Lawrence Barker

helping young leaders get the support they need to thrive

Menu Close

Category: Take Action

12 surefire ways to not achieve your goals for 2018

It’s December. The time of year when everyone starts talking and thinking about goals for the upcoming year. “My 2018 goals are…..” Resolutions, goals, commitments…call them what you will, I don’t see what all the hype is about.

What’s the deal?

Why set goals? Why make changes? Isn’t life already good enough?

To combat the craziness of all these people and their goal-setting, I’ve designed a perfect strategy to help you avoid achieving your goals for 2018. Put the below tips into practice and I guarantee that 2018 will be a year of unmatched complacency and ambivalence!

1. Don’t establish any goals

Why would you even bother? Setting goals takes time and energy that could be better spent eating Christmas cookies and binging on your favorite holiday movies.  If you want to take this a step further, consider putting in place some anti-goals to aim for.

Anti-goals are the opposite of goals. To identify them easily, ask yourself this: What would my worst possible day look like? If you’re reading this, it’s probably things like being productive, changing your life for the better, or mastering new skills. Once you’ve established those things, you can then create some specific habits in your life that will make sure you never get anywhere close to them.

2. fill up your day with busy work

Achieving goals requires being strategic. To make sure you don’t accidentally slip into strategy-mode, do everything you can to fill your days with tasks that take a lot of time but don’t produce much value. What’s the least important thing you can do today? Put it at the top of your to-do list.

3. forget about how you’re wired

So what if you’ve got certain periods of the day when you’re more productive? It’s not important if you’ve got unique skills or abilities you can use to make an impact. Do your best to make sure that you stay far away from anything that even looks like reflection or a self-assessment.

4. Be as vague as possible

You’ll often hear goal-setters talk about things like SMART goals and being “specific.” That’s insane. You can’t predict the future! Why would you ever try to set a specific goal that says, “Six months from now, I’m going to be _______ (fill in the blank).”

Maybe Miss Cleo could do this, but us average folks? No way. It’s better to avoid it completely to minimize any risk or uncertainty.

5. Wait for the perfect time

This is closely tied to the last point. You can’t predict the perfect time for something to get done, so your best option is to keep waiting until that time comes. It might be tomorrow, or it might be ten years from now. Either way, you’ll know it when you see it.

6. Only think about the big picture

Sometimes goal-setters like to break things down into “bite-size” chunks. Why would you do that? It’s mental to take one goal and turn it into 100 smaller goals. What’s easier, one goal or one hundred? And do you realize what that does to your to-do list? There’s no way you could ever accomplish all those things!

It’s way better to only consider the big picture. Focus on the fact that you only have one thing to do and you’ll be way more motivated to complete it.

7. Indulge your desire for immediate gratification

There are a lot of smart people out there, like the people who invented Netflix, Grubhub and the microwave Talk about geniuses! Once upon a time, you had to wait to get what you wanted. You were forced to wait until next week to watch the next episode of your newest show. You had to cook (which can take hours!). If you wanted to avoid cooking, it meant leaving your house to go eat at your favorite restaurant.

Thank God those days are behind us. On-demand is the way of the future! Never tell yourself no and you’re sure to enjoy life more than the next guy.

8. Keep everything in your head

Some people advocate for things like lists. Richard Branson carries a notebook everywhere he goes so that he can write down business ideas, suggestions and important reminders.

That seems foolish. What if you lose your notebook? Then you’re really screwed. You relied on that thing so that you wouldn’t have to remember stuff, and now it’s gone.  And even if you use an app, what if your phone breaks? What if the internet crashes? You’re toast.

Keep it all in your head. Trust yourself. You don’t need to write things down.

9. Avoid failure at all costs

No one likes a loser. If you fail at something, everyone is going to think you’re a big joke and your reputation will be totally shot. Don’t take risks. Play it safe!

10. don’t make a big deal out of success

Success is like a virus. It’s contagious. If you happen to slip into it and achieve something by mistake (which shouldn’t happen, thanks to this guide!), minimize it. Keep it quiet! The more you talk about it and celebrate it, the more likely you’re going to make the same mistake again.

11. Just be quiet

God forbid, but imagine with me for a second: Something pops in your head that resembles a goal. What do you do? How can you shut that thing down for good?

The best way to quickly kill an idea like that is to keep quiet. Don’t share it with anyone. They might encourage you. And definitely don’t publicize it widely – you don’t want to risk creating any sort of momentum or accountability.

Simply keep quiet and turn on the next episode of Stranger Things. That’s the ticket.

12. don’t go changing

Despite your best efforts, sometimes it’s hard to be totally immune to the seductive messages of the goal-setters. As a final suggestion, make sure you never, ever change. Maintain the same approach you’ve always taken to your life. It’s gotten you this far, right?

That’ll show ’em.

Summary (Or how to actually achieve your 2018 Goals)

Hopefully you’ve recognized that this article is intended to be tongue in cheek. In no way, shape or form do I recommend you follow the above suggestions. Instead, consider these:

  1. Make time to set clear goals that will get you where you want to go
  2. Be strategic, not reactive
  3. Grow in your self-awareness
  4. Be specific and try to anticipate challenges ahead of time
  5. Be proactive and create opportunities for yourself. Default to action.
  6. Break big goals down into smaller goals
  7. Do the work and be disciplined
  8. Write things down
  9. Take calculated risks when the reward justifies it
  10. Celebrate your wins
  11. Publicize your goals
  12. Build new habits that will help you succeed (whatever that means for you)

If your hope is for a productive year and to accomplish all sorts of 2018 goals, then these tips will put you on the road to success. I’ll be publishing more on these specific items in the weeks to come, so consider signing up for my weekly email with my best content for more!

And if you know anyone you think would really benefit from this, please spread the word!


We Need to Talk About Shame

“Even when I’m doing better, it’s like there’s chained to my ankle a dead body that I’m just dragging around with me.”

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Earlier this week I was listening to All Things Considered on NPR. This particular show consisted of two people — Maddy Rich & Julia Sinn — talking about their battles with anorexia.

I’ve never struggled with an eating disorder, but Maddy used a metaphor when talking about her struggle that really struck a chord: “Even when I’m doing better, it’s like there’s chained to my ankle, a dead body that I’m just dragging around with me.”

That’s a feeling I can relate to.

Shame has been a dominant theme in my life.

It would probably surprise my friends and family to hear that. It’s not the sort of thing you go around discussing everyday, you know?

People freak out a little when a conversation looks like this:

Friend: “Hey! How are you?”

Me: “Not great. I felt like a total fraud when I was hanging out with Bill and Elaine earlier. I disowned myself and pretended to be someone I wasn’t in order to get them to like me.”

….or like this:

Friend: “Dude, what’s up? What’s new in your life?”

Me: “Not much is new. I’m still struggling to escape the feeling that I’m not doing enough and am failing in every area of my life. What’s up with you?”

It’s awkward. It catches you off guard. You’re never ready for it.

But you know what?

Screw social conventions.

We need to talk about shame.

Why Shame?

Shame — avoiding shame — has had a strong grip on me since I was a kid. I’m part of a large family — nine kids in total — and that many siblings creates a complex web of interactions.

I’ve always been driven to please others and I’ve hated letting people down or looking stupid in any way.

Shame is a universal social emotion which we’ve all experienced, but it’s also hard to nail down an exact definition. Experts like Brené Brown and Thomas Scheff agree that shame affects all us. Yet in Qualitative Inquiry, Scheff notes that shame is “the least understood emotion.”

Part of the reason for the haze that surrounds shame is due to its frequent confusion with guilt.

Guilt and shame often occur in similar situations, but the messages they carry are entirely different. One of the best distinctions I’ve ever heard was made by Ian Cron in his Typology podcast (paraphrased below…I was listening while driving…):

“Guilt is the belief or conviction that you’ve done something wrong. Shame is the fundamental belief that there is something wrong with you.

Cron’s distinction highlights why shame is so harmful and insidious. Guilt speaks about what you’ve done; Shame speaks to who you are.

Guilt is uncomfortable. Shame is destructive.

The discomfort caused by guilt can often produce motivation to change for the better. On the other hand, shame carries with it a damning message of inadequacy.

Guilt says“You shouldn’t have eaten that second bowl of ice cream. You’re going to regret that later when you’re not feeling well.”

Shame says, “You fat pig. No wonder you’re so overweight and ugly. It’s no surprise it’s impossible for people to love you.”

Guilt says, “You lied to your spouse. That was wrong. You shouldn’t have done that.”

Shame says, “You lied to your spouse. You’re a deceitful, twisted person. You’d better hope no one sees you for who you are, or you’ll never be loved again.”

Dealing with Shame

I’m indebted to Brené Brown for her clear explanation of our typical response to shame in her recent book, Daring GreatlyOne of Brown’s helpful tips for understanding shame is to view it as “the fear of disconnection.

Shame is a feeling of being unworthy of connection, love or belonging.

According to Brown, we tend to react to experiencing shame in three ways:

  • Move Away — we withdraw into hiding. We become silent or secretive, pulling away from those around us. Since we are unworthy of connection, we cut ourselves off as a protective measure.
  • Move Toward — we move towards others in an attempt to please or appease other. We may not be worthy of love or connection, but perhaps if we work just a little harder people will keep us around.
  • Move Against — we become aggressive and confrontational. Because we feel ashamed, we seek to exert our control and, if necessary, cause others to feel shame as well (misery loves company).


We likely use all of the above at different times and in different situations. As I read through each of the three, one sticks out far and away as my favorite response to experiencing shame.

What is your default response to experiencing shame?

I default to the second option, Moving Toward.

It’s been the story of my life. I can always find something that I feel like I’m failing at or not doing well enough.

I live with this constant sense that I’m not doing enough. I feel it in the pit of my stomach. This constant uneasiness. This baseline of anxiety that won’t go away.

Every time I make eye contact with a strange, it’s there: “What are they thinking about me? Do I look stupid? Is there something on my face?”

Every time I’m having a conversation with someone: “Don’t say something stupid. Crap, they’re looking at me funny. They’re hesitating. I must have misspoke. How can I fix this? Adjust! Adjust!”

I’ve developed a real-time ability to pick up on how my presence and message is being received by someone. If I perceive it’s not going well, I then make tweaks and adjustments to affect their view.

In other words — I’m really good at pandering to a crowd.

On a recent podcast I heard Jeff Goins say “I think a good question is do I ever not feel like a fraud?”

That about sums it up. Because of my constant struggle with shame I feel pressure to make up for my inadequacies. In my “moving towards” people, I transform myself into whatever image I think they are most likely to accept and love.

It’s a natural defense mechanism, but it really comes back to bite you in the butt.

In his book Red Like Blood, Joe Coffey describes it like this:

“The most fundamental problem is that my deep need to feel loved is in direct conflict with my fear of being known [due to my shame]…It is like being made to live in water and not being able to swim. If you really know me, will you love me? I doubt it because, put in your place, I wouldn’t love me either. I long for the experience of really being loved and yet all I give is the image of myself I hope others will find most attractive. The love I feel from others is muted at best, simply because I know that the person they love is not the person I am…I merely pretend to be me so I can pretend to be loved, and I starve.”(emphasis mine)


How can we learn to deal with shame in a way that causes connection rather than disconnection; authenticity rather than deception?

Breaking the Power of Shame

One of the challenges of dealing with shame is its constant assault on all of us.

I believe that therein also lies the key.

Shame affects all of us.

Every. Single. One.

Shame is part of the human condition, and recognizing and acknowledging this is the first step towards freedom.

We all struggle with shame, and we can use this common bond as a bridge to building empathy.

If shame is poison coursing through humanity’s veins, empathy is the antidote. — Tweet This!

It’s in our common brokenness — our humanity — that we can extend understanding and love to one another.

How can we — as individuals and as a society — become more empathetic?

Make Time to Listen to Yourself

Shame’s message is relentless.

Every single interaction with another person creates an opportunity for shame to speak up.

If we’re ever to learn to subdue shame’s voice, we must learn to listen to ourselves.

Do you notice when shame’s subtle whispers begin in your head? Do you recognize the physical symptoms that take hold of you?

To undercut shame’s power in our lives, we must begin to work at recognizing these moments and symptoms.

Once we become aware of shame’s presence, we then have a choice on how we will respond — will we believe shame’s message? Are the expectations shame is speaking over us realistic? Are they what we truly desire?

Practice like journaling, centering/contemplative prayer, or meditation may be especially helpful tools to grow in self awareness and sensitivity to what’s happening in your heart and mind.

Make Time to Listen to Others

Empathy is social.

It’s a response to the emotions and feelings of other people. Researchers have identified two distinct forms of empathy:

  • Affective Empathy — physical sensations in response to others’ emotions)
  • Cognitive Empathy — the ability to identify and understand others’ emotions

Whichever you experience more, both are triggered by an interaction with another person.

If we wish to become more empathetic, we need to slow down and truly learn to listen to others.

No agenda.

No formulating our response while they are talking.

No end destination or goal.

Just listen. Pause, and listen.

Need a simple first step?

Invite a friend — or someone who you want to become a good friend — over for a cup of coffee today. Focus on asking questions; let them do at least two-thirds of the talking.


Be the Initiator

Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

The modern world makes it so easy to live in a continually disconnected state. Our phones, tablets and televisions are filled with apps and programs that are designed to be addictive.

Social media can trick us into thinking we’re closely connected to other people, but knowing about someone’s life is not the same as being part of their life.

We need to be brave enough to trust people.

Trust is a prerequisite for empathy, and developing trust takes time. It also requires someone to take that first, terrifying step of opening up their heart to another person.

We’ve all walked different roads.

We’ve been beaten, bruised and burned by other people, yet we can’t let the wounds of our past dictate the direction of our future.

If you long for connection with others…

If you long to see shame’s power broken in your life…

If you long to love and be loved…

…then the only way to get there is to open up.

Vulnerability is a courageous act. It’s on par with running in to a burning building.

Just as a firefighter might save a helpless civilian, having the courage to be vulnerable might save our souls.


Note: This article was originally published on Medium on 11/17/17 while this site was under construction.

Taking the Leap Towards Personal Growth

I’ve felt an urge to write for months, but it’s taken a long time to actually pick up the (metaphorical) pen and start putting my thoughts down on paper. I’ve spent this time trying to decide why I had this urge to write. But even more than that, I’ve been busy attempting to talk myself out of it.

Sound familiar?

You have an idea. A dream. Something that gets you excited.

Your imagination kicks in. “What if I did…..(insert your dream here)?” “What would that look like?” “Where might it go?” “How would it change my life?”

These are life changing questions.

When you start asking them, you’ve arrived at what I call a precipice moment.

The Precipice Moment

I’m not a big winter sports guy (the Midwest is pretty flat), but I tried snowboarding when I was in college. There’s a ritual that occurs when you’re preparing to snowboard — you gear up, strap into your board, hop on the ski lift and wait to get to the top of the mountain. When you’re a first-time snowboarder, that ride up the mountain is filled with growing nervousness and excitement.

Once you arrive, you hop (or fall…) off the ski lift, head to the edge and get ready to hit the slope.

That’s the precipice moment.

That moment you’ve been working towards.

That moment you’ve been waiting for.

That moment that terrifies you.

Seeing the Possibilities

“Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet.” — Victor Hugo

Your imagination is incredibly powerful.

Whether it’s your first time snowboarding or you’re dreaming up a new idea with the potential to change your life, your imagination is a key shaper of your future.

On the mountain that day, I’d been imagining what it would be like to hit the slope. I’d seen plenty of others do it, and man, did it look awesome. I was PUMPED.

My friends were with me, I had all the right gear, and I’d been successful on the bunny hill a couple times. The whole ride up the ski lift was filled with telling myself, “You’ve got this. You’re ready.”

All signs pointed to go, but it wasn’t until that specific precipice moment, standing at the top of the slope, that everything came to a head. All of the excitement, all of the desire, and all of the fear.

Maybe something has come to mind right now — an idea you’ve been toying with for a long time. You’ve gone to the mountaintop in your head.

You’ve been dreaming of asking her out.

You’re waiting for the right moment to have that conversation with your boss about working remotely.

You keep reading articles and watching videos about getting into shape.

In your head, you know what you want. You’ve got a clear picture of the benefits making this change would generate in your life.

All of this may be true, but you’re still sitting there on the precipice.

Why haven’t you moved?

Don’t Make Yourself at Home on the Precipice

The truth is that the precipice is an exciting place to be. You’ve got a whole new world in front of you and the possibilities are endless. Who wouldn’t want to be in that spot?

During that snowboarding trip, I wish I could have bottled up the feeling I had before my first descent and taken it with me. It was thrilling. I was finally there. The precipice was awesome.

Yes, the precipice is a great place to bebut the precipice is not a great place to live.

And it’s easy to confuse the two.

You find something you like — like this feeling of excitement and anticipation— and you want more of it. But as humans, we’re all prone to overindulgence and sabotaging ourselves.

Put another way, as Benjamin P. Hardy says in this article, “We humans have a bad habit of talking ourselves out of greatness.”

Say you decide to camp out on the precipice because you like the view. For a while you enjoy it. Anything can happen! The sky’s the limit!

But what tends to happen after you’ve been there for a while?

  1. Disillusionment — When you’re anticipating something great and it doesn’t appear, it’s natural to start losing hope. There’s an old proverb that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” and it’s true. Living in a place of constant dreaming and anticipation, but never taking any tangible steps to make those dreams a reality, causes your hope to begin to die out.
  2. Cynicism — Cynicism and disillusionment are old friends. When you are disappointed and have lost hope, it’s a short jump to cynicism. Cynics are characterized by a distrust of others. It renders you unable to connect with people and to trust that their intentions may be good and upright.
  3. Anger — Once you realize that your dreams aren’t coming to fruition you have to find someone to blame. This might mean getting angry at yourself: ”Why don’t you just try harder? Why are you so lazy? Why can’t you just take action?” It may also take the form of anger towards others. If someone else seems to be making progress toward their goals when you aren’t, you may blame your circumstances. Maybe it’s your parents’ fault. Maybe it’s your company’s fault for not recognizing what an asset you are. Whomever it is, someone must be the scapegoat.

There are plenty of other reactions to living on the precipice for too long, but these are three of the ones I’ve recognized in my own life and encountered in conversations with friends and coworkers. Each is subtle. They creep in slowly and build up over time.

The good news?

You don’t have to live with them.

Take the Leap

Does this describe you?

  • You want more for your life — more fulfillment, more free time, more money, more patience — whatever it may be
  • You’ve been dreaming and imagining how to get there
  • You’ve been struggling to make tangible progress towards what you desire

If that’s you, know that you’re not alone. Modern marvels like the internet have made the world so much smaller in the past few decades. There are so many options out there it can be paralyzing.

If you’re ready to get off the precipice and begin moving forward toward your dreams, below are three useful steps to get you started.

1. Tell Someone

The precipice exists first and foremost in your mind. Yes, every decision you make will have tangible consequences in your life, but before anything actually happens you have to make the decision to move forward.

An easy way to overcome the temptation to delay is to take the battle out of your mind and bring it into the “real” world. Find someone you can trust — ideally someone who will be honest with you, but who also won’t default to discouraging you in the name of realism — and share your situation with them. Tell them what you’re feeling, what you desire, and what you’re considering.

Name the struggle. Name the hopes.

Remember, this person isn’t supposed to solve your problem or make the decision for you. Getting counsel and advice for big life decisions is great, but the first and primary reason you’re going to this person is to get outside of your head and put things into motion by talking about what you’ve been considering.

2. One Bite at a Time

You’ve heard it before, but I’m going to say it again: How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

One of the biggest reasons it’s difficult to act and move forward is because of the tendency we humans have to blow things out of proportion in our minds. Evolutionary it makes sense; caution and being risk-averse can be an aid to survival in some circumstances.

But if you let it, caution can suffocate you.

Fear likes to masquerade as caution. While you might never admit to being afraid, it can actually seem respectable to approach everything in your life with caution.

When you let caution/fear have its way, realistic goals become insurmountable challenges.

Self-transformation takes years, and that’s often daunting. But those years begin today, and taking small steps every day is the key to achieving that dream you’ve been stuck on for so long.

-Want to learn to play the harmonica? Don’t spend hours on YouTube watching the greatest harmonica players in the world. Start with buying a harmonica.

-Dreaming of getting into better shape? Stop searching for that magical workout plan that will be your silver bullet. Get out your tennis shoes and go for a walk today. Do it again tomorrow, and again the next day. Start moving forward. Build some momentum and go from there.

3. Celebrate Your Progress

Regardless of how much progress you’ve made on your goals, chances are there will always be someone further ahead. It can be so easy to let envy and discouragement settle in and kill your momentum.

How do you prevent envy and discouragement?

Celebrate your wins at every opportunity.

If you lost your first pound, congratulate yourself. That’s huge!

If you’ve managed to get yourself in check and are performing better at work as a result, great job! That’s a massive step forward in your journey to personal growth.

Learned to play your first song on your instrument of choice? Well done! Even Beethoven started with a first song.

These examples may or may not seem big, depending on where you’re at in your personal journey. But each of these seemingly small achievements is a very clear step forward on the path to growth. They mark an individual who has chosen not to live on the precipice. They are the signs of someone who has looked fear, laziness, and a million other excuses in the eye and said, “Enough! It’s time. I’ve got this!” and plunged forward into an uncharted future that they have the joy of shaping for themselves.

Are you ready to take the leap?

Note: This work was first published on Medium on 11/12/17 while this site was under construction.

© 2018 Lawrence Barker. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.