The Dirty Truth Behind Goalsetting: The DOPA Traps

Setting goals has been a fixed part of my life for years now. What only recently joined in though, was actually realising those goals.

I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve written down list upon list of goals. Only to find the paper six months later, crumpled underneath a pile of junk. And – surprise – nothing discernible had changed in the meantime.

How incredibly frustrating! In the end, I lost hope that I would ever manage to realise all those things I’d imagined for myself. And when you’re there, how can you still muster up the energy and enthusiasm to get things done?

Goalsetting - Frustration

Why Goal Setting is a lot like gambling

Goalsetting can be a dangerous game. When you win, your confidence rises and your upgraded situation becomes the new normal. That’s why they say the first million is the hardest: once you know you can do it, it becomes a question of HOW rather than WHETHER.


Every ceiling, when reached, becomes a floor,
upon which one walks as a matter of course and prescriptive right.

Aldous Huxley

Every time you don’t achieve your goals however, part of you breaks. You lose energy and confidence. You put energy into something that doesn’t manifest itself. Often, this energy turns into a puss-filled blister that poisons your peace of mind. You may be able to ‘let it go’ in the end, but it’s far from satisfying.

So maybe you shouldn’t gamble on goals at all? Possibly. But wouldn’t you become aimless? It reeks of stuffiness. Most people I know that actively don’t do any goalsetting, secretly do have aims. But they won’t confess to it, even to themselves, for fear of failing. Which means that when their hidden aim never materialises, they may find themselves mysteriously deflated.

Setting Goals

To reach a port, we must sail
—Sail, not tie at anchor
—Sail, not drift.

Franklin Roosevelt

Why we become addicted to our shortcomings

I used to be a real expert in NOT achieving my goals. I read all kinds of books, tried many methods and still fell short. I was a real hotshot in falling into the same traps over and over again.

There’s four big traps on the path to achieving your goals. In short, they’re DOPA – not accidentally reminiscent of dope. Often, we’re addicted to one or more of these traps and that’s why we always fall into them – we actually think that’s what we’re supposed to do!

Like making plans and telling the whole world about them, but never getting into action. Or desiring things you want for the wrong reasons. Or shooting into action blindly, without thinking first, and achieving all sorts of useless stuff.

Realising your Dreams is more than just writing down what you want. You also need to look why you want those things. That’s where many of our desires strand. We actually want to get something through a certain goal. The alterior motive is what you want, while the means to it often isn’t satisfactory. So even if you achieve that goal, it probably won’t fulfill your dream.

Losing weight won’t necessarily make you more attractive. Being rich won’t necessarily make you feel more successful or meaningful. The new life you build elsewhere may well look like an exact copy of your old one after three months.

Then there’s the Obstacles. If you refuse to see or heed them, chances are you’ll slam into them so hard you’ll break your momentum completely. On the other hand you shouldn’t become paralysed by thinking about them too much. You need a nice balance: you need to know what the obstacles are, but not necessarily everything they do or exactly how they work.

Next up, you need to make a Plan. I used to make plans way too early, without even really knowing what the Dream was. While a Plan is exactly that: a road map to get to a certain destination. If you just make a plan, where the hell are you going to end up with it? If it’s vague, you’ll probably end up losing steam in the middle of nowhere.

A Plan also needs to be precise. It’s like Paris-Dakar (the rally): the more details in your road map, the quicker you’ll be able to reach your destination without unpleasant surprises.

And once you’ve done all that, you still need to take Action. You may just as well cut out everything I mentioned before if you’re not going to take action. This is where almost everybody falls flat! Many take some action, and then start procrastinating.

Or some start shooting all around, running from the one thing to the other and generally not getting much done at all. Without a plan, you’re headed nowhere fast. Even the gold diggers knew they had to go West, and some even knew in advance how to mine for gold.

I want THAT one!

I want THAT one!

Going from DOPA-minus to DOPe-Ass Shit

I’ve never been addicted to any drugs except for DOPA. I know every bump in its road intimately. I’ve crashed my hopes and dreams into its treacherous crevices so many times it’s like I built the damn thing myself (oh shit, I did). The funny thing about the DOPA-trap is that there’s actually reward in falling for it, and that’s why we keep doing it.

Thinking about your goals literally releases dopamine, the hormone you also get after an orgasm. Yes, the one that makes you fall asleep. Not exactly the kind of energy you want to be releasing too much! Before you know it, you’ll be addicted to the illusion of progress: the one in your head. But it’s all fantasy, just like a regular drug rush.

Through experience, I’ve managed to overcome the DOPA traps. I’ve gotten to know myself and my typical weaknesses, so I know how to avoid them. I’m still sensitive to its allure, but most of the time I can catch myself before I slip. How do I know? Because I’ve begun to realise my dreams, one by one.

Things that seemed impossible, are beginning to happen. I never thought I’d be a surf instructor, and yet this summer I’ll be teaching for six weeks. I never thought I’d have my own business that actually made money, and here I am. I never believed this blog would attract any intelligent readers, and yet here you are.

I know now that I’ll achieve my goals when I set my mind to it. Most of the time, it takes a bit longer than I’d like to but I’m going to make it. I also know what I want much better than before, and my desire for it is stronger and more stable.

Achieving Goals is easy when you know how

Want to learn how to beat the DOPA-traps too?

Of course I wouldn’t be telling you this if I didn’t have an amazing way to turn it all around and achieve your life goals with ease and competence.

In the next series of article I’ll show you how you can turn DOPA into a succes story. We’ll cover each part of the bumpy road, until you’re all ready and packed to get to the summit of your dreams. Ready?

Stay tuned!

Why not receive the whole series in your inbox, one article a week? That way you have the security that you can work on your goalsetting skills, without having to worry about following up on it.

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