Anti-Goals: The Future Forecasting Practice That's A Total Game Changer

A word of advice: Give up on your goals. Okay, let's back up a little bit — goal-setting is encouraged by many of the world's most successful figures, and countless motivational quotes tell us to "shoot for the moon" and "never give up." But the truth is that goals often don't work out. Take New Year's resolutions, for example: Only 8% of people who set them actually achieve them, according to research by the University of Scranton (via Inc.). Some people never start, procrastinating on taking action until they forget their goal altogether; others try but give up once they hit a rough patch or make a mistake.

This doesn't mean you should never strive for better than what you currently have — that's a guaranteed way to stay stuck indefinitely. However, you might need to change how you approach your dreams. If you're struggling to make strides, anti-goals could be the solution.

What are anti-goals?

As you might've guessed by their name, anti-goals are essentially the opposite of regular goals. So what does that mean, exactly? Andrew Wilkinson, an entrepreneur and business expert, explained the concept in a viral article for Medium. "[I]nstead of thinking through what we wanted our perfect day to look like, we thought about the worst day imaginable and how to avoid it. We inverted and came up with what we call Anti-Goals," he wrote. You may not know exactly where you want to go, but by pinpointing what you don't want, you can come up with a list of boundaries and personal no-nos when planning your future.

Anti-goals offer a more flexible approach to goal-setting. Instead of trying to hit the bullseye, you prioritize defining where you don't want to land — so if you remain outside that area, you've succeeded, in theory. The practice of setting anti-goals may also keep you from running into the same negative patterns and traps. When you're clear on what outcomes you don't want, you know what to steer clear of when making major life decisions.

How to start setting anti-goals for your future

If you're not happy with your current life situation, use that frustration as anti-goal fuel. Sahil Bloom, an investor and entrepreneur, suggests starting with just one area first. This could be work, romance, health, finances, or any other arena that needs a boost. Then, imagine where you want to end up — yep, that means setting a traditional goal before creating your anti-goals. Once you've come up with a goal, like starting a brand new career with better pay, turn it on its head and imagine what conditions or roadblocks would prevent you from living your dream life. These are your anti-goals.

For the career example, anti-goals might include deciding to never accept an entry-level position again or refusing to work a job that requires overtime hours. Look to your past experiences to identify what you can no longer tolerate. If something didn't jive well before, it probably won't in the future, either.

There's one caveat, though: Anti-goals might not work for everyone. Renée McDonald, a counselor, coach, and psychotherapist, told The House of Wellness, "[W]hile I can see where the anti-goal idea is coming from, thanks to the way our brains work, once you start consciously focusing on what you're trying to avoid, you could end up with the very things you don't want — and then some." So instead of letting anti-goals run your life, aim for a combination of traditional goals and anti-goals instead — and your future might just start to resemble the one you imagined in your New Year's resolution.