How Your Goals Are Holding You Back and What You Can Do Instead
There’s a pervasive notion in our culture that the way to move life and work forward is through setting and achieving goals.
Not only should you set specific goals but you should write them down as well. A Harvard Study is cited as the reason behind this goal writing strategy – and it turns out to be entirely made up – a complete fabrication.
Guess what else are made up? Your goals.
They are entirely arbitrary and illusory. The only meaning your goals have is the meaning you’ve given them. This is good news.
Let’s take a closer look at why understanding the nature of goals can free you to move life forward with less resistance and in full alignment with what you want most.
The Nature of Goals
Goals Are Limitations. Goals are set in the present. They are based on where you are at right now. Your goals can be a useful anchor but it is critical to see that life will continue to bring you new opportunities, wisdom, changing circumstances, etc. in the future.
Fixating on a singular vision can inadvertently limit your ability to see what is possible beyond that point of view. Allowing your goals the flexibility to evolve with your own expanding wisdom, insights, and understanding keeps you open to all that life is bringing your way.
Goals Are An Illusion of Control. Think about it. You can’t predict the future. Your life up to now should strongly point to this reality. What makes you think that by setting a S.M.A.R.T Goal you’ll actually know what is coming? News flash: you still won’t.
This frankly is a good thing. Certainty is far too overrated in our culture. Assuming you know what should happen next can breed unrealistic expectations and unfounded disappointment in yourself. Give yourself a break and see through this illusion.
Goals Make Accomplishment Invisible. When we focus on setting and achieving specific goals we can miss out on all of the other things we are getting done each and every day that we aren’t labeling “goals”.
It becomes harder to see all the tasks, projects, conversations, progress that is happening outside of the goals you’ve set. All of this effort – a huge part of your daily experience becomes invisible.
From here it gets easier and easier to believe that you aren’t making progress – you aren’t doing enough to get ahead. Take a step back from all that chatter in your mind and notice all that is getting done – without labeling it a goal or thinking hard about it.
Goals Mask The Source of Your Well-Being. Generally we set goals as a way to feel better in the future. Accomplishing a goal looks like it will bring you more security, happiness, peace of mind, confidence, relaxation, etc.
But the logic doesn’t hold up. If meeting a goal actually had the power to make you feel a certain way – then it would make you feel that way every single time. It doesn’t.
You’ve all had the experience of meeting a goal only to realize you don’t feel as peaceful, happy, secure, etc. as you anticipated. The only thing you know to do is to set a new goal – to keep chasing that feeling outside of yourself.
Your goals can inadvertently set up a moving target that can’t be reached – no matter how hard you run in their direction.
The well-being you already possess is revealed by turning towards what’s already inside of you. It’s always there – beyond the chatter of your mind.
A Helpful Alternative to Setting Goals
I used to set goals constantly. For all the things I “should” be doing in order to feel better about my life and myself. No matter how much progress I made I still needed more progress to feel better.
Once I saw the never-ending treadmill I was on I stopped chasing goals.
What has been interesting to see over time is that new goals occur to me to pursue. But they have an entirely different quality about them. They arise within me – often I don’t even realize I’m “pursuing a goal” until it becomes apparent in hindsight.
This has ranged from getting out of debt, diving into the world of wine, losing weight, lifting weights more often, etc. These no longer feel like goals I “should” do but are just the obvious thing to do.
They no longer have an edge to them. My well-being isn’t connected to their accomplishment. I can have peace of mind and contentment while in pursuit. I can improve and enhance my life without first needing to make myself broken or wrong.
Do I forget sometimes? Of course. Often. But knowing the feeling of that treadmill reminds me of when I accidentally step back on it – chasing something unreachable.
This allows me to step back and remember that I can be guided from that deeper source of wisdom and common sense. I don’t have to listen so intently to the loud “should” voice in my mind.
Setting and pursuing goals from this vantage point gives you the freedom to live in full alignment with who you are and what you want most of your experience. You get more done more quickly by paying less attention to all that mental chatter. By seeing through it – not wasting your time trying to make it go away.
But don’t take my word for it – give it a spin and try this out for yourself. Want more? Click here.