Tis the season for goal setting and resolution making with that old familiar pressure to set bigger goals so that we can do more, be more, and get more from life. You may be telling yourself “this time I wont break my commitment to my goals and resolutions.” For many, “goals” is a four-letter word and is avoided. For others, goals are just a signpost pointing them in the direction of pure possibility. So what is the difference?
Over the years I have made a few interesting observations about goals and the people who set them, achieve them, break them, and those who don’t but still live extraordinary lives. This is perhaps an oversimplification but I have boiled it down to two types of goal setting; Insecure Goal Setting and Inspired Goal Setting.
In part one of this article we will explore Insecure Goal setting, or what I think is the most common type of goal setting but least effective and innocently blocks us. Insecure goals have 3 basic innocent blockers that we will explore:
- They are created from a low state of mind
- They are ultra-specific and squash creativity and possibility
- They attach our value and identity to the outcome
Lets explore each innocent blocker of insecure goals in greater detail.
Insecure goals are most often set from a low state of mind. Years ago, I discovered that the trigger for me to sit down and set new goals and evaluate my life, work, relationships, finances, and health was when I was feeling low. I felt insecure about what I was doing in the world, my ability to create deep and meaningful relationships, the size of my bank account, or not feeling healthy enough. So, I would sit down and map out what I wanted to achieve, why I wanted it, and what achieving these things would do for me. With trumpets blaring and drummers drumming I would begin chasing my goals only to run out of gas, will power, discipline, and desire within days or weeks.
Low states of mind are natural and have nothing to do with who you are or what you are up to in the world. They are simply the experience of transient insecure thinking, not a sign that you need to get to work on yourself.
Insecure goals are ultra specific thereby eliminating pure possibility. These types of goals are often built around the S.M.A.R.T acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. The idea being that the more specific we get the more focused we can get, blocking out distractions and clearing the path to achievement. In theory, it also helps us zone in on the specifics moment-to-moment, day to day. For example, if I have a weight loss goal, I can measure my progress by the scale, measuring tape, calories, and my calendar timeline keeping me on track and true to my goal. There are a couple of problems with this understanding.
The more specific we get about something we want, the more we edge out pure possibility. We put our focus on the outcome, the number, the scorecard, and the metric and miss the opportunities to see it another way. We miss the journey, the growth opportunities and most often, trip over insights and epiphanies that literally set us free along the way.
The more attached we are to how and when our goal needs to be achieved and the stronger our expectations are about what it needs to look like and what it will do for us, the stronger the pain, disappointment, and suffering we will experience.
The third innocent blocker of insecure goals is that they are most often attached to our identity and value. When we attach our personal value and identity to a goal/outcome, we have set ourselves up for suffering. I often refer to these as “When I…Then I … “ goals. For example, “When I (lose 20 lbs., earn X income, meet my mate, get the promotion etc.) Then I will be (happy, ok, set for life, relaxed etc.). There are two main problems with this. Number one, our health, happiness, well-being, ability to feel ok, relaxed, and accepted don’t actually exist out in the world stashed away in in the pocket of someone else, a job, a paycheck, a bank account a promotion, or a vacation. If in our minds our personal value and identity are dependent on whether we achieve the goal or not, we become a slave to our circumstances, and possessions. This never-ending chase for well-being out in the world perpetuates insecure goal setting and the feelings of suffering and not being enough.
So if you, like me, have spent much of your life setting goals from the innocent insecure outside in space, there is a better way. In fact there is only one way and that is to get on board with pure possibility. Getting in the flow of inspired goals and seeing the moment-to-moment invitation from life and be able to show up in a creative resourceful and playful way while being blown away by pure possibility. In Part 2 we will explore inspired goal setting. See you then.