Goal Setting Gone Bad: The Trophy Goal

trophy wife trophy goal

My dad and I for as long as I have remembered – and generally after a wine or three – have been saying that we are going to run a marathon together. It inevitably comes up on New Years Eve when we are all figuring out what goals we are going to achieve for the year.

So, for the past 5 years, dad and I have not kicked that particular goal. We’ve always pinned it on laziness, busyness or fear.

Then the other day I was watching this incredibly interesting Ted Talk by Cardiologist James O’Keefe where he spoke about his research findings which suggested that the #fitspo is medically incorrect and that running long distances could be harmful… even fatal. As a dedicated runner this shocked him. He goes much further into detail in his talk which I sincerely recommend for anyone interested in fitness but basically his conclusion was that it was healthiest for people to run shorter distances (up to 5kms), occasionally.

As soon as the talk finished I breathed a sigh of relief. Phewph – I don’t need to run a marathon anymore! I can just run the 5kms which is what I wanted to do anyway. The thought stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Hang on a second? Why the hell was this goal on my vision board and the itinerary for every January 1st if I had no interest whatsoever in achieving it?”

This goal has been staring out from my various vision boards like an angry teacher for years now but the more I thought of it the more I realised it was my worst nightmare. Running a marathon with the sweat and the flies and mental endurance – hellish! How had this never occurred to me before?

It was then I realized that it was a trophy goal.

We’ve all heard of trophy wives – defined as “a young, attractive wife regarded as a status symbol for an older man”. As such I have written my very own definition…

trophy goal

noun informal  derogatory

: an attractive goal regarded as a status symbol for an individual that is being actively inauthentic.

To expand on it – a trophy goal is the direct manifestation of the urge that you need to prove yourself. 

It is a goal that you internally identify as proof. Proof that you have made it. That you are enough.

For me I thought that if I one day managed a 42 kilometer race it would be definitive proof to everyone that I am a healthy and fit person. The fact that what I really wanted (and want) is to be able to run 5 kilometers with ease was irrelevant – because people don’t see you doing that. Well, not the people that you want to prove yourself to anyway.

When I examined my behavior I felt like a proper goose. I was spending time aiming for a goal that would give me bragging rights except I would never achieve it (because I had no interest) and then I would promptly beat myself up for not getting there. Well that’s just crazy talk.

The worst side-effect is that this backwards form of goal setting is a direct lie to yourself. It results in a feeling of dis-ease within your soul because you are creating an internal contradiction – you are energetically invested in something you are not genuinely interested in. I saw something the other day that examined the repercussions within our body that occur when we lie. They proved that when we lie it actually physically weakens us (tested via strength testing while lying – when the person lied they could not achieve the same physical feats as when they were saying statements of truth). So imagine what is happening when we are permanently do this on an unconscious level. Imagine the unknown effects that could be happening.

The more I look around the more I see it within my social circles. The friend that completed his law degree because his parents wanted him too (even though he wanted to be a musician). The friend that wanted to be a yoga instructor just because she enjoyed practicing it so much – even though she had no desire to teach. The girl that stayed with the guy just because on paper he was a good match.

These are all versions of the same story; people that are confusing image with desire.

So right now I would love to invite you to inspect your shelves and see if you have any shiny trophy goals sitting atop it. I imagine that a lot of us are walking around with a lot of these goals weighing heavy on our shoulders.

From now on, if one of my goals doesn’t light me up when I think about it I will be rerouting my energy straight to something more worthy. Join me?

What about you? Are you noticing that you may have some trophy goals as well?

Would love to hear in the comments…

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