Brian and Stormtrooper

Setting goals and living beyond the compliment

“Nice job!”  “I like what you said.”  “That was really entertaining.”  “You’re really good at that.”  Compliments are great.  They can help motivate us as we move toward our goals, but they can also be stumbling blocks if we let them.

Picture a runner who has a goal of running a 4 minute mile.  He trains every day, pushing himself a little bit further every time he goes for a run.  He consistently wins every race, but that’s not his goal.  His goal is the 4 minute mile.  After one particularly great race, in which he sets a personal best of 4:10, and the fans go crazy:  “That was amazing!”  His coach adds “Best running I’ve ever seen.”  Even his parents chime in: “We’re so proud of you!  Way to go!”  At this point, the runner can react in two ways:

I did it.
I’m doing it.

It’s especially easy for people engaged in creative pursuits to settle for the “I did it” when we receive compliments.  Even in writing this little blog, I’m tempted to relax and take my eyes of the goal when people tell me “I like your blog,” or “That post described exactly how I feel, too,” or “You’re a great writer.”  Picture me with hands behind my head, elbows out, leaning back in a leather executive chair with a stupid-wide grin plastered on my face.  (Deep sigh) . . .  “Yep, I’ve arrived.  My complimenters speak the truth.”

But we must press on, or the little milestones mean nothing.  The Sirens’ complimentary song is beautiful and tempting, providing temporary comfort, but it is death to our goals.  Instead, we must take the compliments in stride, and keep at it until we’ve reached our destination.  And once we’ve done so, then we must set new goals or risk stagnation.

How about you?  What do you do with compliments?  Are you able to use them to motivate you toward your goals, or have they become a stumbling block to you?

7 thoughts on “Setting goals and living beyond the compliment

    1. brian Post author

      Sounds like you’re doing it right, then. That’s exactly what I’m shooting for, but often I get caught in just working for the compliments, and don’t finish what I set out to do.

        1. brian Post author

          Oh, I would never do that. I’m not saying that complimentary feedback should be eliminated. It’s not the complimenter’s fault that I’m like this. It’s my issue, and I know I need to work at it, but I still want people to say nice things to me and encourage me along the way.

          Based on what I know of people, I suspect I’m not the only one who has this issue. Further, I suspect it’s a deeper piece of a human condition that’s common to many or even most people. Homer wrote about it (see Sirens’ song reference, above), Tolkien wrote about it (recall the Hobbits’ choice to stay with Elrond and accept the “job well done” compliments or continue on to Mordor). The Greeks (or at least the subsequent stories about the Greeks) understood that resting on ones laurels was the beginning of the end of greatness in a man. Heck, even the hare let himself get puffed up and took his eyes off the goal, which allowed the tortoise to claim the prize.

  1. Gary Paul

    My security software think that your links are suspect,,,and now I know why.
    Gary Paul (Motivational Commentator)

    1. brian Post author

      My links think your security software is very demotivational. Thanks for helping provide balance in this land of accolades in which I live.


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