The Trap of Relative Goals

If I base my personal health against the average, I might feel like I am set. I might think I do not need improvement.

If I base my budget success on others, I might think we are doing great.

This is relativity.

This is not an effective way to live.

Looking outward for markers of success is not fulfilling and often leads to complacency or bad decisions.

We should look inward. We should have our own personal goals.

If my goal is to have less credit card debt than the average American, I could still have significant credit card debt. This is a goal based on others.

If instead my goal is to have zero credit card debt, my goal is my personal decision. It is based on no one else.

What are other reasons to avoid relative goals and have personal goals?

1. More Accountability

If the goal is driven by your own personal convictions, you will stick to it.

2. More Fulfillment

If the goal is yours, accomplishing it brings more fulfillment than a random goal based on others. You set it, you accomplish it, you feel good.

3. Less Blaming

Relative goals leave room for finger pointing. You can always point to someone else doing “worse” to justify your lacking areas.

But making goals personal means you can only point at yourself when there are shortcomings.

4. More Reflection

When things go well (or don’t), you are more inclined to reflect on your goal setting if the goals were personal. You own the process, so you want to reflect to improve it.

5. More Specific

A goal you make for yourself is tailored to your situation. Relative goals are vague and usually have a lot of grey area.

If my relative goal was to run more than the average person each week, that might only mean one or two days a week. Instead, I have a specific personal goal to run 3 days a week.

I know exactly what I want to accomplish each week.

6. More Happiness

When I make my own goals, I feel empowered. I feel competent and happy.

Much of happiness is attributed to feeling in control of outcomes.

Personal goals give that feeling of control more than relative goals.


It is tempting to make relative goals. They are easier to make and easier to ditch.

But the satisfaction of accomplishing a specific personal goal cannot be beat. It is worth it.

We live in a society filled with comparison. Let’s try to block out that noise, look inward, and improve ourselves in ways that matter to us.

-Brittany