Lawrence Barker

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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.

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