The 4 stages of goal-setting and goal-getting

What else is there to do besides setting goals for yourself and doing the work to achieve them?

The alternative is being an entitled fuck, and we don’t do that round these parts.

This article will be about the steps you can take to stop being such an entitled fuck, if that’s you. Or if you’re already on your path to greatness, the next step you have ahead of you.

Not all life goals are built the same, or pursued for the same reasons. The mindsets and orientations you have around chasing success will evolve, and certain ones will work wonders in certain seasons. Others are for a season ahead of you or a season behind you.

As we move forward in life, our relationship to our goals and ambitions moves forward too. So it’s vital to own where you’re at, and to meet others where they’re at. We all have a dream we’re dying to put into reality, and different advice will work for different people.

Now here’s a quick little framework of what to expect as you and your ambitions evolve.

Stage 1: Weakness and entitlement

Entitlement is how small children think, and rightfully so. They lack the ability to meet their own needs. They’re 100% dependent on their parents. They lack survival skills, independence, and a resume. All they can do is cry and whine and beg when their needs aren’t met, then wait for mommy or daddy to do something.

The problem isn’t that this stage exists. We were all toddlers at one point. We’ve all shat our pants before discovering the wonder and joy of the toilette.

The problem is that some people don’t grow out of this stage. It can persist into someone’s teen years, 20s, 30s, even well into their 50s and beyond.

The proper term for these people is LOSERS.

You know, the people who sit around complaining about the world instead of taking ownership for themselves.

The people who demand the world treat them like mommy and daddy, catering to their every need whenever they get pissy. This is a healthy way to act when you’re 4 years old, not so much when you’re 14 or 40.

If you’re in this stage…

You believe you deserve what you want without a complementary alchemical sacrifice. At this stage, you attempt to get what you want through begging for it.

The good looks without the healthy diet, the biochemical awareness, or the hormetic adaptations from movement and training. The money without the work or the value provided. The great relationships, the bomb-ass sex… Without the work on YOURSELF, your emotional world, and your social skills to be someone who people want to be around and possibly rub genitals with.

Some adults stuck in entitlement are downtrodden and objective failures by every metric. Think of the last disheveled guy who approached you on the street with a sob story as you thought “come on man, get to the part where you ask me for money already”

People stuck in entitlement in their teen years and beyond can even be good-looking, rich, and high-status…

But only because their parents were. Only because their parents gave everything material to them without teaching them higher values.

This is the manchild who drives a car, the 19-year-old ditz with a Rolex, the 25-year-old who acts like a baby when she doesn’t get her way, the adult man who calls himself an entrepreneur without actually running a working business. The only reason their entitlement hasn’t put them on the street is because either their parents pay for their every need, or they have just enough self-awareness and work ethic to pretend they’re not so entitled in public and hold up a normal adult lifestyle.

These people are always fucked up and selfish in private. No matter the masks they put on in public.

Some of them intuitively understand they’re full of shit, but refuse to face the truth. And you can’t force them to face the truth. No matter how much love and wisdom you show a person who’s committed to being in Stage 1 for good, they’re incapable of receiving it. You could show them a million paths to freedom, love, and responsibility, and they’ll still choose the one path to avoidance, selfishness, and misery every time. These people can get fucked.

Stage 1 isn’t a completely undesirable state, however. Even healthy adults have their pockets of it, and their moments (maybe even seasons) when they regress to being pissy little messes who complain that daddy’s always at work and mommy’s always off fucking some guy she met on Tinder.

Sometimes, letting yourself feel this entitlement and being honest with yourself that it’s there is exactly the emotional release you need. Sometimes, letting yourself be openly angry, lustful, pissy, lazy, prideful IS a healthy step in the right direction…

Only when you let it flow freely, then come to its natural conclusion.

Stage 1 fucks your entire life up when you refuse to move through it, especially not beyond it. You’re not a weak little bitch for feeling these pains, but you are a weak little bitch when you repress them or refuse to be responsible for them.

Plenty of people fuck up trying to help Stage 1 people, and give them completely ineffective advice:

“Stop being such a bitch and take some responsibility for your feelings!”

“Sometimes life just sucks. Complaining about it won’t solve anything!”

“Next time you feel pissed, drop down and do some pushups. This always helps me when I blah blah blah…”

“If you want to improve your life, you need to implement these habits, take action, work hard, put yourself out there, read these books, embrace these mindsets…”

“People aren’t out to get you. They’re all living their own lives and worrying about their own problems. When they mistreat you, it’s nothing personal. It’s just a projection of how they’re treating themselves. Or maybe you have an inflated sense of self-importance.”

Wait, this is ineffective? You may be thinking. It’s rational, effective advice, right? It’s worked for you, so why…

This advice works for people in Stage 2. People in Stage 1 will only dismiss it as patronizing feel-good bullshit. It doesn’t speak to their needs, as much as it may speak to yours.

It’s like telling a homeless dude to get a job, or a guy who can’t get a date that he should just be himself and find a girl who likes him for him. Or an overweight woman who wants to lose weight and look sexy that she needs to work out and eat healthy food.

Well no fucking shit!

Here’s the advice that actually does work for people stuck in Stage 1:

“Your problems aren’t your fault, they’re the world’s fault for treating you like shit!”

“Life fucking sucks, right? I hate how…”

“Those people who think they’re better than you can get fucked! They’re all just cliquey snobs who can’t recognize a person of real value when they meet one.”

“Men are awful, abusive, and narcissistic. They just want to use you, hurt you, and take from you.”

“Women are dumb opportunistic whores who can’t love a man for who he is, only for what he provides.”

I’m gonna blow your fucking mind here, but this advice is true, correct, and effective in certain realities. It’s harsh and abusive, but this is how reality operates for people stuck in Stage 1.

People whose realities are at Stage 2 or beyond will read this last bit and think it’s unhealthy, that it only describes some of the world and is only part of the entire picture, but this advice is for people whose sense of reality is confined to that part of the picture, many of whom don’t wish to transcend it, and will never choose to.

You can’t force these people to take action and refine their mindsets about life. Instead, helping them is all about ALLOWING them to indulge their repressed emotions and letting them come to terms with the emotions, not trying to fix them just yet. They’re not ready to be fixed, and all attempts to do exactly that will be met with harsh resistance.

For every person who’s too afraid to leave Stage 1, there’s a person who discovers Stage 2 and moves right to it. When people stuck in entitlement realize they have to make sacrifices and GIT GUD to earn what they want in life AND actively decide to stop being entitled fucks, their humility gets them to Stage 2.

Stage 2: Work and transaction

When an individual’s cognitive growth reaches this stage, they internalize a fundamental truth about life:

Everything worth having requires WORK and ACTION and RESULTS to be earnt.

If you want better looks, do the work on your fitness and biochemistry to earn them.

If you want more money, do the work that’ll earn it.

If you want better sex, do the work on yourself to become more fuckable, and put yourself out there to meet more (wo)men.

If you want a better social circle, do the work on yourself to be someone who higher-quality people want to be around. Get involved in activities where you can meet new people.

^ this could be a Stage 2’s theme song ^

This is where tangible life goals become a thing. People in Stage 2 believe you get what you want through planning it out, working for it, and providing value in exchange for it. You get what you deserve because you’ve earnt it through your actions.

It’s a good stage to be in. Whereas Stage 1 was all about TAKING VALUE from the world, Stage 2 is all about ADDING VALUE to the world.

Stage 2 people can be 9-5ers, entrepreneurs, students, athletes, artists, musicians, writers, anyone who’s taken up a productive life pursuit and has committed to improving at it. Stage 2 people’s foundational trait is the belief that if you put enough reps into something, you’ll be a success at it.

Advice like this is catnip to Stage 2 people:

“You can be a success at anything if you put enough time and effort into it!”

“Michael Jackson was kicked off his high school volleyball team 15 times before he went pro! Failure is just a step towards success!”

“Wake up at 5 AM so you have more time to pursue your goals!”

“Dreams don’t work unless you do!”

“If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done!”

“How did I become a good writer? I sat down and wrote 2000 crappy words every day!”

“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone!”

“Here’s a list of things that’ll improve your life: Lifting weights, healthy food, meditation, gratitude, spending time with people who make you a better person, making progress on your goals, and regular sex.”

Stage 2 is also where the importance of mindset first becomes apparent. Stage 1 people don’t give a fuck about metacognition and just want to take, take, take from the world.

Stage 2 people believe they have control over their thoughts and reality, and that both are shaped through hard work and commitment to one’s goals.

They’re the guy who shows up at the gym day after day and tracks his workouts and meals in his cute little logbook as he makes his gains. The girl who decides she wants to be a doctor, and studies daily with the goal of getting into med school. The young professional gentleman who works hard at his entry-level job, eager to impress his superiors and get a promotion. The girl who took up drawing and lets herself make shitty art as she refines her skill and slowly gets better at it.

These people are responsible, not entitled. They’re driven, committed visionaries. Their mindset that hard work = success is adult, not juvenile.

Plenty of people stay stuck in Stage 2 all their life, yet unlike Stage 1, staying here is a net positive experience. People in Stage 3 may try getting them to think beyond the value of work and routine into deeper mindset work and scaling their goals into greater things, but they’re comfortable here. Society benefits massively from Stage 2 people, and they’re great to be around in general.

Some people on this level of self-understanding realize hard work ain’t everything though.

Stage 3: Reflection and evolution

Stage 3 people internalize another part of the picture:

Mindset and reality creation.

Stage 3 people believe that your mindset creates your successes. Knowledge is power. Wisdom is the way forward. Thoughts shape reality.

Stage 3 people tend to be entrepreneurs and high performers in their niches. At the very least, they’re smart people who read a lot no matter how successful they are(n’t).

Stage 2 and Stage 3 people believe that work creates your reality more than anything. Stage 2 people swear by HARD, tangible work. Stage 3 people swear by SMART, intangible work without neglecting the value of the hard work.

To illustrate the difference between Stage 2 and Stage 3, let’s use the example of a pickup artist.

A pickup artist in Stage 2 believes that if he talks to enough women, eventually one will sleep with him. So he goes out, puts the reps in, gets rejected a bunch of times, and eventually stumbles upon a lady who’s down to clown. In his mind, his success happened because dating is a numbers game. He simply let himself get rejected enough times to get comfortable approaching women and sharpening his game, and those rejections were all the stepping stone towards his success.

A pickup artist in Stage 3 believes that the more women he talks to, the more he’ll learn about which women work well with him and which ones won’t. Whenever he gets rejected by a woman, he thoroughly analyzes every variable. How was he feeling? How was she feeling? What was going on in her life that caused the friction? How much of the approach was in his control vs out of his control? What kind of girl was she, and how compatible was she REALLY with him? WHY did he pick HER to approach? How does sexual attraction really work, and what are its multidimensional variables? When he’s successful with a woman, he attributes it to his wisdom – he picked a woman whose holistic self was compatible with his, and he could perceive all these little variables that ensured his success with her.

A Stage 3 is always asking himself WHY. He’s willing to challenge his mindsets and his self-concept, and to intimately understand the world’s machinations, rather than just follow them.

(A pickup artist in Stage 1 won’t even do anything to get women. He’ll avoid pursuing them, maybe do the occasional half-assed approach, then complain on Internet forums about how women don’t want to be with him)

Stage 3 people are bored by simple hard work and routine. They understand success as exponential, not linear. Failure isn’t just a prerequisite to success, it’s an opportunity to test what about one’s mindsets is true and what about them is false.

Advice that works for Stage 3 people:

“You create your reality!”

“Men should be masculine and women should be feminine. Sexual polarity is the foundation of attraction.”

“Lifting weights boosts your testosterone through a positive feedback loop.”

“Your thoughts/feelings/vibrations attract your circumstances. As is your internal world, so is your external world. Shifting your vibration shifts your reality.”

“Confident people don’t date insecure people. Honest people don’t date manipulative people. Why would they have any common ground? Their psychological, emotional spiritual worlds don’t align.”

“Here’s a step-by-step guide to quitting porn, AND a thorough explanation of everything a porn habit does to your brain and sexual energy.”

This advice won’t resonate with Stage 2 people. They’ll somewhat get it, but their focus will be more on what to DO habitually to achieve their goals, not so much on comprehending the machinations of life. And Stage 1 people will be like “yeah, I don’t give a fuck, now what about my feelings?”

Stage 3 is a great place to be. Assuming you have the prior two stages integrated, being able to think critically about your own mindsets and how YOU relate to the world refines the quality of your hard work and your relationship with yourself. You understand that you’re not defined by what you have or what you do, you’re defined by how you THINK and what you VALUE.

It’s tough for many Stage 3 people to see above it though. In their minds, knowledge and wisdom are the finish line of self-development. If you just work hard AND smart, constantly learning, constantly growing, you’ll get what you desire eventually!

This way of being has propelled many people to success, but Stage 4 people see beyond it.

Stage 4: Prioritization and destruction

This stage is counterintuitive, but is as natural as death and loss. It’s also paradoxical.

Here, you understand that success IS failure, and failure IS success.

Stage 4 people believe that NO, you DON’T control your life or what you can be a success at. You’re fated to be good at certain things, average at some others, and misaligned with all the rest. Rather than pursuing goals, a person in Stage 4 LETS GO of them.

I’m writing this piece because I’m in the middle of learning to love my own Stage 4. I’ve already been through the first 3 stages. I was an entitled fuck of a Stage 1 in my early teens who was always in his feelings and didn’t understand the value of effort or hard work, then at 15 until 20 years old, I was a Stage 2 who’d live for the grind of working on his body, his life path, and his relations. My life was all about showing up day after day and putting the work in. Then at 21-23, I was a Stage 3 who didn’t just want to experience life; my goals revolved around intimately understanding it and distilling that wisdom. Now that I’ve just turned 24, I’m in the early parts of my first macro Stage 4.

I can’t predict what’ll happen to me next outside of what I already have a frame of reference for, so I have nothing to say about what to expect from me from here on. As I move deeper into this Stage 4, I’ll find out more and more about what my limits and fates in life are, and learn to work more with them, not against them.

Some past goals of mine, I’ve achieved – ex. 3-plate squat, writing books, getting with certain girls… I have hard work to thank for some of them, my mindsets to thank for some others, and my willingness to let go of entitlement to thank for all of them.

Others I haven’t achieved. I talked yesterday about exactly that.

But that’s cool.

Stage 4 is when you stop seeing goals and achievement as the point. Your priority becomes self-revealing, not self-development or self-discovery. You don’t pursue your goals. You DESTROY your goals, and your pre-existing (mis)conceptions about who you truly are.

You realize that some things aren’t meant to be. No matter how hard you work on them. No matter how much you fix up your mindsets about them.

This is different from the Stage 1’s defeatist victim mindsets where in their mind, you’re hopeless against your limits. The Stage 2 believes you overcome your limits by powering through them. The Stage 3 believes you overcome your limits by empowering yourself with wisdom. The Stage 4 believes your limits ARE empowering.

A Stage 1 individual can’t learn some mindset hacks and skip right to Stage 4. Before you can let go of your goals, you need to have goals to let go of, and have learnt through experience that yes, letting go is the right thing to do. You need to have reached the limits of your edges. Giving up on your goals prematurely only sends you back to Stage 1 or 2.

Let’s use my former aspiration to become a powerlifter as an example of moving through the stages.

I started out believing I was destined to be a weak, skinny guy for the rest of my life. (Stage 1)

Then I realized I can change my body through hard work, and decided to work out regularly + eat healthy meals to put muscle mass on. (Stage 2)

I became inspired to get on the platform someday (by a girl I really wanted to impress lmao), and modified my training around that. I made a ton of progress in a short amount of time, as I researched and experimented with different training methods that gave me the fastest strength and muscle gains of my life. (Stage 3)

I realized that I wasn’t actually in love with the powerlifting scene, but with the feeling of having a strong, powerful body. I let go of my aspiration because I was chasing it for incongruent reasons, but still let my fitness have its place in my life from then on. (Stage 4)

Was I a failure because I didn’t achieve that goal? Hell no.

Chasing your fantasies, however misaligned with reality and fate they are, is how you figure out the world’s machinations and what you’re truly capable of. Had I not had that lofty goal, who knows how much slower my gym progress would have been? Who knows how far behind I’d be with my fitness today?

Had I not had the goal of succeeding at a sales career (it didn’t even get off the ground), I wouldn’t have started a digital marketing business to compensate for how no job wanted to hire me (I worked hard at that business for 3 figures of returns in the end). Then I wouldn’t have ended up committing to a mildly successful dating coaching business for 2 years if it didn’t naturally evolve from that marketing business. Now what? Whatever life purpose I commit myself to next may or may not come from the ashes of my dating coaching thing, but I learnt a FUCKTON about women and sexuality through teaching this stuff, not simply consuming it and trialing it.

Here’s something I made back in my digital marketing days, using a photo of me from my aspiring powerlifter days. It sold two copies.

I’ve learnt a fuckton from all my prior edges. I may have not achieved my goals quite like I wanted to. But achieving them isn’t the point once you’re at Stage 4.

The person you become along the way is the point of pursuing your goals. Every failed mission of yours is a new part of yourself you’ve cultivated and integrated, and will continue to carry for the rest of your life.

Stages 1-3 will likely think that’s cheesy feel-good bullshit, but this is a Stage 4 person’s reality.

As we go through life, we trial-and-error our purposes. We figure out through experience what we’re really meant for, and what we’re not really meant for. This shit’s unpredictable, so just roll with it.

Now what advice works for a Stage 4 person?

I don’t know.

I’ll give it to you once I’ve gone through mine and learnt a few things from it.

How the stages build upon each other

You don’t simply move your relationship with your goals and ambitions from one stage to the next. Rather, you build your current stage on top of the prior one.

A healthy Stage 2 person will be attentive to their own emotional needs, and seek to meet them through work instead of complaint. An unhealthy Stage 2 person is a workaholic – someone who throws themselves into the grind to escape from their life, not to enhance it, to AVOID meeting their needs instead of addressing them. Their repressed hangups and wounds from their youth will erupt in flames and get them acting like lames.

An unhealthy Stage 3 person will masturbate endlessly to their mindsets and philosophies and frameworks to avoid working hard. Perhaps even become an Internet philosopher who tells people how to live their lives without truly living their own, or talk endlessly about love and success and healthy relationships while their actual personal life is a shitshow. A healthy Stage 3 person sees their mindsets as a tool to enhance their relationship with concrete reality, not the core purpose of their life.

A healthy Stage 4 person knows when to let go of something meant to be in the past, and understands that the end is where we start from. An unhealthy Stage 4 person will have “jumped the shark” with their life. They’re stuck in the past, constantly reminiscing on the edges they used to have without actively creating new experiences and memorable moments for themselves.

Different areas of your life can be in different stages. You could be Stage 4 in your health and fitness as you’ve already tested your limits in every domain, and found exactly what works best for you long-term. Stage 3 in your career as you take on new responsibilities that force you to actively think about how you think, but still Stage 2 with your guitar hobby as you put in the reps to learn the mechanics of how to play it, and Stage 1 in your dating life as you haven’t put yourself out there much; you’re inexperienced, demanding everything from your crushes without being attentive to their needs, or even your own.

A person who’s at Stage 3 in some ways but has lingering unfinished business in Stage 1 needs to drop down there eventually, and face it head-on. Their house is built on a shaky foundation, and won’t hold up as long as that foundation is weak.

So what happens after Stage 4?

Perhaps you’ll find yourself a new Stage 1 with a new life pursuit.

The cycle always continues if you let it. New feelings of entitlement and inadequacy pop up. The hunger to get something from the world re-emerges. You get back on your edge and find something new to explore. If you’re a mature person, your angst and entitlement is brief before you get cracking on putting your new dream into reality, refining it, and maybe even letting go of it when the time is right.


No sales pitch here or anything. Just hope this article resonated with you as you make progress on your goals.

– Ben

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