Thinking Yourself Happy: Setting Realistic Goals

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Derek lived by the adage, “reach for the stars.” He believed that any position except at the very top was worthless. He did not realize that some of his lofty aspirations were beyond his true capabilities, and he was often disappointed and unhappy.


Many people say: “If you want to attain a goal, go for it! Just do it!” And when people fail to achieve what they set out to do, they are often told, “You’re just not trying hard enough.” This criticism is often incorrect, and sometimes quite toxic.

For example, one of our clients, let’s call him Bob, felt like a failure because, try as he might, he was never able to build a muscular physique or develop into a good athlete. His father and two brothers were all very athletic and well-built. Bob admired them greatly and wanted to emulate them, but unfortunately, he had not inherited their physical characteristics and natural athletic abilities. Instead of deluding himself about being capable of becoming an athlete, Bob needed to stop trying to be like his father and brothers and to pursue goals that lay within his grasp.

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Another client, Sean, steered clear of the gym and the sporting field (despite the fact that his father was a physical education teacher). Instead, he became a tournament chess and bridge player.

• It is important to strike a balance between perseverance and knowing when to quit.

• You need to assess your interests, abilities and goals and take an honest self-inventory.

If a goal lies within your reach, by all means go for it. But if the strain is too much, you need to reassess the situation.

Don’t try to split a granite rock by banging your head on it! Or, to use a different metaphor, remember to shift gears.

• If your plans are not working out and you are feeling tired, discouraged and frustrated, try something else.

A “switcher” is not the same as a quitter. A quitter does not give something a proper try but throws in the towel prematurely, just as soon as the going gets tough. But, if you give something a real effort and are still unsuccessful,

• taking a different direction can remove your frustration, and you’ll grow as a result.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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