If you’ve read any of my past articles on goals or have seen my list of 2012 ambitions you probably know I’m a very very very goal oriented person. That’s how I’ve always been and even though I think Leo Babatua has some really good points about giving up all goals, I personally feel more inspired, motivated and empowered when I have well defined goals in mind. They give me something to strive for, something to dream about, something to work towards…
However, not everybody likes goals and sometimes having specific goals can actually hold us back, cramp our style or make us feel frustration, stress and hesitation. Why? Because they can be hard to live up to and get in the way of achieving in general! So, even though I am happy in the specific goals boat, I think that giving up the specifics may be helpful for others.
How Specific Goals Can Hold You Back
Let me give you an example to paint a very very clear picture ::
It’s New Years Eve and the clock is about to strike midnight. While you put your wine glass down to kiss your lover on the lips you feel your shirt strain against your tummy, just a little bit. But it grabs your attention and set the following resolution – this year I am going to lose 5 pounds. So you join a gym, throw out all the cookies in your house and do everything possible to lose the five pounds. And lets say you do lose the weight – good for you!
But then once you’ve “achieved” your goal you go back to eating cookies every night and never going to the gym. Then the vicious cycle starts all over again.
The truth :: By telling yourself that you are hoping to just lose 5 pounds you are creating a finish line, a boundary, an imaginary line that says “At This Point You’re Done”. It stops you from seeing the big picture - that you want to feel better about yourself, that you want to have more energy, that you want to be healthier.
Once you lose the five pounds it’s easy to put your feet up, because that’s it. When in reality, your goal of being healthy is never ending and once you see that you can adopt it as part of your lifestyle rather than a short-sighted, uber-specific goal that can only propel you so far.
How To Liberate Yourself Through Undefined Goals
This method of keeping your goal vague can help you actually succeed rather than feeling inundated, overwhelmed or frustrated but opening up doors, giving you freedom to make it work FOR you rather than against YOU. This method of setting uber-vague goals can liberate you on a daily basis. No longer are you tied to a certain mileage, or a certain exercise routine, or even a certain food group.
This way you’re learning to take it day by day.
Hour by hour. Minute by minute.
And learning to make the best decisions on a daily basis
rather than putting it off until “tomorrow”.
Another example ::
Say Wendy tells me that her goal for September is to run 3 times per week. Wait, let’s make that more specific. Wendy says: I want to run 3 miles, 3 times a week for the next month. Week one goes by and it’s great, Wendy ran her 9 miles and is so happy with herself! But then week two comes along and she has a big presentation to prepare for and it rains everyday so she never makes it to the gym. So she gets frustrated. And rather than seeing the “3 miles x 3 days a week” as motivating and inspiring, she sees it as a chore – as a burdensome task on the never ending To Do list that rules her life. From then on, she fills in her time with more excuses and responsibilities and puts running at the bottom of the list.
To create more room for spontaneity, for more freedom, for more flexibility lets broaden her goal and change it to: Wendy will make more time for running.
For some, this may be too vague BUT for Wendy, maybe she finds it more liberating.
This way she won’t feel guilty if she can’t make her 3 mile runs, 3 times a week. Maybe instead, she finds time to go for a 1 or 2 mile run! Even though some weeks she may not get in all 9 miles she won’t feel bad anymore which will inspire her to keep it up. Then, maybe the next week she’ll get in 10 or 11 miles. See how taking away the numbers, the specifics, can actually help you achieve more??
By re-structuring her goal she creates more space, flexibility and takes away any guilt and frustration. In the end my opinion is :: Find what works best for you and run with it. Literally, figuratively, whatever works for you.
Think this could work for you? Tell me below! Or, if you have other ideas on setting goals let me know!