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The Real Purpose for Goal Setting ( to face failure?)

Feb 04, 2021

Many people start out the year strong. They set their goals, or New Year’s Resolutions, but by a month in, motivation has waned and they’ve abandoned their goals.

Succeeding in your goals requires a willingness to face all the limiting beliefs, negative self-talk, insecurities and fears that the goals produce. It means, noticing what resistance and obstacles come up and working through those. It means failing and seeing that failure is part of the road to success.

Here’s a new framework for how to look at your goals (instead of using them as another thing to beat yourself up with when you fail)…


#1. Set goals from a place of loving yourself and wanting to grow, not hating yourself and wanting to change.

But one of the problems is that many people set goals because they believe that achieving those goals will make them more lovable, more worthy or more happy. This is a fallacy, my friends! Circumstances don’t create happiness. The idea that if only I change to be a different person, lose weight, have more money, find a spouse, then I’ll be happy - is just a lie that your brain is telling you.

Achieving goals in your life doesn’t bring happiness. If you don’t believe me, there is plenty of evidence on Wall Street, or Hollywood, or anywhere else you see outwardly successful people. As much success as there is, there’s also plenty of misery.

The better way to approach goals is from a place of loving your present AND wanting more. Not hating your present and wanting something different. The difference is all in your story.

What story you ask?

The story your brain tells you as you go about your journey. You see, your brain is narrating the whole journey to you - sometimes softly, sometimes loudly inside your head. You’re listening to this story all day long, everywhere you go. Left unmanaged, most people’s brains will sound like this: “Don’t put yourself out there, everyone is going to reject you. Don’t try that, you’re just going to fail. Remember last time, you failed.. You don’t want to go through that again. No one wants to hear from you, don’t speak up, you need to fit in, you don’t fit in….” And on and on. Your brain is trying to warn you of the dangers around you, only it goes about this is an unhelpful way.

When you start from a place of loving yourself, loving your present AND wanting more. Then your brain is primed to create an atmosphere for finding solutions, writing an action plan, problem solving when you hit a bump.

When you hate yourself, and self-judgment is the basis for wanting to change. Then goal setting is a painful experience because it’ll just highlight to you your inadequacies. And even if you do set goals, you’re likely to give up at the first sign of resistance. 

The road to accomplishing goals is windy and bumpy and marked with potholes, so if you’re driving along this road with a whole lot of backseat negativity, then the first time you have a flat tire, you’re going to take that as evidence that this journey is impossible, and you’re a failure.

Like my analogy? ;)


#2. Set goals based on your values

If you haven’t considered your values, then you don’t have a compelling reason to stick with your goals even when it’s hard. The values in your life are what drive you. They’re the compass, the goals are the target. But most people haven’t actually thought about what their core values are to really delineate them. I suggest that you google a values list, and write down what resonates with you in different domains of your life: Health & Fitness, Family & Marriage, Career, Community and Faith. You might choose to have some other categories depending on what’s important to you.

Exploring your values can build your internal motivation and purpose. I hear a lot of people who talk about lacking motivation. When you find your motivation waning, it’s important to go back to what drives you, what is truly important in your life and reminder yourself of those values.

Values and goals are like the rudder of the ship. You can go through life without them but you likely won’t make it out of the harbour.

#3. Visualize yourself having already achieved the goals. 

Visualize yourself 1 year, 2 years or 5 years from now (depending on if you’re setting short or longterm goals). Imagine that you are living as your most ideal version of yourself, and a filmmaker wants to make a documentary about your life - so they send a camera crew to follow you around for a week. 

What would they see you doing? 

Visualization does two things: 

  • First, it helps to build belief in you that you can achieve your goals. 

  • And second, it helps to start formulating an action plan. In the documentary exercise, notice how the focus is on actions. What can the camera SEE you doing. Not, how do you feel… or think, but what are you doing. As you visualize the actions, you can start asking yourself: What will it take for me to get there?


#4. Write down the process goals.

The process goals are the action steps that you’re going to take to move you forward. You will likely have big picture process goals, and then you’ll need to break them down by month, then by week and then by day.
You need to write them down. A goal that isn’t written down is just a wish. Put it on paper, as a commitment to yourself.

As you start setting goals, it allows your subconscious brain to go to work. You’re giving your brain something to focus on, so that it’s working in the background - visualizing, preparing, working on the action plan.


#5. Never say “I don’t know”

When you’re creating your action plan, and asking yourself: How are you going to get there? Your brain is likely to start objecting. You’re going to uncover lots of fear and insecurity - especially if you’ve set big goals. Don’t allow yourself to answer “I don’t know”. Ever.

“I don’t know” is a death sentence. I tell this to my coaching clients all the time. It’s basically shutting down all capacity for ingenuity, inner wisdom and creative thought. If you really don’t know the how for a particular goal, then your action plan might be: “Find an expert who can support me in this goal. Or watch a Youtube video to learn how to do this goal.” But “I don’t know” is not allowed!

#6. Uncover allllll the resistance

Alright, we’ve come to the very best part!

Once you’ve done all this work to set your goals, your brain is going to produce so much resistance for you. You’re going to feel afraid, uncertain, insecure, perhaps overwhelmed. And that is the whole point. The whole point of this exercise and everything I just told you about goal setting is to uncover all of your uncomfortable feelings!!!! Isn’t that great?!

Listen, I want you to totally reframe how you think about goals. Most people set super lofty goals, try for like two weeks, then fail and give up. Because they totally missed the point of goal setting. Instead, the goal (which is a beautiful thing) became just another thing to beat themselves up with. “Yep, there’s another thing I just failed at. More evidence that I’m a failure and I can’t do this.

But the very purpose of goals is to uncover the resistance and work on that.

The reason many people never reach their goals is because 

  1. they underestimate the amount of time it takes to get there and they quit too soon, and 

  2. the misinterpret failures as a sign to quit, instead of a sign to press on.

Don’t let your brain make shortfalls, mistakes and failures into a problem. All of that - is exactly part of the process. Overcoming the failures is what leads to success.

The purpose of the goals isn’t necessarily to accomplish the goals. The purpose of the goals is to evolve into the kind of person who can reach those goals. The purpose of the goals is to overcome all the resistance, all the obstacles and setbacks that get in your way… THAT IS THE PURPOSE!

So when you fail at your action plan - your job is now to explore, with openness and curiosity - ok, what happened? What was my brain saying? What was I believing and how do I need to think instead? How can I make this easier for myself?

If you approach it with non-judgmental curiosity, you can see where your mind produced resistance, where you had fear or negative self-talk… and you work through that… and THAT is how you grow.

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