Do you feel like you’re an ambitious high achiever who struggles to hit goals? It can be jarring to your identity. It’s easy to feel like there’s something wrong with you or that you’re incapable of following your dreams – talk about feeling defeated! The good news is that’s not the case.
The problem is that you are using goal-setting techniques that aren’t effective for you and then blame yourself when they fail.
It’s like trying to cut wood with a rusty, dull axe and then blaming your skills when it doesn’t work. In this blog post, I will teach you why your metaphorical goal-setting axe isn’t working, and I’ll share my all-time favorite (albeit a little unconventional) goal-setting technique!
Here are the reasons what you’re doing is missing the mark:
Reason #1: Arbitrary timelines
People often unconsciously use goals as a means to control and predict outcomes. Translation: you’re using goals as a way to cope with the uncertainty of life and to pressure certain things to happen within arbitrary timelines.
If you’re striving to lose 20 pounds in six months, does it really matter if it takes eight? Or 12? Or is the timeline a way to manage feeling uncomfortable when you look in the mirror?
Do you really need to be a millionaire by thirty-five, or is it a way for you to feel safe with money because you don’t right now?
When goals are set this way, they become more of an escape plan than a helpful guidepost.
What would it look like if you completely let go of a timeline? I know, goals without timelines might seem taboo.
Traditional goal-setting advice recommends using SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. There’s nothing wrong with that approach and some people love them, but if you’re reading this article, I’m guessing that method hasn’t worked for you.
Getting too specific, too measurable, and too time-oriented can create rigidity. This causes you to feel suffocated by your goal instead of inspired by it, leading to disappointment if you don’t meet it perfectly.
Reason #2: Types of goals you’re setting
You can set two types of goals: process goals and outcome goals. A process goal is deciding to go to the gym three days per week. An outcome goal is setting a specific number of pounds you want to lose or an amount of weight you want to squat.
A money-related process goal is to put money in your savings account every time you get paid. An outcome goal would be to have an extra $5,000 in your bank account by the end of the year.
Theoretically, if you hit your process goal, you will likely achieve your outcome goal. So if you focus on outcome goals but neglect process goals, you fixate on what you want rather than what it takes to get there.
Reason #3: Assuming what is necessary
Let’s say you want to quit your job and go full-time in your online business. You might have a list of things or actions you need to take to make that dream a reality. Let’s say you need to create a website, post regularly on social media, advertise, get more clients, save a certain amount of money, etc.
How many things on that list will move the needle forward? What is genuinely necessary vs. what you think is necessary based on your perceptions or what others tell you?
If you enjoy the process, you are 83.6% more likely to reach your goals if you enjoy what you’re doing (yes, I made that statistic up). But think about it – do you want to hit a goal by muscling through things you wish you didn’t have to do or by doing what you enjoy? What do you think is going to be easier to stick with and will be more likely to produce the results you want?
If you brain dump a list of what you think is necessary to achieve your goals, look down, and think, “YEAH, NO, I don’t feel like doing that,” get creative! What else could you do to achieve your goal that doesn’t include those things? Ask yourself what would be FUN!
There’s more than one way to get to 9. You can add 8+1, subtract 11-2, and multiply 3*3; few of many options. Where are you telling yourself the only way to get to 9 is 6+3? Find your flavor of how you want to get there.
Note: If no ideas you come up with sound fun, re-assess the goal. For example, if you want to run a marathon but every physical conditioning exercise you think of sounds awful, running a marathon might not be the best goal for you. If you are going to hate every moment of the process for a few brief moments of accomplishment, what’s the point?
My favorite (unconventional) goal-setting technique
As someone who often set goals I didn’t achieve, I knew I had to devise a better way. This approach releases timelines, creates opportunities for fun and flexibility, and focuses on outcomes through processes.
Step 1. Decide what area(s) of your life you want to set goals in.
Many of my clients’ goals boil down to improving relationships, finances, health, careers, or overall happiness. If you struggle with consistency and maintaining your habits, I’d recommend starting with just one goal and then working from there.
What area of your life would you most like to improve? What feels the most important to address first?
Step 2. Choose your goal
This approach differs from SMART goals because your goal can be vague. In fact, it should be! Let’s take health, for example. Your goal could be “improve health.” It could be “improve body image,” or “get stronger,” or “clear up my skin.” Whatever feels good for you!
Step 3. Formulate your goals into a question
Whatever you have identified in step 2, plug it into the question, “what’s something fun I could do today to support _________?”
- What’s something fun I could do today to support my health?
- What’s something fun I could do today to support my body image?
- What’s something fun I could do today to support my strength?
- What’s something fun I could do today to support my skin?
Whatever your question is, answer it! Brain dump everything you could do that would feel fun and would support your goal. If it feels fun but doesn’t support the goal, it’s out. If it supports the goal but doesn’t feel fun, it’s definitely out. Now, you have a list to work from.
Ask yourself this question daily, choose something off your list, and do it. It could be fun to do the same thing every day (or if you’re like me) you might get bored quickly and switch it up often. It doesn’t matter! As long as you’re supporting your goal and having fun.
That’s it 🙂 Rinse and repeat!
Another option: ditch goals altogether
If this method doesn’t pique your interest or the information in this post didn’t spur any new ideas, consider taking a break from setting goals, period. *Gasp.* While goals help guide you in your pursuits, they are not the only way to be successful.
When we think of someone who doesn’t have goals, it’s usually with a negative connotation – *cue the image of someone unemployed, ripping bongs, and eating Oreos on the couch all day.* But the belief that you need goals to be successful is just that – a belief. Which means you can choose a new belief. Goal setting is a tool that should be used to help you, but it’s not a code of conduct to live by. If it doesn’t feel helpful for you in this season, drop it all together (without guilt!).
Instead, focus on living. Breathing. Being. Spend time on things that you enjoy and make you happy. When you follow that energy, achieving your goals becomes a natural byproduct instead of something you are pushing and forcing.
Happy goal setting!