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May 16, 2008

Why You May Be Just Spinning Your Wheels After All

“Big wheel keep on turning” – CCR

People have goals for one primary reason: Because they want what they think is waiting on the other side.  It could be money, or power, or recognition, or simply the satisfaction of a job well done.  You pursue your goals because you want what’s on the other side.  But are the things you’re doing every day really driving you closer to that “other side?”  Or are you just spinning your wheels, operating under the illusion that you’re getting somewhere (when really, you aren’t)?  I’ve got 3 questions that will either make you smile or make you squirm  (after the opening act, of course).

When The Journey Isn’t Getting You Anywhere

When you set your goals, you have an idea of how you’re going to get there, but that idea alone may not be accurate.  For example, too many people devote their focus to climbing the corporate ladder so that they can have the money to enjoy their life, but find that they are only making their lives more complicated and stressful in the end.  It’s easy to do this, because society conditions us to believe we have to do X to get Y, and we take it at face value, doing X like crazy without asking if it’s really the best way to get to Y.  Time goes by, we’re not where we want to be, and we ask, “What the hell happened?  I was doing X, damn it!  Where’s my Y?”  Clay Collins gets this.

Do you? Riddle me these three questions, and let’s find out.

#1 – What Result Am I Really After?

When you take on a goal, are you crystal clear on what you’re really after, or are you settling for something so vague that it hinders you?  Vagueness can absolutely kill you, because it creates fertile ground for being sloppy.  For example, when I started my first blog, my goal was to build a “high-traffic blog that made me lots of money.”  Stupid goal.  Why?  Because it’s too damn vague.  It opened the door to spend a lot of hours doing the same things over and over again.   And it wasn’t really what I wanted, because I was focusing on the vehicle, not the result.

Once I got clearer on my real result – building a media property that would allow me to increase the amount of money I was making while not working as many hours, it all changed.  Instead of just “make more money” it became “make more money without increasing my hours.”  Having the other half of that phrase made the difference.  I became more discerning about how I spent my time, more precise with my strategies, and within 30 days of getting very, very focused I built an income stream that’s not sucking my time away anymore.

That’s the key here – it’s not enough to say what you want – you’ve got to understand why you want it.

  • You want to make money as a freelance writer?   Or do you want to work from home writing so you can spend an extra 10 hours a week with your kids?
  • Do you want to blog?  Or do you want to build a platform to communicate your ideas while selling your products and creating passive income?
  • Do you want to start going to the gym?  Or do you want to boost your metabolism and increase your strength so you have the energy to enjoy your life? That second half makes the difference.

Ask yourself what you’re really after.  And ask in a way that’s measurable, so you’re not slaving away at it waiting to see results “someday.”

#2 – How long will it take me with my present course?

This is definitely a squirm-inducing question.  If you keep doing what you’re doing now, at the pace you’re doing it, with the intensity you’re doing it, how long will it really take to get where you want to be?  If you answer “I don’t know,” that’s a big red flag.

You might not like asking this question because it forces you to really look at the results you’re getting with your current efforts.  Are you just spinning your wheels, or are you actually making progress? Are you getting by, or getting ahead?  You don’t have to have a detailed answer here – and quite often, you can’t, because the future is uncertain – but you should be able to get a ballpark figure.

This is a tough question, but it can truly save your ass.  Maybe your present course isn’t the right one.  Maybe you need a dramatic shift in strategy.  Maybe you have no idea what the hell to do, and this question makes you freeze up.  But you need to know, and you need to know now.

I measure everything on this blog – subscribers, traffic sources, sales, everything – because I want to know how long it’s going to take me to get to where I want to be.  When it’s not moving fast enough, I get pissed and get determined to speed it up (again, without tacking on lots of extra hours).

Are you measuring your progress towards your goals?  Or are you just hoping it magically gets better?

#3 – Am I enjoying part of this goal right now?

Remember, you don’t have to have it all to have it now. If you’re trying to make more money so you can retire in style, then take a mini-retirement week off every now and then.  If you’re busting your ass so you can give your family what they want, make sure you’re stepping back and being there for them now. You don’t have to wait ’till you have the money to take them to Disneyland, just go to the damn park this weekend. You get the point.

Screw “one day.” What about now? Don’t make your goals far off things you have to wait for – find ways to enjoy a bit of the result in the here and now. It will keep you motivated, but more importantly, it will keep you from missing out on the important stuff of life.

And that’s it for today.  Ask these three questions, and kick your own ass until you get the answers you need to.  Your life is worth it – live it now, not later.

Want to share your thoughts in the comments below or subscribe to this blog? I dig both. :-)

16 Responses to “Why You May Be Just Spinning Your Wheels After All”

  • May 16, 2008 Internet Mogal

    Great article!

    I think it’s easy to get caught up in the “dream” because partially it represents an illusion that we fixate on and are afraid to let go or change. I’m getting better at defining my goals and have not given up much hope since I first started an entrepreneurial lifestyle in 2003.

    I’ve seen alot of others crash and burn, only to realize they were more in love with the novelty of being an entrepreneur but when it came down to working smarter, they quit because it changed their “fantasy” of what they thought they wanted.

    I’m going to bookmark this as a reminder everyday to keep me focused on doing what will help me along the journey so that I don’t let myself get caught doing busy work that serves to only distract me from what I should be doing.


    Internet Mogal’s last blog post..Getting started with Videoblogging

  • May 16, 2008 Kelly


    Three great questions. This reminds me of Covey’s question about whether you ladder is on the right wall. I ask myself all the time, and I’d better get a “yes”!

    I especially like #3. You can put that ladder on the correct wall, start climbing, and realize you forgot to have fun while you were doing it. That stinks.

    Live with less in terms of material results if necessary, in order to get the psychic results that leave you with no regrets.

    If you’ll pardon the pun, screw now. Ahem. It’s better than waiting for someday.



    Kelly’s last blog post..Why is Go Daddy so Gosh Darn Ugly?

  • May 16, 2008 Akemi - Yes to Me

    Great post! I especially appreciate you pointing out #3. Too many people postpone taking a taste test of what they are after only to get to their finish line to find out they don’t really like it or they missed the timing. The rich retirement idea is a typical case. I think many people would be bored to death when they live on the beach. . .

    In other words, find your own goal, don’t just take the goals someone sells you.

    Akemi – Yes to Me’s last blog post..Accepting And Loving Our Uniqueness

  • May 16, 2008 Sandy Naidu

    Good post…As you mentioned Dave, ‘why’ is very important. ‘Why’ defines the purpose…When we are busy building a business, it is quite common to be consumed with ‘what we want’ …But if we totally ignore the ‘why’ part, then the journey might leave us frustrated and lost…In times like this just reminding ourselves of the ‘why’ part brings back the focus…

    Sandy Naidu’s last blog post..Finding A Baby Sitter Made Easy – Meet Delia Timms

  • May 16, 2008 Janice Cartier

    Dave – This is THE most important part of goal setting. Tough questions. Taking the time to answer them may provide ways to say hmm, how do I have that now? It’s kind of like designing our own “benefits” vs “features” package.
    ( BTW- saluted the sun this am and I am off to see if there is early riser yoga on the FIT channel…yes, there is a distinct boot print on my derriere. )
    :) Jan

    Kelly- “If you’ll pardon the pun, screw now. Ahem. It’s better than waiting for someday”-Is that Nietzsche? Or Shakespeare?

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..Lavender Lingerie

  • May 16, 2008 Kelly


    (LOL Nietzsche!)

    I believe it’s Hugh Hefner. ;)

    Kelly’s last blog post..Why is Go Daddy so Gosh Darn Ugly?

  • May 16, 2008 Janice Cartier

    Hey- Just saw he opened a new club in Vegas….I think that’s the tag line now that you mention it.

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..Lavender Lingerie

  • May 16, 2008 Kelly


    Kelly’s last blog post..Why is Go Daddy so Gosh Darn Ugly?

  • May 16, 2008 Janice Cartier

    Dave says Carpe Diem….Road trip!!!!! Sorry Dave…yoga and loving in Las Vegas… uh , research, yeah that’s it… It worked for Hunter S…..

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..Lavender Lingerie

  • May 16, 2008 Evan

    Good questions.

    However, when starting out – especially in a new field like blogging – I think there is an important stage of wandering around and trying things out to find out what is realistic. Your goal may be 100,000 readers for your blog in the first month.

  • May 16, 2008 Janice Cartier

    Evan- What? You have a 100,000 readers in the first month?!!!

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..Lavender Lingerie

  • May 17, 2008 Andrew McMillen


    Great post. I got a lot out of it. Those three questions are excellent.

    “Living in delusion is a short-term strategy – simply unsustainable.” (link below, as I’m unsure if I can use HTML in here)

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to refocus my goals. Enjoy your day.

  • May 17, 2008 Sharon Hurley Hall

    I especially like #3. You can be so focused on the goal that you forget about now and you miss out on an enjoyable or important experience.

    Sharon Hurley Hall’s last blog post..Freelancing Gold: Referrals And Repeats

  • May 17, 2008 Karen Swim

    Dave, I don’t know all of your personal goals but if one is to write life changing content, you have succeeded. As I have written about these issues on my own blog I too am working through them. Today as I spent some time reflecting and admittedly being frustrated I read this post. Your advice mirrors so much of what I am working toward and is just the kick in the rear reminder I needed. Thank you.

    Karen Swim’s last blog post..Tips for Managing Your Energy When the Battle Grows Fierce

  • May 25, 2008 Carrie

    Loved your article and used it in my weekly roundup…details here –

    Carrie’s last blog post..Why do we fall?

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