Was having a talk with a good friend the other week about plans for the future and where they see themselves in a few years time. They mentioned wanting to be more confident, so I asked them what they planned to do to achieve that as I’ve been (as my regular readers would know) on my own path looking for a sustainable source of confidence. With a laugh he replied: “go to the gym and get buff”.

Although he was joking I’ve often heard this as a serious response to the question of how one, especially if one is of the male variety, gains confidence. Which lead me to think of what a good criteria would be to evaluate whether or not a certain goal is a good one to set to get one step closer to achieving true sustainable confidence. Do note that I am talking about optional goals that one sets for one’s self in life; I do not refer to goals that people set for themselves, for instance, to get themselves out of dire financial difficulties – which is a completely different issue. I’m referring to goals that people set for themselves expressly for the purpose of being fulfilled and having a sense of accomplishment (which is a precursor for confidence).

I think of it phrased in the following question: if you were to invest your time and resources into achieving this goal X months/years down the track, and by chance at the very last minute you were denied the achievement of this goal, would you be happy to walk away with what you’ve accomplished up until that point or would this be the defining outcome that will determine the worth of all that you’ve invested into this venture?

The first is a worthy goal to strive towards, the second is futile.

A goal being a means to an end is a product of the carrot-and-stick mentality that capitalism has worked into our everyday culture, and it has been proven time and time again that goals set in this way will never lead to a sense of fulfillment which is, at the end of the day, what we humans seek as we traverse this life and planet. Think of the people who work tirelessly day in and day out, 9-to-5 with the fantasy of a high-priced young retirement with the mansion, bach, and private yacht that was seductively massaged into their subconscious from a young age by celebrity TV shows and music videos. You ask any of those ‘lucky’ few who happened to achieve that lifestyle and they will inevitably admit that they think that they’ve wasted their time because once they achieved that lifestyle they decided that they wanted a new something else. The goalposts keep changing and they never will stop getting further from reach.

When a goal is set it should be set with the view of amassing useful tools and resources a long the way that would mean that the eventual achievement of that goal is neither here nor there; it’s the experience gained a long the way which is valuable and sought after. A successful millionaire can be plomped on an island, stripped of his money, and make his millions back in a blinking of an eye because of the experience he previously gained on his path to his millions and for no other reason.

Lastly, if the qualification of efforts is whether or not one has achieved the eventual goal then that means pleasure is attained when (and only when) that goal has been achieved and at no other point a long the way, which is a frightening concept to me. Pleasure should be derived from striving each and every day towards this arbitrary goal, and it should be intrinsic within the process of constantly working towards a future goal so that each day that one works towards this goal one emerges everyday with a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

So whether getting buff is the answer to becoming confident is a matter of perspective. If one believes that a rippled body will magically lead to a new-found goldmine of confidence then they are in for a big surprise. There are people that walk this earth who are aesthetically flawless yet have crushing depression, social anxiety, and self-esteem issues. Being physically good-looking/toned does not equal to confidence.

On the flip side if going to the gym is an effort that you are committed to each and every week to become a more happy, healthy, and fit individual then that’s a good starting point towards a goal which has the potential to create nuggets of confidence that are achieved every time you leave a successful gym session.

A wise man once likened life to a symphony: you don’t show up at the very last minute to just catch the ending, instead you sit through the whole piece enjoying the progression, variation, and contrast of the piece. Goals and life in general are the same – instead of looking only to the ending it’s meant to be joyful experience and you’re supposed to be dancing a long the way towards where ever you’re headed in life.


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