How to set goals that actually feel good 

September is the new January — it feels like a more natural time to reset and so naturally we’re thinking about GOALS.

Setting goals and growing is a beautiful thing, but it can also be STRESSFUL. Sometimes not achieving a goal makes you feel like a failure. Just think about every New Years resolution you’ve ever had!

HOW CAN WE SET GOALS THAT ACTUALLY FEEL GOOD?

A lot of us are striving after things we don’t even really want. Which is crazy! Better to be clear and intentional about our goals first before we spend all that time and energy on them. First we have to drop the goals that feel bad.

·      Examine your past goals and recall how they made you feel. That will help you get a sense of what kind of goals made you happy. E.g. — maybe you like lots of quick hits from short-term goals, or maybe you like really big, ambitious long-term goals.

·      A lot of us have what I call ambition amnesia — striving after the same type of goal even though it never quite does it for us…achieving the goal feels anticlimactic and never actually ends up feeling as amazing as we want it to. E.g. — you work hard for more money and a bigger title, but it doesn’t actually make you happier. Stop the cycle by examining your goal-setting habits.

·      Copycat goals almost always feel bad. E.g. — your sister-in law is getting a masters degree so you think you should probably get one too; your friend lost weight and suddenly you think maybe you should start a diet; your colleague is going for the promotion and you think maybe you should too.

HOW CAN WE CHOOSE BETTER GOALS?

·      A lot of us are chasing goals that are actually motivated by fear. Fear-motivated goals are not going to pay off in the end, and the process of striving for them will feel heavy. Don’t let fear dictate your goals.

·      Goals that are motivated by desire instead of fear are powerful! They feel light instead of heavy, will be easier to achieve and will feel good in the process. E.g. — I used to chase a lot of goals that were motivated by fear. I cared far too much about what other people think so I’d strive after things that I though people would think were impressive (graduate degrees, promotions, big accomplishments). The payoff wasn’t worth the work so I’m choosing goals rooted in desire vs. fear now.

·      How to tell if your goal is motivated by desire vs. fear: Notice how you feel. Emotionally and physically. Does the goal feel light or heavy? What does your body tell you? Does thinking about that goal make you want to nap for a month or do you have more energy?

HOW CAN WE PRIORITIZE OUR GOALS?

·      I’m a big believer in fewer, more fiercely focused goals. Time and energy are not infinite. Drop the goals that feel bad and focus on the ones that feel good.

·      Keep, Tweak, or Toss goal-setting method: If some of your goals are working for you, AWESOME. Keep them. If some aren’t, you have to decide if they need to be tossed or just tweaked. If a goal feels really heavy or is making you miserable you should toss it (e.g., when I quit my PhD). But some goals just need a little tweak to suddenly feel good again (e.g., you’re not really psyched about going for the promotion at your existing company, but you want a change so you look elsewhere instead.)

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