Understanding Goal Setting, Part 2


To get out of your comfort zone you will need new information. You need information that expands your comfort zone. The lack of knowledge leads to fear, thus the addition of knowledge deceases fear. With enough knowledge fear can be virtually eliminated.

Mary had a nice home across from an elementary school. She played with the idea of opening a daycare center. She played at it for five years. When I discussed with her that fear was holding her back she adamantly denied it. “I’m not afraid of anything, I just don’t know how to open a day-care center. All those forms and regulations!”


Dr. Phil: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Mary: I’d take a course at the community college! (She snapped back at me.) Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry, I guess I am a little afraid.


As it turned out, the local college offered a weekend class that explained the process in great detail. Mary spent $35 to get the knowledge, as well as the forms and contacts that she needed to open her day-care program.

This story illustrates a phenomenon that I have seen time and time again. Often people know what they need to know and where they need to go to get started.

One young man told me that he wanted to be a state licensed contractor and he thought he could pass the state contractors’ test. After numerous attempts to get a straight answer from him concerning what he needed to do to prepare for the state test he said, “I guess I just have to go into the closet and get out the box.”

As it turned out, almost a year before, he had bought a home study course. His fear of failure kept him from opening the box.

These two examples seem pretty easy. But to the people involved their fear stagnated them. When the goals are extremely complicated you have to break the situation into bite size tasks.

An old proverb asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, “One bite at a time.” If you try to eat an elephant all at once, by hauling it up with a crane and dropping it whole into your mouth, you’re one smushed diner. But, if you carve it up you can get it done. If you bite off more than you can chew, you spit it out and cut the piece smaller, then get back to chewing.

When it comes to obtaining the knowledge you need, you may have to cut it up into lots of small pieces that may take years to digest.

Miguel had just turned twenty-seven, and according to the school’s schedule, was less than a year away from earning his Ph.D. in chemistry. The problem was that he was six months into his doctoral dissertation write up and had accomplished a week’s worth of work. He was concerned that he was going crazy.

As it turned out, he started almost every day off with a great plan—work on his dissertation write up. He had all his lab research done, and now he only had to do what he thought would be the easy part. He just had to write a few hundred-page report with impeccable documentation and career altering ramifications.

Miguel began his day with a simple plan, get up and have a small breakfast. After breakfast hit the books. But something always got in the way. He explained:

This morning for example, I was eating breakfast and I noticed the plants in the backyard needed watering. So I watered them. When I was watering the plants I noticed that the car looked a little dirty so I needed to wash it. While I was at the car wash I decided to get the oil changed at the place on the corner. It only took twenty minutes. After that I was feeling a little hungry. So I stopped at a local sandwich shop. I only played a few games of chess with my friend, Barry. After the games we realized–why bother going to the library since it was already 3:30? So Barry, he’s also working on his dissertation, and I decided to get some stress relieving exercise. We went and tossed a Frisbee down by the commons.

What Miguel (as well as Barry) needed was knowledge on how to formulate a better plan of attacking this huge project. Miguel did great when a professor was setting the agenda. But when Miguel had to set his own agenda fear of failure took over.

Miguel was stuck. What if he couldn’t get his dissertation completed on time? You can tell by his behaviors that it was easier to get little “nothing” tasks completed, versus little “something” towards his important goal.

Once Miguel and I broke his dissertation into small, chewable chunks, he settled down to work.

Two ways to get knowledge

The old saying, “Knowledge is power” is true as far as it goes, but misleading. The implication is that you need to personally have the knowledge. The fact is that what you need is an organized mind that can obtain knowledge. There are two ways to deal with knowledge:

1. Learn it yourself:

As in the examples above, you can learn what you need to know. But often, that is not necessary. The act of learning is time consuming and takes interest. You will need to learn how to obtain your goal. Expertise that is not directly related to your goal is often not worth your time and effort to learn.

2. Hire it, rent it, or trade for it:

Often it is easier and cheaper to hire the knowledge you need. Don’t get caught into thinking you need to know everything to obtain a goal. If the goal is impressive, the skills needed to obtain it will be impressive.

I understand my business inside and out. But I hire an accountant to watch the money. I often joke “I am only afraid of two things, cancer and the IRS. I just don’t know which I fear the most.”

There is no way I can keep up with the IRS regulations, the payroll regulations, and the city, state, county, and federal forms. So I hire a tax wizard to watch my back.

You need to be able to make use of the knowledge, but you don’t have to have the knowledge personally.

Are you willing to do what it takes to get the outcome you desire?

I would like to start off with a big fat warning. The above doesn’t mean: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get the outcome you desire at any cost? Screw everyone else! I am not advocating that you can do anything just because you want something. That’s stupid. I’m stating that you are responsible for your actions and better use heaps of forethought before you initiate a plan. I once received a fortune cookie that read: “A bad person is a good example of a bad example.” Morals concerning right and wrong must be incorporated into doing whatever it takes.

A perfect example of this bad example was in today’s paper. The lead article of the local section was titled: Suspect - Shooting was an accident. The subtitle read: Redding teen pleads innocent to charges from robbery attempt.

As in other sections of this book, I have changed the name of the person involved. The article was about 18 year-old Albert Whole; A. Whole for short. It was explained in the paper that A. Whole “…told police he didn’t mean to shoot a gas station clerk during a robbery attempt.”

A. Whole’s sister was quoted, “He’s a good kid. He made bad choices.”

The article continued:

The shooting at the Grease Street gas station came four days after A. Whole’s friends allegedly burglarized a Shasta Lake home on Thanksgiving Day, stealing as many as 10 guns, A. Whole told police.

A group of four friends, including A. Whole, had talked about robbing a bank sometime in the next year, he told police. They spoke of using automatic weapons, grenades and rocket launchers, he said.

But, A. Whole decided to rob the gas station on his own he said, because he owed money to probation officials and didn’t want to go back to prison.

So, A. Whole said he waited outside the station for two hours to see if the clerk would leave his booth. About 3:30 AM, he finally threw a rock at a parked car to get the attendant’s attention, reports said.

The clerk emerged and A. Whole appeared with a gun and demanded money, he said. The attendant refused, and the gun accidentally went off, the suspect said.

The gas station attendant suffered serious injuries.


In the story above, A. Whole worked it out in his mind that this was a good choice. He didn’t think about right and wrong. He didn’t think about the gas station attendant. He stayed focused on his problem and gave himself permission to disregard everyone else’s needs. This selfish lack of insight is often confused with freedom, but in actuality it is simply stupidity.


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