The Goal Of Goals

Thursday, 8:37pm
Reno, NV
Coyotes in the distance, making sweet music to the snowfall…


How’re you doing with your 21-day habit change challenge?

I almost screwed up last night. Walked by the kitchen around midnight, and I swear the last box of crackers in there was calling my name.

Bastard carbohydrates.

First sign you’re gonna win is when you just shrug, acknowledge that giving in would be glorious and tasty and, you know, worth it in a way… and then don’t give in.

It’s not even a sign of strength, really. It’s just adult management of the ancient, murky, often self-destructive parts of your mind. The ape-brain wants, gimme, gimme, gimme. Ape-brain must have.

Ape-brain not happy when denied.

And yet the sky doesn’t cave in when you shoo the beast back into the shadows.

Day by day, your old habit goes from struggle, to weak impulse, to vanquished behavior pattern. It’s a grind… but results are incremental.

Heck, I’ve got to go through SuperBowl weekend without eating chips and dip.

You gotta feel for me, dude.

Still, the little victories mount quickly. Several years ago, in antipation of doing a full weekend seminar (where I would be on stage, on my feet, needing to be super-sharp and on the ball the entire time), I hired a trainer and started working out twice a week.

I loathe working out. I’d rather play tennis, or pick-up round-ball, or raquetball, or do anything other than schlump my ass back into the gym… but those sports, while exhausting, will not give you a thorough workout.

I knew I needed the whole shebang… and I knew from past experience that hiring a trainer was the best way to “trick” myself into following through.

See, you can join a gym, figure out a routine, and even schedule workouts for yourself, and not need a trainer. Read up on specific workout strategies, write out plans, do it all on your own.

But I knew I needed that extra condition — the very real tactic of having to pay the trainer for his time whether I showed up or not.

That works for me. Just knowing I’m screwing up, by not working out during my appointed hour… and knowing that someone else is also privy to my shame… is enough to kick my butt into gear.

I hate it.

But I go.

And I’ve been going for around four years now. Same trainer, too. I see him more than I see most of my friends, and it’s a relatively pleasant way to suffer twice a week.

It’s a habit. When I travel, and miss more than a couple of workouts, I get uncomfortable… and I like that. I’m more uncomfortable NOT working out, than going through the hassle of actually working out.

I’m in that groove where I crave the burn. Nice.

It’s a drag getting in shape, especially after a few years of slacking. It hurts, it’s annoying, and I don’t wanna have to do it. Been there, done that.

But once you’re there, it’s easy to see the benefits. Obvious health, energy and well-being advantages up the yin-yang, in fact.

Last time I was out-of-shape, I had chronic back pain, I strained muscles easily, and I had the energy level of a wounded slug.

Still, I have to gear up to attack each workout, week after week. I resent the time it takes to get to the gym, I resent having to change clothes, I resent gasping for air during aerobic training… I’m just a resentful pig all the way around.

But it’s a habit now. I don’t have to rearrange my day to workout — the scheduled workouts are already there, built-in, week after week. I plan biz stuff around them, and it’s EASY. Once you’re in the habit, and you make it a priority.

And that small victory — just showing up for my workouts regularly and grunting through them without thought of quitting — gives me a foundation to build other victories.

There’s an old standard goal I used to put on my weekly list I called “The Nasty Bit”. My task was — every time I sat at my desk to start my workday — to choose the ONE thing I really, really, really did NOT want to do… and then do that first.

Usually, it was a phone call fraught with dread. Or reading some long, dull report for a client. Or finalizing the death knell for a relationship.

Neurosis, basically, is the built-up mire of ignored tasks. If you have a problem in life, then you have a task: Face that problem, and resolve it (even if resolution simply means making your peace with it).

You do that, you get to move on. There will be new problems, new tasks, and more down the line when you plow through those. But you will be moving… and gaining strength as you roll.

If you don’t engage the task laid out for you… then the problem festers, and the lack of resolution creates an anchor around your soul.

You stop moving. Instead of engaging life’s new problems, you are stuck in neutral, unable to leave the rut that gets deeper each day you ignore your duty.

And it IS a duty. You have the option of crawling into a rut and going to sleep for the rest of your days, just like the zombie hordes that stumble around you. It’s a tempting decision, because it’s “easy” (if you can live with the self-loathing shame) (which an alarming number of people seem content to do).

So here’s the bottom line: Attaining happiness isn’t easy.

It’s a task, just like potty training. Do it, move on, engage life fully. Don’t do it, and… well, you get the picture.

What I’m saying is that the goal of goal setting… is to get good at attaining goals. Not just having them… but attaining them. Mastering difficult tasks, embracing the joy of victory… and then asking for more.

The small victory of attaining your goal — of either establishing a new, “good” habit, or ditching a “bad” one — is very much like that first step on a fresh path that leads to exciting places.

So… how’re you doing with your 21-challenge?

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

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  • Scott says:


    You’re right on.

    Having goals and attaining goals are two totally different things. One is an intellectual exercise; the other is an excerise involving action. And action – or rather inaction – is the demon that keeps us on the sidelines, watching life go by.

    As for my 21 day-challenge, well, I’m finding it easy (too easy) to slip into the routine of not following through. The harder road is to push onward and upward. I’m reminding myself that the harder road is the one that leads to where I want to go.

    Thanks for your latest blog post; and for reminding me to “keep on, keeping on” – no matter how hard the road may appear.

    I’ll see you at the end of the 21 days…


  • Matt Hegedus says:


    My challenge is going different than what I planned.

    In fact, it’s a bit disturbing.

    Anyway, I’ll spare you the lurid details and simply
    say thanks for the challenge.

    It’s where I thrive.

  • John P says:

    Day 5 complete…

    One of your Blog readers and I have chosen to hold each other accountable to doing our Matt Furey inspired workout routine and so far it is going much better than I anticiptated.

    This type of accountability..the one with someone across the country who you have never met in person could not have taken place without Al Gore inventing the internet.

    I Love The Internet.

    Thanks for the Cahllenge

  • Larry Foster says:

    My goal is to write for 33 minutes 3 times each day.
    I haven’t totally mastered that yet but I’m doing a lot better than before.
    What I have been able to achieve is about 80% of a sales letter for a new client’s website and finishing up a space ad for him for lead gen. Oh, I met a got the client, too. With an upfront payment and a nice commission for every lead.

    Even though I haven’t written in a structed time frame yet, I have been writing.
    What a novel concept.
    Someone who wants to be a copywriter actually writing.
    Thanks for this topic.
    It is now keeping this goal more in the forefront and is harder to slough off.

    Larry Foster

  • Ian says:

    Hey John,

    I now have a habit of checking to see if you have written anything new…

  • Louis Burns says:

    I ended up getting creative (or maybe a little lazy) with my goal of working on my Spanish.

    Wednesday, all I did was go play soccer. Fortunately, my team speaks almost exclusively Spanish and there were some controversies that got the Latin blood boiling.

    Last night, I went with a group of visiting Argentines and Chileans out to country dance. Apparently it’s the thing to do when visiting Texas.

    They weren’t my normal 30 minute audio lessons but I think they count.

    John Carlton writes: I think they count, too, Louis. Going deep with the culture is essential to understanding the language. Good job.

  • Matt Hegedus says:

    Hey John,

    Love the videos you’re sending. Keep ’em coming!

    Also, I’m totally impressed with the information i’m learning from Frank Kern about the advice you gave him on the STOMPERnet launch.

    This has helped ease the anxiety of “writing great copy” tremendously.

    I’m learning it’s really pretty easy and fun… and that it’s better to use my natural personality to do what needs done (I’m also a rap artist lol)

    Your advice to Frank is helping more than just Frank… it’s helping ME.

    Thanks dude,

  • Copywriting says:

    What a great tip, John!

    Trust me, I have plenty of dreaded tasks to complete.

    Thinking back, when I did accomplish one of them successfully… it was a great feeling.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Best Way To Become A Copywriter

    Lee H.

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