Guest Post from Author/Whiskey Lover/Zen Priest/Kung-Fu Master Keith Martin Smith

web version-108If you’re on this site, you’re here for a reason.

You probably want change of some kind — maybe more confidence with women, more connection a your wife or partner, just more ease in life, or more money, or to be a better leader, or any number of things.

In, my experience, getting these things is going to require a shift in how you look at your world.

Consider this:


We can confuse what we think and feel with who we are.

For instance, I might think I’m a nice person, believe that I’m original and unique, and feel that my life is going to be different, happy, and lived on my own terms. But those are just empty ideas that may or may not have any bearing on what’s really happening.

After all, people are judged by what they do, not by what they think or feel. How are you defining your own life in this very moment? What goals have you set, what goals have you met, and what goals have slipped past you?

Here are some sobering stats:
80% of people never set goals to improve their life.
Of the 20% that do set goals, 70% fail at their stated goal.
That means out of 100 people, 6 will actually set goals they meet.

Those are roughly the same odds of winning the jackpot on a slot machine. In other words, pretty crappy.

Most people I know make one of two mistakes:

One mistake is they never set goals, but remain vaguely dissatisfied at the shape of their life. These are the people for whom failure is too dangerous, and so not trying is how they think they’ll win the game. I’ve never seen it work.

The second mistake is they set a goal but then don’t know how to actually systematically go about getting it.

Here are five rules so you can set goals and get them, so that your life can be defined by what you do and not what you feel.


If you’re struggling with a goal — any goal —write it down. If it’s longer than two sentences, you’re lost already. Your goal should be simply defined. Here are some great examples:

“I want to double my income this year.”
“I want to get into a loving and passionate relationship.”
“I want to be able to approach any woman I want.”
“I want to finish a book and get it published.”
“I want to revitalize my marriage.”
“I want to get more clients.”
“I want to find a career I love.”

You will always fail to meet poorly defined goals, or meet them in ways that don’t really change much. “Make more money”, after all, could mean an extra $100,000, or an extra $100.


Let’s say you “want to listen better”. How are you going to measure that? How will you know when you cross the finish line, and the goal is met?

Think of buying a car. When is the car yours? For some, it’s when they pay. Others when they drive off the lot. Others when the keys are handed over. The point is it’s a little different for different people, but everyone knows the exact point at which they’ve bought a car.

Your goals must be the same way. The reason is this allows you to track your progress, hold yourself accountable to whether or not you’re actually making progress, and get support if you need it.


This is a common mistake I see, and that I’ve experienced. What does getting the goal give you, that’s deeper and more important than the goal itself?

This is the key to your motivation, and getting through the hard parts of the journey.

Let’s say you want to double your income. So what? What does that give you? Imagine if you were sitting with a group of potential investors. You shared your goal, which was to double your income. And you stop there. Do you think anyone would be inspired? Would want to back you or invest in you?

Of course not. Any jackass can want more money, more women, even more connection. So what? What does that really give you? Why does it matter?

If you know this deeper thing, you’ll have all the motivation you need to keep pushing towards your goal.


Elephant feet.My clients often have difficult goals they want help in reaching. These are big goals — doubling a company’s size, delegating better as a leader, clearing 6 figures, publishing a book.

Goals are tied to our self-image and our self-worth, by definition.

But this mean that not getting our goal might say all kinds of negative things about us. We say we’re going to go the gym, but we don’t. We feel kinda crappy about it, and after a few months we make another promise to ourselves, which we break soon afterwards. We don’t fully trust ourselves, and we don’t really believe ourselves when we commit to something else that might be hard.
If this kind of thing is happening to you, I can all but guarantee you’ve never sat down and asked yourself: “What I am afraid of now that I’ve set this goal?”

That I won’t do it.
That I’ll fail and attack myself.
That I’ll hate myself.
That I’ll have to admit I’m lazy.
That I can never have the body I want.
That I’m just a loser.

Sometimes too, you might be afraid of getting the goal, because of what it will mean to your life. This is where we often have unconscious hidden competing commitments working directly against our goals.


77559_v1The fears your goal brings up will create your competing commitments, which protect you the way a helicopter parent protects a child.


Here are some real world examples of competing commitments from my own clients:

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 6.30.11 PM

Your psyche is very smart, and if you have strong competing commitments you will sabotage your goal, usually unconsciously, because there is an unresolved tension within you.


You can chart out your goals (one at a time), the fears they bring up, and what competing commitments those fears my cause.

With that in hand, you’ll have a powerful roadmap to understand what’s really in the way of your goal: you.

I get that this might not sound so easy.  Hell, if it were easy, you would have done it already and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

You might want support in this, and I want to support you.

On Tuesday, June 30th I’ll be hosting a free webinar where I’ll walk you through this entire process, including a more detailed way to get around your competing commitments.

More info on that can be found here.


Much of this is based on Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s book, “Immunity to Change”, and the system they’ve developed to help people and organizations overcome resistance to change and meeting goals. I use their work when helping my clients.

About Keith Martin-Smith
Keith is an award-winning author of three books, a Shaolin Kung Fu lineage holder and recognized master, and an ordained Zen priest. He works as a coach helping his clients define, pursue, and meet life and business goals. More at: