Goal setting… and why you might be doing it wrong
There’s an old Buddhist story that goes something like this: an apprentice, eager to learn more about enlightenment, asked her master for further teaching. She believed she knew some things about reaching inner peace — but knew there was more out there to understand. Her master obliged, but first asked her to tea.
When they sat down to tea, the master kept pouring, even after the apprentice’s cup was full. The apprentice looked at her master and said: “What are you doing? My cup is full! Stop pouring!” To which the master smiled and said: “Exactly. The cup right now is you. You think you already know something about enlightenment, and so anything I teach you now won’t be learned. In order for you to open your mind to interpreting enlightenment in a new way, you must go out, forget what you thought you knew, and come back with an empty mind.”
So: imagine you’re the apprentice in this story. Then change the word enlightenment from that story and replace it with the phrase goal setting. That brings us to what we’re going to do today: you need to leave everything you thought you knew about setting goals at the door, otherwise you won’t learn anything useful.
Alright: now that you’ve unlearned everything you thought you knew about goals, it’s time to relearn useful things about them. Ready?
Why do so many goals lead to embarrassment, dissatisfaction and doubt?
Did you know that most people who set goals end up feeling frustrated or saddened by them? You probably know a few of these people in your life: people who want to lose weight, earn a promotion, or teach their child to behave. All of them have a goal, and initially it’s exciting — but as time goes on, and the goal doesn’t pan out, they get dejected and disoriented.
Why does this happen? Why do people feel disappointment, dissatisfaction and embarrassment when they don’t meet their goals? Part of it has to do with the fact that most of us have forgotten that goals aren’t good or bad things — they’re actually just neutral concepts in our minds. What do we mean by that?
Goals are not bad, they’re neutral
A goal is like anything else: technology, religion, politics or money. These things might seem bad or wrong, but inherently, they’re neutral. It’s what we think about those things that gives them their power. The moment we start thinking about what goals do to us is the moment we start attributing good or bad qualities to them.
If we fail to meet a goal, we now decide that we ourselves aren’t worthy. We’re bad, wrong, failures or losers. Conversely, if we achieve a goal, we’re left with a hollow feeling of “now what?” because we’ve moved our goalpost. We want new and different things now, so the goal itself has changed.
In essence, we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. No matter how we think of goals, if we put emphasis on the goal itself, we become miserable. So: is the answer to completely dispense with goals and resign ourselves to never striving for anything ever again?
Of course not! Instead, it’s time to look at goals entirely differently. It’s time to rethink what goals are, and how we can use them in a positive and beneficial way.
Goals are all about how you feel, not what you do
If we dig down past the superficial things and really think about what goals are, the answer becomes clear: like most things in life, goals are about the journey, not the destination. A goal that makes you feel bad while in pursuit of it does not serve you, because you’re going to stop working at the goal.
On the other hand, a goal that makes you feel inspired, enlightened, thoughtful, creative, smart, present and mindful is going to keep you moving toward your destination. Instead of putting the emphasis on achieving something, the emphasis here is on how you feel as you live your life. Instead of holding yourself hostage through accountability, you’re envisioning the things you want and using them as inspiration to move toward what you desire.
If you tell yourself you’re a loser who won’t amount to anything because you didn’t meet an arbitrary line drawn in your mind, does that really help you achieve your goal? Or, more importantly, does that mindset help you live the kind of life you want to live?
Absolutely not! So, from now on, try looking at goals differently. Instead of checklists motivated by fear and stress, a goal should be an inspirational wish-list item that you move closer to with purpose, love and inspiration. That way, actually getting to your goal isn’t as much of a concern as living authentically while you pursue the goal itself.
And, do you want to know something? When you start looking at goals this way… they become much easier to achieve.
Get to your goals with the right mindset
If you want to know more about how to tackle your goals authentically, it’s worth checking out the Frame of Mind Coaching method of goal setting — which includes tried-and-true goal setting tips from coaches who’ve already gone and crushed their goals. Check us out and let us know if we’re able to help you reframe your goal setting approach!