There’s lots of talk about goals this time of year, and I know I have been contemplating the same. It’s natural, healthy, and helpful. It happens at the beginning and end of journeys, around birthdays, and the turn of the new year. As I talk about goals with others, it’s easy to see who is committed to working hard to achieve those goals and who is going through the drill out of perceived obligation. The ones who inspire me most are those who shun the idea of formalizing personal goals and instead jump straight to the doing. Those who set, commit to, and work hard to accomplish goals won’t learn anything new in this post. It’s clearly working for you. Those who can’t point to goals, but can point to meaningful accomplishments, well done! This is about those pretending to play along. I will freely admit that I have been a pretender at various points in my life and feel as though I have recently emerged from one of those very points.

How many times have you heard or said one of the following:

  • I really want to…
    • run a marathon
    • lose weight
    • write a book
    • travel to Europe
    • see my old friend
    • finish my degree
    • start a new job

I am sure we can all point to someone who has repeatedly said something along those lines with zero tangible action. It’s a fun conversation where they pretend that they actually want what they say they want and we offer some advice and our support to help them follow through. The next day no action is taken, the next week no progress is made, and the next year we hear the same statement. Why does this happen?

It’s not because the goal was unachievable. It’s not because the goal was stated poorly. And it’s not because they were lacking a support group. Plain and simple, this happens because the person never truly wanted to accomplish what they said they did. Deep down, they are afraid, lazy, and/or disinterested. They are pretending that they want something they actually don’t. They are hoping to impress or connect with those with whom they are conversing. Sounds mean, but it’s the truth.

I distinctly remember a conversation with a colleague years ago about us getting together socially outside of work. Time went on and no action was taken. He was getting ready to move out of the area and still we never got together. Before he left we spoke about that conversation and our lack of follow through. We acknowledged that if it was truly a priority, one of us would have done something about it. Our actions said it all…clearly it wasn’t (and that is OK). For that reason, I have never since used the phrase, “we really should get together”, “let’s do coffee”, or “we need to catch up soon.” In fact, I cringe a little when I hear others say a derivative of the same. We don’t mean it unless we do it. So we shouldn’t even say it unless we are ready to take immediate action.

  • I really want to…
    • run a marathon…sign up for the race now!
    • lose weight…workout and/or stop putting junk in your mouth immediately!
    • write a book…start your blog/journal today!
    • travel to Europe…book it without delay!
    • see my old friend…call him/her right this second!
    • finish my degree…find that website and apply pronto!
    • start a new job…do something that will make you more appealing to your new team without hesitation!

Life is an adventure and at times a journey. A life that is the same tomorrow as it is today, and it was yesterday, is not much of an adventure. A list of pretend goals that have yet to inspire action isn’t fooling anyone, and it is most definitely cheating yourself. A bank of fond memories, meaningful achievements, and growth experiences need not be driven by goals, but they certainly don’t accumulate by pretending.

  • What are you pretending to want?
  • How are you helping pretenders to be “Doers”?
  • How pleased are you with your ongoing adventure?