Why Is It That No Writer Can Pick Goals For You?

Roy Cook
7 min readDec 26, 2020


They Have No Idea How To Do That.

Photo by Maxime on Unsplash

Why is it that no one tells you how to find goals that work for you, that honor your values, that will make you fulfilled. Why is that? Because no one knows how to do that.

Each of us is different and unique in our core values, family, spirituality, experience, vocation, personality, willingness to take risks, bravery, people skills, etc. No one can possibly pick goals for someone else. So how do you know what goals are the best ones for you and your unique situation?

Writers can talk about life hacks. They can write about general subjects like habits that have nothing to do with your specific goals. They can go into great detail about generalities than most of us think makes sense. But they can’t pick goals specific to your situation. And if they tried, you shouldn’t follow them.

Let‘s see if we can prove that. Here are capsule views of a few different people:

  1. High integrity, courage, no spirituality, determination.
  2. Extremely creative, adventurous, very spiritual, introvert.
  3. Very athletic, strong believer in being close attention to his diet, not a corporate type, likes to work on a team for projects and other work.
  4. Writer and painter, competitive, married with three kids.

These four are much more complex than what I’ve shown with only a handful of descriptors.

I understand how a writer could promote a particular way to be more successful: tiny habits, stacked habits, Essentualism, reading, efficiency tools, etc. None of these depend on specific goals. They are designed to work for different people with different traits, desires and skills.

Goals and Core Values

Goals are an entirely different matter. How can any writer with certainty select goals for the people listed above and several more thousand or million that might read their blog or book? He can select techniques, approaches, maybe systems but NOT specific goals.

There are about 400 values. Based on the teaching of Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and his business partner Hyrum W. Smith (What Matters Most), we each have internal core values that are inherent and have been part of us since childhood. They don’t seem to change much, if at all, over time.

Each of us and of our four examples above have 10–20 core values. We may share 3–4 values with another person but I have not seen any two people share all the same values in my decade of teaching this to adults at a local college.

If we consider that each of the four above have 10–20 core values which are internal, we might start to see why no one can select goals with certainty for these four. Even if we had personal relationships with each of them, we don’t know their core values. And even if they told us their core values, we’d have no idea how strongly they feel about each value.

Make no mistake, core values rule their lives. If they are living at odds with those values, they are unlikely to have a fulfilled life. When you travel about, how many people that you see at airports or on rapid transit look happy and fulfilled? How many friends, neighbors and workmates are happy and fulfilled with a peace of mind? I know few.

And if those that I know aren’t happy with peace of mind even though they have complete control over what goals to pick, how they live their lives, what careers they choose, where they live, who they marry, what type of family they have, etc., how can an outside writer do that? If I’m correct and they can’t live their own lives in such a way that they have fulfillment and peace of mind, how can a writer who doesn’t even know them pick their goals for the? He can’t. It’s not possible.

Recent Article on Happiness

Allow me take parts of a recent blog from a fellow that I think very highly of. The article was about how to achieve happiness. By the way, I don’t question the advice nor wisdom of any of these experts. I do have another issue with each of them. Here are a few of the quotes from experts followed by my responses:

  1. “What do you value most in your life? What aspects of your life do you want as your priorities? What kind of life do you want to lead in the short term and in the future, say, in 10+ years? What do you want your life to be filled with (e.g., marriage, children, travel, health and exercise, culture)?”.
    My response: But what goals do we pick? Specific goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time focused? How do we translate these bromides into concrete goals? The expert can’t do it or he would.
    Can you or I translate the third question into concrete goals that we know will bring fulfillment and peace of mind? I can’t and I would be presumptuous to try. Why? We don’t know his core values! And even if we did know, we will never know him well enough to be able to pick goals that will with certainty give his fulfillment and peace of mind. Only he can do that.
  2. “Real happiness, Aristotle believed, comes from a continuous effort to become the best possible version of yourself.” You can increase your happiness over time. Once you realize that you can become happier, your attitude and response to everything around you that makes you miserable changes.
    My response: Can we translate “the best possible version of yourself” for any of the four above or even for ourselves. Please tell me the best possible version of yourself. It sounds good but…
  3. “The most important trick to being happy is to realize happiness is a skill you develop and a choice you make. You choose to be happy, and then you work at it. It’s just like building muscles. It’s just like losing weight. It’s just like succeeding at your job. It’s just like learning calculus.”
    My response: So that’s the secret. We simply have to chose to be happy. I had no idea it was so simple. So I can ignore the issues around my career, some problems with the kids, my earnings versus my dreams, the current epidemic and, well, I could list more. I only have to choose to be happy. It’s just like losing weight. By the way, how’s that going?
  4. True happiness comes from an internal state of mind, anchored in the contentment only attained by living life your best life. The brain is a pleasure-seeking machine. Once you teach it happiness habits, over time, it will want more and more happiness.
    My response: Now the fourth piece of advice tells me that I just have to live my best life. Which window do I go to for that answer? How many people do you know who you think could answer this question with certainty? And how about happiness habits. I suspect that might be a little tougher than the writer is letting on. Don’t you?

At some point, we must pick meaningful goals that work for us as individuals to make this work. Have you got yours ready yet?

I have yet to find a writer and/or expert that can pick meaningful goals that are correct for another person with certainty? They can’t do it. They don’t even try to do it. They can talk generalities. But goals have to be SMART to work. And they have to be specific for each of us. We all have different values. Goals come from values.

Core Values

Now I’m beginning to see why I can’t read good blogs or books on core values. The writers don’t know much about the only part of each us that we can study to find goals that we truly know with certainty fit our unique lives.

So allow me to close with my opinion based on 30 years experience with core values and the gratifying results, as promised specifically by Covey and Smith. You discover your 10–20 inherent core values. Then you make DAILY decisions consistent with those values. They both promise that you will then achieve fulfillment and peace of mind (translation: happiness). I found that to be true after doing same for 11 years 1993–2004.

One further step for others who wish to take that step. If you add a few other skills (courage, people skills, determination, etc.), you can achieve financial independence. All three of us found that to be true. For me that last step was taken within the 11 years mentioned above.

If you want to read my other core values blogs: https://medium.com/the-innovation/your-core-values/home. They are all taken from my book, to be published in January 2021 — A Fool’s Errand: Why Your Goals are Falling Short and What You Can Do About It.

If you’d like me to email you the first chapter and notify you when the book is published, please add your email here: https://mailchi.mp/592c9a435a29/a-fools-errand. (Until then, I promise to share with you the power of core values via blogs taken from my book 2–3 times per week.)



Roy Cook

Entrepreneur, Mentor, Philanthropist, Author — published new book on core values: A FOOL’S ERRAND - Why Your Goals Are Falling Short and What You Can About It