It’s that time of year when people spend time goal setting and making new year resolutions for the year ahead. In this post I’ll explore why they often don’t work and why they can lead to a feeling of failure. I’ll also explore how to make goals work for you…
Is goal setting helpful?
Throughout life it seems we’re told to set goals in order to achieve things. For many years I fell into this trap, believing that in order to be ‘successful’ I needed to set goals for myself. Never did this become more important, or so I thought, than when I became self employed.
I dutifully set goals each year only to often find myself sorely disappointed when I hadn’t met them.
Rather than being helpful, I found myself using goals against myself. Almost like an invisible stick with which to further beat myself and prove that I wasn’t a worthy individual.
The same with new years resolutions. I know, and appreciate that many people find these helpful but once again, for me, when I inevitably didn’t keep them, I felt more like a failure.
What does a goal achieve?
Before we go any further I want to explore what a goal achieves and I’d love you to come on this journey with me…
We often set goals as a way of encouraging action. Perhaps they are the motivation we require in order to get something done.
They appear in the form of a thought. A thought of something we desire that we don’t have, and are often accompanied by a lot of further thinking. Thinking about how to achieve the goal, what it would look like if we got it and so on.
But what if action happens much more easily than we think? That rather than having to set ourselves unrealistic targets which create a lot of thinking and take us out of the present moment, we can rely on appropriate actions happening when we turn in a direction we want to head in; when we set an intention – a destination of where we want to get to – with no idea of how we’ll get there?
What if the energy and intelligence behind life, that which knows how to beat our hearts and create our complex brain, can also be relied upon to guide us towards our dreams?
That when we pay less attention to the demanding voice in our head we notice a quiet whisper that lets us know what the next step to do is.
It’s what I call ‘effortless doing’ and I talk about it in the podcast I recorded with Nicola Bird for the A Little Peace of Mind podcast that you can find here.
The outcome is the same; we move towards what we desire; but in my experience the journey is SO much easier and more enjoyable.
Where are we trying to get to?
But there’s an elephant in the room that we haven’t yet addressed and that is this idea of an imagined destination that is somehow better than the one we currently reside in.
You see, to me, this is the major flaw with goals and new year resolutions. By their very nature they suggest that our current experience is not enough.
That what we have is not enough, or what we are is not enough; that there is somewhere to get to in order to be OK (when I loose a stone in weight I’ll be OK; when I get 10,000 social media followers I’ll be OK etc etc).
But what if we have everything we already need right here, Now?
What if there is nothing we need to be OK?
What if there is no past or future but just this moment now?
Because as far as I can see the only thing that really exists is this moment. The past is re-created in our minds through thought and the future is imagined in our minds through thought. The only thing that is actually known is this moment. Here. Now.
And when you really look you’ll see that in this moment you are OK. There is nothing you need when the chatter in your head is quiet; when you pay less attention to the narrator of your life and spend time actually in life.
What is success?
So the other thing we haven’t addressed is this idea that in order to be successful we must have goals, dreams and desires.
But what is success?
As far as I can tell success is another thing that is created through our own thinking.
We define it and then live our life as if it’s true. But ask 100 people and I’m pretty certain that every person will have a different definition of what success is for them.
Add in to that the fact that how we define success changes all the time and suddenly we start to see that there is no such thing as ‘success’.
Rather, there are thoughts about what success looks like, that are individual to us, and shift and change all the time.
Trying to take actions in order to be successful is impossible because the goal posts are continually changing.
It came as a huge relief to me to realise that what I deemed ‘successful’ was entirely made up – by me – and could be held more lightly.
We have everything we need but goals can be fun!
Now I know some of you love making goals and I’m not saying you shouldn’t make them! I’m just asking you to take a good look at whether they are helping you or hindering you.
As my understanding has shifted I’ve gone from setting goals to not setting goals. And as the pendulum slows from the extremes I find myself more in the middle.
Sometimes I play around with goals and targets but rather than placing so much meaning on them I have fun with them.
Rather than fixed, solid things that have to be achieved I send an intention out into the universe and listen carefully for the next step to make in the direction of my desire.
It’s so much more fun and interesting and I’m often surprised by the results.
Life should be about having fun; not pinning ourselves down with heavy rules.
If your new year resolutions or goals have left you feeling more weighed down rather than less then I hope this article has given you some things to consider.
If you’d like 1:1 coaching sessions with me to re-discover your quiet inner guidance system, and find more ease and fun in life then book a free exploratory call with me now.