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Doing Better is Unachievable

What is 'better'?

So many of us are aiming to do better. Always trying to do more.

So what is more or better?

'Better' in dictionary terms means more desirable, satisfactory or effective.

'More' means to a great amount or degree.

So we are aiming for a more desirable, satisfactory and greater amount. This is true for so many of us in society today. Many of us are always striving to do better. The word striving has its own connotations - making a great effort. So we are putting in a lot of effort to always do more and improve.

What makes us want to do 'better'?

Motivational speakers will tell us that its good to keep moving. It is good to keep motivating ourselves. We can do this by creating new goals.

The concept is that to keep moving is good. This in actual fact is because being static is not possible. So if we aren't moving forwards then we are moving backwards or sideways. Nothing is static in this world - even stagnant water grows bacteria.

So many of us have taken this on board which in essence is fantastic. However we haven't really understood the concept of what it is we are trying to achieve. We are told to set goals to improve - to improve our work, to improve ourselves, to improve our relationships, to improve our lives - to make us happier. So we have therefore set the ultimate goal of all goals to be happier. We have connected the belief of creating more goals and continually moving towards them with ultimately leading us to happiness. So in theory that sounds brilliant.

How do we know when we have achieved 'better'?

When setting goals we all know we need to define it. So we break it down and we set relationship goals, work goals, parenting goals and so on. We are so so busy achieving all these goals and then setting new ones because they are whats going to get us to the ultimate goal.

But wait - did we define the ultimate goal. The goal of happiness. Remember we must always define a goal. A goal needs to be definable, then we know when we have achieved it. A goal need to be specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant. This is how we can be sure we have achieved it.

How Achievable is this?

So that sounds achievable then. All we have to do is a bit more. Or do we? One of my clients wants to be a better student. So all he has to do is a bit more. I went deeper into this - in fact it turns out that he needs to do more than 'more', what he really wants is to get the top grade band. So that is actually his true "better"/more. Yet on deeper investigation it is not. What? How can getting the top marks not be the enough. His reason is that he will discount it if he didn't get the grades based on the correct path - in this case he needs to do it without assistance. So now in this example we are clearer on the definition of "doing better". We are starting to get a defined goal . Something he can actually aim towards. He must get top marks (here in New Zealand the top band is called 'excellence' ) AND he must do it without assistance. Then and only then will he be happy with his results and then he believes he will have overall happiness. So that is his plan and that is his aim. (Unfortunately due to his learning difficulties he actually is unable to do his work without aid so further clarification is required in this case as we need to discover his definition of 'assistance'). It seems to me that he had initially set an impossible goal without realising it. One that he would never achieve so he was aiming for the unachieveble.

Have we yet defined our 'more' and 'better'. We could now start to do this.

The implications of 'better'

When we ask someone their aims and goals - the aim is to do better and this can be defined on closer examination as discussed above. Now let us look at what is behind this want to do better: it is to make progress and to head towards happiness. However have we considered the implications of this. What message does that give to our subconscious. Doesn't this imply that where we are now isn't good enough. Yes of course it does. And this affects our identity - our identity becomes that we are not good enough. What happens is that so many of our behaviours are hinged on these feelings. When we aren't good enough, now, this leads us to other spin off thoughts, and hence behaviours, associated with not being good enough.

We have associated the idea that if we do better we will feel better. Yet what I've noticed with my clients is that when we get to better - guess what - we have a new goal - to do better still. Let's face it, better is always good however when does 'better' ever become enough?


Whilst the desire to do better is most definitely a fantastic plan, it leads our subconscious to believe we are not good enough right now. Coupled with the lack of definition of what the ultimate goal is - usually happiness - and how to know when we have achieved it, means there are flaws in the process that we would do well to adjust.

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