Working or Not Working: Pitfalls of Premature Categorization in your Goal Efforts

Feb 28, 2024
two silver buckets against white background- one says working and one says not working

In the pursuit of our goals, we often find ourselves quickly categorizing our efforts (and feelings) as either signs that it's working or not working. But what if this binary thinking is limiting our perspective? What if there's more to the picture than just two categories?

The False Sense of Certainty

It actually makes a lot of sense that our brains gravitate towards this all or nothing response.  Our brains crave straightforward answers.  They crave certainty.  And this can lead to hastily labeling efforts or emotions as either successes or failures. But in doing so, we risk overlooking valuable nuances and opportunities for improvement.  We risk believing that certainty comes from knowing whether something is working or not.  

Exploring Nuances and Opportunities

By prematurely categorizing our efforts or emotions, we risk missing out on valuable insights that contribute to the bigger picture of our goal pursuit. We miss out on the parts that are working.  The pieces that may need a small tweak rather than a complete overhaul.  We fail to recognize the skills and traits  we have developed and may even dismiss these, and our experiences, as irrelevant.  Instead of hastily labeling feelings of doubt as things not working, for instance, what if we recognized it as an opportunity for curiosity?  Instead of hastily labeling a missed deadline as a failure, what if we recognized it as an indication something needs to be tweaked such as a system, process or even the deadline itself?  

Layered Understanding: Mining Both Buckets

Rather than keeping efforts and emotions confined to separate buckets, let's dump them out and lay them on top of each other, creating a layered picture connected by a common force—you. The whole you, not just the you in this moment.  By exploring what we're labeling as "working" and "not working," we can uncover valuable insights that contribute to the path forward.

Embrace Complexity and Trust Yourself

As we navigate the beautiful in between within the spectrum of "working" and "not working," let's challenge hasty categorizations and embrace the complexity of the whole story.  The proof of innovation from past successes.  The resilience built from past challenges.  The capability you show through all areas of your life to expand and grow; to learn and overcome.  The true certainty that comes, not from results you create, but from you and your ability to keep going.  Trust yourself and your path, even when things don't go as planned. 

My goal is for you to navigate the middle ground between "working" and "not working" in your goal pursuits with a newfound perspective. Embrace the in-between, challenge hasty categorizations, and discover the rewards that come from telling yourself the whole story. Remember, your path to goal success is a layered picture, and every part, whether labeled "working", "not working" or even irrelevant, contributes to your unique story.

Embrace Complexity: Allow for the nuances and complexities that fall between "working" and "not working."  Looking at only one side of the story limits access to valuable skills, traits and experiences and may even lead to categorizing them as "irrelevant".  

Rethink Categorizations: Challenge the habit of hasty categorizations. Sometimes, the most valuable insights come from what seems to be "not working" or "irrelevant".  

Mine the Data: Take time to define what "working" means at different stages of your journey. Explore the useful data hidden between, and outside the buckets, and use it to fuel your progress.

Trust Yourself: Practice trusting yourself and your path, even when things don't go as planned. Remember, it doesn't work, you do.  And you are a dynamic human full of useful abilities and capabilities.

As you move towards your goals, may you discover new perspectives and solutions that propel you forward with confidence and clarity. Trust in yourself and your path, and remember that you can make any result work for you depending on how you use it.  


Is Self Trust Holding You Back? If you have a vision of the future you want to create.. Goals towards accomplishing that vision.. And yet, you are not moving in that direction. Or for every one step forward, you take 2, 3 or even 5 steps back. Your level of self trust may be holding you back. Sometimes it's super obvious. And sometimes the results are surprising.

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