often lack the flexibility necessary to adapt to changing circumstances or seize new opportunities that may arise.

Life is inherently unpredictable, and unexpected shifts can occur. If we become too rigid in pursuing arbitrary goals, we risk missing out on valuable experiences or fail to recognize alternative paths that could lead to greater satisfaction and joy.

For instance, my wife and I have set a goal for her to retire by the age of 50, and if possible, even earlier at 48.

To achieve this, we have been diligently saving and investing a significant portion of our income.

However, in our pursuit of this financial objective, we sometimes lose sight of the original reason behind wanting early retirement: to spend quality time with our loved ones.

It is important to remember that cherished moments, such as the precious childhood of our children or the time spent with aging parents, are transient and cannot be recovered.

By solely focusing on cutting expenses, we may unintentionally deprive ourselves of wonderful experiences and shared memories that often require some level of expenditure, such as family trips overseas, visits to child-themed parks, or engaging in recreational classes.

Balancing our financial goals with the meaningful experiences we want to create for ourselves and our loved ones is crucial.

It is essential to reassess our goals periodically and be open to adjusting our plans to ensure we are not sacrificing the very moments we seek to cherish.

Today, we are learning to embrace the abundant mindset. Knowing that there are always way to earn money back but possible time with loved ones (especially our parents) diminishes every minute.

As Mr. 1500 days aptly questioned, what if you run out of life? In the grand scheme of things, I would rather face financial challenges in the future than carry the weight of regret for not utilizing our resources to create cherished memories with our loved ones during their limited lifespans, whether it be in their old age or during their childhood.

It is crucial to remember that while there are countless avenues to increase our wealth, time is an irreplaceable commodity. Once it slips away, there is no way to retrieve it.

Therefore, we strive to strike a balance between our pursuit of financial security and the priceless experiences that bring boundless joy and fulfillment to our lives.

By embracing adaptability, we can navigate the ever-changing circumstances of life while prioritizing the moments that truly matter. It is in this harmonious equilibrium that we find the freedom to build meaningful connections, create lasting memories, and savor the time we have with our loved ones.

Potential For Burnout / Injury

Setting arbitrary goals without considering your overall well-being and work-life balance can increase the risk of burnout.

When you solely focus on achieving predetermined goals without giving due consideration to self-care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, your mental and physical health can suffer.

I vividly recall a time when I became obsessed with physical fitness and set a goal to work out at least twice a day.

I dedicated nearly three hours each day to intense exercise, following a strict regimen for two months without paying attention to how my body felt. I kept pushing myself relentlessly.

However, this approach took a toll on my well-being. I lost count of how many times I fell ill or injured myself due to overexertion. In the end, all the progress I had made was ultimately undermined.

It is crucial to recognize that maintaining a healthy balance is key to sustainable progress.

Pushing yourself to the limit without considering the signals your body sends can result in adverse consequences.

Today, my approach to exercise has undergone a significant transformation.

I no longer adhere to overwhelming exercise regimens or subscribe to the "no pain, no gain" mentality. Instead, I exercise because I genuinely enjoy it.

I've come to realize that the notion of pain as a prerequisite for progress is overrated. While I may experience some mild soreness, I prioritize a balanced perspective.

My daily exercise routine now consists of one hour of activity, where I engage in activities I find pleasurable.

I incorporate running into my routine purely for personal enjoyment, and I also incorporate weightlifting to sculpt my muscles.

The pursuit of better health has become a natural byproduct of my approach.

I no longer strive for a specific body shape or appearance. My focus now lies in nourishing my body with healthy food choices and engaging in daily exercise for the sheer pleasure of moving and sweating.

By prioritizing self-care, actively listening to my body, and avoiding excessive strain, I have established a sustainable and healthy approach to my fitness goals. This mindset allows me to steer clear of burnout, minimize the risk of injuries, and maintain long-term progress toward my objectives.

Ultimately, the joy and fulfillment derived from the exercise itself have become my primary motivators, enhancing both my physical and mental well-being.

Lack Of Intrinsic Motivation

Setting goals arbitrarily without considering your personal passions and interests can significantly impact your intrinsic motivation to pursue them.

I can relate to this experience when I attempted to learn the guitar for the past twenty plus years.

At the time, I believed it would make me appear cool and attractive, perhaps due to the influence of others who played the instrument. Additionally, the fact that my father was supposed to possess guitar-playing skills added to my desire to learn.

However, I soon discovered that I lacked any genuine intrinsic motivation. I struggled to progress beyond simple songs and never acquired the ability to read sheet music.

Despite dedicating 30 minutes to an hour each day to practice, I eventually gave up due to the discomfort and soreness in my fingers caused by gripping the chords.

In contrast, learning the piano has been an entirely different experience for me. It brings me immense joy and satisfaction. Unlike the frustrations I encountered with the guitar, playing the piano is a soothing and enjoyable endeavor.

I can easily lose myself in the process of learning new songs or mastering challenging progressions, completely unaware of the passing of time. Moreover, the fact that I can share this passion with my daughter, accompanying her as she completes her piano homework and learning together, adds an extra layer of fulfillment.

This example highlights the significance of aligning goals with your intrinsic motivations and interests. By pursuing activities that genuinely resonate with you, you are more likely to find the drive and enthusiasm to persist and make meaningful progress.

It is through this alignment that you can derive true fulfillment and maximize your potential for growth.

Absence Of A Growth Mindset

Arbitrary goals often center around specific outcomes or achievements, neglecting the development of a growth mindset that prioritizes learning and personal growth.

By fixating solely on reaching predefined milestones, you may fail to recognize the significance of continuous improvement, resilience, and embracing challenges—essential elements for holistic development.

Consider the example of weight loss.

Merely focusing on shedding 20 kilograms can be misleading and potentially counterproductive. It is possible to achieve this target by resorting to strict diets that result in muscle loss, leaving you unhealthy despite the weight reduction.

Instead, shifting your focus towards adopting a long-term goal of cultivating healthier eating habits and engaging in daily exercise yields far greater benefits.

By nurturing a comprehensive understanding of nutrition, including learning about the types of food to consume and the optimal times for eating, you pave the way for a healthier body.

Additionally, recognizing the importance of components such as quality sleep and sufficient exposure to sunlight contributes to overall well-being.

Embracing this holistic approach to your lifestyle sets the stage for sustainable changes that extend beyond mere weight loss.

As you prioritize your overall well-being and develop a healthier mindset, weight loss naturally becomes a byproduct of these positive changes.

The emphasis shifts from a single-minded pursuit of shedding pounds to fostering a balanced and sustainable lifestyle, centered around nourishing your body and cultivating habits that promote optimal health.

By adopting this long-term perspective and incorporating healthy practices into your daily routine, you create a solid foundation for sustained well-being. It's important to remember that the journey towards a healthier lifestyle is multifaceted and encompasses more than just numbers on a scale.

With a focus on overall wellness, you can achieve long-lasting results and experience the transformative power of sustainable and mindful choices.

Neglecting Holistic Well-being

a body of water surrounded by trees and fog
a body of water surrounded by trees and fog

Arbitrary goals often prioritize a specific area of life, such as career advancement or personal achievements, while inadvertently neglecting other vital aspects of well-being.

This unbalanced approach can hinder overall happiness and satisfaction.

I used to have this goal of writing one article per day for my website. I believed it would help me build up my online presence and achieve success. But in my pursuit of this goal, I neglected the most important aspects of my life.

The endless hours I spent writing articles left me with no time for my children.

I may have been physically present, but I was always buried in my work, turning them away whenever they wanted to play or spend time with me. Even simple tasks like preparing their meals became neglected. I became so engrossed in my own projects that I lost sight of what truly mattered - being there for my family.

Not only did my relationship with my children suffer, but my relationship with my spouse also took a hit. I worked late into the night, leaving no room for quality time or meaningful conversations.

Our connection weakened, and I realized that my pursuit of this arbitrary goal was slowly eroding the foundation of our relationship.

I've come to understand that focusing solely on one area of life while neglecting others leads to an imbalance that affects our overall well-being.

I've learned that well-being is not just about career success or personal achievements; it's about nurturing relationships, prioritizing mental health, and finding time for personal hobbies and self-care.

Now, I strive to take a more holistic approach to goal-setting. I set boundaries, dedicating specific time for my family and loved ones (I only work when they are occupied with activities or I am alone).

I've come to realize that true fulfillment lies in embracing all areas of life and finding harmony between personal aspirations and the things that truly matter. It's not about sacrificing one for the other, but rather integrating them into a cohesive and fulfilling existence.


I have realized the pitfalls of setting arbitrary goals without considering their alignment with our values, the potential for burnout and injury, the lack of intrinsic motivation, the absence of a growth mindset, and the neglect of holistic well-being.

Through personal experiences, I have come to understand the importance of setting goals that resonate with our true desires and beliefs.

I have shifted away from arbitrary goals focused solely on specific outcomes or achievements.

Instead, I embrace goals that allow me to provide value to others, pursue activities that I genuinely enjoy. I prioritize self-care, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and seek harmony in all aspects of life.

By reassessing our goals periodically, being adaptable to changing circumstances, and finding intrinsic motivation, we can avoid frustration and maintain long-term commitment and motivation.

Embracing a holistic approach that encompasses all areas of well-being allows us to lead more fulfilling lives and create cherished memories with our loved ones.

In the end, goal-setting is not about rigidly pursuing arbitrary targets but about finding a balance that aligns with our values, passions, and overall well-being.

Have you set your own true goals?

With love.