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Why We Don’t Set Goals

November 27, 2017



A big part of Life Coaching involves goal setting. Helping people move forward to reach their full potential and live their dream involves a) knowing what that dream is b) knowing how to achieve their dream.


Knowing what the dream is involves plenty of self introspection and learning about one's strengths, passions and desires. This often comes out after a few coaching sessions. It involves clearing mental blockages and limiting beliefs to enable the person to see their future with fresh eyes. Helping them to realise and believe that truly anything is possible if you want it badly enough.


Most millennials I come across have a dream. Initially they may say, ‘I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what I’m passionate about’ but after a little digging, the desire is there, tucked away safely so no-one can find it or crush it.


Creating a safe space for my clients to open up and share their hidden dreams and desires gives them the freedom to fully realise what they truly want. Just yesterday at the end of a session with a client, I asked her, what was the highlight from that session for you, and she said, ‘realising that I actually do have career goals’. Without giving the gift of coaching to herself she may not have even realised that she DOES have goals, she had just been too afraid to delve deep enough to find them. She had tucked these secret ambitions away where no one could find them, or criticise them.


Knowing our goals and taking actionable steps towards achieving them is essential to living with purpose and meaning in our lives. Without a goal we are like a raft floating in the ocean, like an archer with a blindfold on shooting off into the distance. We don’t want to be like that. We want to have clarity, purpose and direction in our lives which come through setting goals.


Arnold Schwarzenegger is a prolific goal setter which isn’t surprising when you look at his accomplishments to date;


Seven-time Mr. Olympia winner
Four-time Mr. Universe winner
1977 Golden Globe Award winner
Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Governor of California

And the author of six books


According to the best research, less than 3 percent of Americans have written goals, and less than 1 percent review and rewrite their goals on a daily basis.


So if we know the benefits of goal setting then why (according to Professor Dave Kohl) does only one person in every 100 have a goal that they write down and review regularly? From what I can see from working with my clients there are three common blockages.



1. Don’t lock me in!


For many personalities (especially creative types), goal setting feels restrictive and too rigid. They want to remain open to changing direction and changing their mind in response to new information that presents itself. They also feel that it inhibits their creative flow and the ability to take up new opportunities as they come along. They also fear that locking themselves into one path or direction means they may miss out on other opportunities.


Many of these fears are unfounded and based on perceived downfalls rather than actual downfalls. Many people don’t realise that goals can change and shift based on new information that comes to light throughout the goal setting journey. The purpose of goal setting is not to be locked in but to provide a structure, or scaffolding, to help move you from where you are to where you want to be. The end doesn’t have to be set in stone but without knowing the general direction, one is doomed to remain stationary or walk around in circles.


Unfortunately this is why many talented artists will remain stagnant in their careers. Not because they lack talent but because they believe being specific in their goals will restrict them in some way. When in fact, the complete opposite in true. Having a goal and moving towards it inspires creativity because you need to be continuously inventive about how you will achieve your goal when you face blockages. It also will open your eyes to new paths and courses of action available to you that you never would have discovered if you hadn’t taken the steps forward in the first place.


I like to use the analogy of a ship. Only when the ship is moving forward can the rudder implement any change in direction. If you remain in the harbour, you are not going anywhere. Set a goal to get you moving forward and make adjustments to the rudder as you go along.



2. Fear of failure


None of us like to fail. So why would we risk failing by setting ourselves a goal we may not achieve? Instead the majority of us don’t set a goal in order to avoid feeling negative emotion.


Our avoidance of negative emotion is massive and determines many of our daily actions and behaviours. I know I’m guilty of this, and I turn to food as a way of dealing with negative emotions.


However, I wonder how many of us connect the dots in our brain and realise we are not setting goals because we fear failure. This seems counterintuitive - to not strive for something because of how it will make us feel if we don’t achieve it.


In order to overcome this mental blockage, it’s helpful to redefine goal setting as serving a greater purpose than just temporary achievement. Goal setting is much more than success or failure at a task, it is about living life more purposefully, redefining your existence and playing your part in the bigger picture.


If we have the mindset that goal setting equates to a pass or fail mentality than it’s no wonder the majority of the popular are avoiding the habit.By reframing in your mind how goal setting can be used as a tool to serve you on your journey rather than a measure of success or failure you will come to love the process of goal setting for the clarity and satisfaction it brings.



3. Too much hard work


Most people already feel stressed, overwhelmed and time poor without adding goal setting to their load. I get it. Most of us are only just keeping our head above water in relation to our growing to-do list.


However, by only attending to the urgent needs of our day-to-day living we are neglecting our need for meaning, purpose and over-arching achievement or legacy we leave behind. You don’t want to at age 60 be asking yourself, ‘what meaningful achievements have I made in the last 40 years?’


Don’t run your life on auto-pilot, it’s a recipe for a mid life crisis and death bed regret. Work out NOW what is important to you, and what you want to achieve. It may feel like right now you don’t have the headspace for it, but in all honesty you never will. You will only ever have time for what you make time for.


In most cases the hardest part about goal setting is not the work involved, it’s the headspace involved. Creating time to think about your goals is the hard part, once you are clear on your goals and knowing WHY those goals are important to you, the implementation is the easy part. It won’t feel like hard work. You will be motivated to take action because you have taken the time to set meaningful and tangible goals.





These are just three common blockages I’ve come across recently that prevent people from setting goals. And as you can see, they all have to do with mindset. Having awareness around our own thinking, especially in relation to goal setting can be very difficult to identify on your own. Having a coach will enable you to identify self doubt and limiting beliefs much faster, so you can see results sooner. It will also keep you accountable and motivated during those times of self-sabotage which we ALL face.


If you would like to learn more about how I can help you set and achieve your goals please contact me for a free mini-session.


Have a great week!


Chels xx


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