To Set Goals or Not, Part I

Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 26 2011

Greg Amundson, original Crossfit Firebreather giving his Goal Setting & Positive Self-Talk Seminar at Crossfit Ethos

WIIFM = What’s In It For Me?

“Happiness, therefore, being found to be something final and self-sufficient, is the End at which all actions aim.” -Aristotle, Ethics

The first thing I’d like to look at here is the idea of WIIFM as it relates to setting goals or not setting goals. I don’t want to bow down to the near deified idea of “Incentives” or “Happiness” here, but simply WIIFM as it relates to the individual as a whole – conscious and unconscious – ego and id – forebrain and hindbrain – rational and irrational – whatever you want to call it.

The rub here is that it’s very hard to figure out what we want because we have what we want as a human animal. Once those motivations are taken care of, where we go from there is hard to puzzle out. Figuring out the “why” once we think we found the “what” can be even harder.

Let’s take a stab at this as it relates to Crossfit though and say you want some combination of the following:

  • Health – however you define it, you just want to walk around feeling “good”.
  • Sexiness – you want to be attractive to potential mates
  • Respect – you want others to admire you and you want to be proud of your own accomplishments

Those might seem pretty vain, but those are powerful motivations. Maybe there’s some other stuff mixed in, but at the end of the day, there’s a big dose of those factors going on.

The Goal Setting/Productivity/Self-Help Industry

“Economists are evaluated on how intelligent they sound, not on a scientific measure of their knowledge of reality.”NNT
“Eloquence, when at its highest pitch, leaves little room for reason or reflection; but addressing itself entirely to the fancy or the affections, captivates the willing hearers, and subdues their understanding.” -Hume, Human Understanding
Placebo (Latin: I shall please[2]): a sham or simulated medical intervention.

It’s very difficult for me to objectively discuss this class of individual and business. To call the majority of them con men is a degree of respect I won’t, even begrudgingly, bestow.

[Before we go down that path too far though, let me say a few things about the picture above. First, I have not attended Greg’s seminar. Second, I’ve never met Greg, but what I’ve seen and heard about him makes me totally believe that he is really trying to help people and is one of the nicest guys in the universe. I don’t want to tar him with the brush that I’m about to break out. Putting Greg totally aside……]

There is a large class of con who provide necessary and valuable services to humanity. They come in varied but understood guises, and are respectable in so far as they follow the etiquette required by their guild. These include:

  • Casinos
  • Carnivals and circuses
  • Bars (especially those near convention centers and/or themed)
  • Car salesmen/dealerships
  • Most yoga instructors
  • And by far the most talented on average: Strippers.

When you walk into one of these places, you know you’re about to be conned (or should). The person is going to “gain your confidence”, and then try to separate you from as much money as you’re willing to give.

This is a time honored tradition, and both con and mark know their roles and enter into this pastime with eyes wide open (or as open as the mark is willing to allow themselves). These are examples of a mutually beneficial relationship, when done properly. The con will take his pound of flesh, but not a drop of blood.

What must give even the least moral cons sleepless nights are the sycophant cons that will take every last drop of blood and every last pound of flesh. These include:

  • Amway, Mary Kay, etc, “friend” based marketing and incentive structure
  • Evangelists and Tele-Evangelists specifically who’s message boils down to give more money or God won’t love you
  • The author of every “Self-Help” book who’s ever written a sequel
  • The rest of the yoga instructors


To Be Continued….

I’m going to peel off with the above, but leave you with some titles and quotes for future parts in this series.

Part II: Breathing Through Your Eyelids

“If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are! And you should know that!” -Crash Davis, Bull Durham

Part III: David Chang, Captain Kirk, Tyler Durden and Achilles

“I run on hate and anger. It’s fueled me for the longest fucking time.”David Chang, Head Chef Momofuku
“I want my pain, I need my pain!” -Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Sing, Oh Muse, of the Rage of Achilles! -Homer, The Illiad

Part IV: Guilt and Redemption

“What an existential approach is about is positing that our bad feelings, our dysphoria, our despair, our anxiety emanates not only from our own life history and all the traumas we may have had in the past, and not only from the figures that we have introjected — many of these figures being unloving, or uncaring, or neurotic on their own parts — and emanates not only from our current life crises, but it emanates also, from our confrontation with the existential facts of life, with our confrontation with the human condition.” -Irvin Yalom

Part V: Complex Systems and Equilibrium

“We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible; we scorn the abstract.”NNT

The human animal is more complicated than a linear proposition such as a list of tasks or spreadsheet can possibly express.

Part VI: Personal Experience

WIIFM, Placebo, Personality Type, Habit, The Mean.

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