The Virtue of Ditching The Wrong Goal

Not All Goals Are For Your Benefit. Here's Why & What To Do Instead

Hey everyone,

Last week was quite a difficult one for me, so I could not bring a weekly issue to you.

But this week, I am back. And hopefully, this one will be a banger.

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This week’s piece is a 7 min read.

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🧠 This week’s favorite thought 🧠

“The purpose of life is to experience things for which you will later experience nostalgia.”

Twitter / @fed_speak

Last week, I made a difficult but liberating decision:

I withdrew my entry from the Ironman 70.3 that I’ve been training for the past months.


For many of you who have known about this goal of mine, this might be a shock.

Not gonna lie: it’s pretty difficult to share this with you all.

But it also releases tons of tension and mental load from my life.

I went through a heavy thought process with myself and my best friend (massive shoutout to Matyi!) to eventually make the decision.

A decision that also required me to ditch my ego.

Pro and con arguments about the Ironman: the shiny image of finishing the race and posting photos on Instagram, but the harsh truth of the mental struggles I’ve been facing in the past months.

Eventually, the strongest counter-argument turned out to be quite simple:

This was not my goal; therefore, it was the wrong one for me.

So today, let’s talk about:

  • wrong goals and how those affect our mental health

  • how to identify if a goal is indeed yours

  • the vital but difficult decision of walking away

The Wrong Goals

Our lives are packed with wrong goals - mainly influenced by external factors like social media.

Many goals come with a greedy and lazy intention, like getting rich quickly so one can lay on the beach for the rest of their life.

Such goals can massively hurt one’s mental health.

People are grinding hard with the wrong actions to ensure they can reach their goals. But before reaching it, they often burn out and crush their mental state.

However, even wrong goals with good intentions can hurt our mental health. For instance, if one is focusing on the wrong goals for their own fitness and health.

This happened to me with setting the goal of completing an Ironman 70.3.

No, I wasn’t referring to THIS Ironman. This is cool, tho.

I’ve constantly been working out for 1.5 years and completed two Spartan races last year. However, I started focusing on the Ironman training in January, four months before the race.

Showing up for the swimming, cycling, and running workouts was tough, even though most of those workouts went well (or at least okayish).

But since I struggled in many other aspects of my life, those workouts did not help me wind down, relax and clear my head. In fact, they generated even more stress and frustration.

As time passed, I realized that I was getting disgusted by the workout sessions and eventually started ditching them.

In contrast, during my preparation for the Spartan races, I was determined to complete the workouts, despite my present feelings and mental state, since I was fully aligned with my goal.

Identity If Your Goals Are Right or Wrong For You

During this process, I learned a lot about being self-aware and mindful of our own goals so that these ideas will be based on that learning curve.

Take a look at your goals.

Which ones are you progressing with more seamlessly? Which ones are you struggling with?

Now take a closer look at the goals you are struggling with.

Are those goals truly yours? Or were you just following someone else and setting their goals for yourself?

If so, you are most certainly not aligned with the goal itself since you didn’t implement it in your identity.

As James Clear says:

“When your behavior and your identity are fully aligned, you are no longer pursuing behavior change. You are simply acting like the type of person you already believe yourself to be.”

You should also deep dive into why you couldn’t make it a part of your identity.

Perhaps you are not eager at all to become the person who wants to accomplish that goal.

Or perhaps you only focus on the end result instead of finding purpose and pleasure in the process that achieves your goal.

That was a crucial difference for me between the Ironman training and preparing for my Spartan races.

Just read my previous writings on how I approached the two Spartan races I have done so far. 👇🏻

So you reached a stage in the thought process when you familiarize yourself with the notion:

“This might not be the goal I want to pursue.”

What’s next?

To quit.

But Why Is It So Hard To Quit?

The most difficult part is finally deciding to let go of a goal.

And that’s mostly due to our ego that we can hardly put aside.

I went through this tough process before I decided to ditch the Ironman.

As I mentioned above, my overthinking kicked in with the question: “what will others think of me?”.

But after a deep discussion with my best friend and a tough battle with my ego, I realized that my own mental state is worth way more than any ego entertainment.

Annie Duke wrote a great book called: “Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away.”

The perfect book to learn about this subject.

In her book, Duke explains the psychology of why it’s so hard to quit:

1) Sunk-cost fallacy

When we want to ditch something, we hesitate due to the resources (time, money, and effort) we have already invested in the process.

According to economist Richard Thaler, an entirely rational person only considers the future cost of carrying on with a venture - if the outcome is positive, they stick to it. If not, they quit.

However, the sunk-cost fallacy forces many to persist even if the expected value is negative.

2) Identity: 

I have already mentioned the matter of identity above - as one of the aspects of why specific goals are considered wrong for ourselves.

But the sad fact is that many people are afraid to abandon a goal as they don’t want to be perceived as “quitters” or “losers.” Duke also argues that quitting is even more challenging if the process of an endeavor already becomes a part of one’s identity.

3) Status-quo bias:

Quite a simple one: it’s often way easier to keep doing what’s already been part of our days rather than pivoting for something new.

However, this “consistency” often refers to the fear of change.

How To Walk Away From A Goal

If you are like me, the first question before deciding to walk away is the “what-others-will-think” question.

Let me tell you: none of the people who matter to you will judge you for making such a decision.

Especially if they see the relief in you.

The rest of the people don’t matter at all.

So it will be pretty easy to answer your question: no one will perceive you as a quitter or a loser.

Most will respect you for having the self-reflection and courage to change.

But of course, often, it’s more challenging to take the leap of quitting.

So here comes the juggling monkey.

The what?!

Astro Teller, the Head of X, Google’s Innovation Lab, created the mental model called “Monkey and Pedestal” that helps him to quit a project as soon as needed.

It’s simple: you want to launch a show featuring a monkey juggling flaming torches on a pedestal. It will likely attract a big crowd.

But you have to figure out first how to do it. It’s easy to build the pedestal, but it’s freakin’ tough to train the monkey to juggle those flaming stuff.

Source: Astro Teller /

You won't have a show if you don’t tackle that issue.

Teller and his team identify the “monkey and the pedestal” in each project they launch. They refuse to go forward before figuring out “how to train the monkey.”

So look at your goals again and see if you can identify the “juggling monkey” in those goals.

If you cannot figure out how to do so, it’s not worth “building” that easy “pedestal.”

Then it’s time to ditch that wrong goal.

As Annie Duke says in her book:

“Success does not lie in sticking to things. It lies in picking the right thing to stick to and quitting the rest.”

Máté - The Mindful Guerilla 

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