Are You Setting Goals That Make You Unhappy? — the poker how to

Take a few deep breaths and notice how the air flows as you inhale, slowly in through your mouth down your throat and finally reaching your stomach. There might be a small pause and the journey of the exhale begins. Slowly the air curls in your stomach and starts moving upwards and out, through your lungs and throat, and finally out through your mouth. How much better does taking a few deep breaths make you feel?

And with that semi new-age meditation talk let’s get to today’s post which revolves around an epiphany I had a few days ago about setting goals.

You see, I am what you would call your typical over-achiever. I set crazy goals and force myself to do them, I want things to be pretty close to perfect otherwise I’ve done a seriously bad job and can now scold myself for a perfect amount of time.

I do not wish I wasn’t an over-achiever, not at all, I like it and see it as a strength. Although sometimes my ambitious nature gets the best of me which brings me to our topic.

Reaching Your Goals, Feeling Like Crap

A few days ago I sat in my chair with a weather I wish upon no one, the wind was howling and throwing water at my windows. You could say it was a gloomy evening, but I find weather of similar nature fun and interesting. My favourite kind of weather is a thunderstorm, because the thunderstorms in Northern Europe are pretty harmless and beautiful.

As I sat there, deep in thought about my situation, I had a private storm going on in my head like so many of us. Juggling an infinite number of things at the same time thinking that if I do not handle all of them I suck.

At that very moment I began thinking about my goals for how much poker I “should” play each month. My goal had always been to play at least 50,000 hands of poker a month. That equates to about 125-135 hours of playing 4 tables of 6-max No-Limit Hold’em

This is of course nothing in terms of normal working hours but I do not think you can compare the two.


The thing that struck me was that when I succeeded in reaching my goal, I was burned out and couldn’t play poker for a few weeks because I just hated it. That got me thinking. Why am I setting a goal that will make me feel bad when I reach it?

I started pondering on the fact that on average during my poker career I had played about 30,000 hands a month. In the beginning I only played 3-4 tables and a maximum of 30,000 hands a month and felt fine.

So what if… I should adjust my goals? What would happen if I did this?

  • I would earn less money
  • I would have more time for other things I enjoy even more
  • There would be balance
  • I would feel happier

That seems like a pretty good list where the pros outweigh the cons. I do not really need the extra few thousand dollars it gives me to play more, I have never been one that really needs excessive amounts of money as I have never craved expensive material things.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy driving a nice car and having that new shiny camera, but it is not something I MUST have.

Do You Want Happiness?

We all want happiness, that is one thing that is certain. But are we going about it the wrong way? In the early days of poker I looked to the game as a vehicle, the money would give me freedom to avoid taking a loan when I went to study at a university.

Along the way I forgot that money is just a vehicle. Money is not the end goal for most of us, it is a middle-man for time, freedom or even that nice car or house.

Keep setting goals and figuring out what works for you, because if you feel like shit then obviously something is wrong.

How Will You Know What Works?

Your body has a feedback mechanism. Feelings like pain, happiness or misery are there for a reason. If you feel content and happy you are probably heading in the right direction. On the other hand, if you’re feeling depressed or especially gloomy you should think about what needs to change. Listen to yourself.

Recommended Reading

Here are a few links I recommend you look at that I’ve read in the past and which I really enjoyed.

How to Set Goals You Will Actually Achieve by Steve Pavlina

How to Find True Happiness by Erin O’Donnell

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