A woman came to me recently and asked for help. She’s been disappointed with her results in goal setting. She was struggling not only with setting goals and priorities, but also with staying the course and getting there. If you think “well, she’s not alone with that.” you’re absolutely right! This is a huge struggle for the majority of people, and it’s mostly a result of a common misconception about goal-setting and visioning.
Pitfalls of “common sense” goals
A well know teaching in pretty much every wisdom tradition is that the only thing you have control over, is how you are in any given situation. You rarely ever get to control anything outside of yourself, like the people around you, the situations you find yourself in, the things that life throws at you. So why do we try to set goals and create future visions that focus entirely on things that are outside of our control?
“I’m going to get three new clients this month.”
“I want to triple my email list by the end of the year.”
“I want to sell this project by the end of the quarter.”
Life always just happens
Anyone who’s ever tried doing a yearly, quarterly or even weekly planning this way, knows that life gets in the way most of the times. It’s rarely ever going according to plan. While having a list of tasks that need to be done is clarifying and really beneficial, letting those tasks define your goals and become your vision, is going to set you up for feeling like you’ve failed or even worse: that you are a failure.
Where focus needs to be
The biggest mistake one can make when defining a vision, is to focus solely on activities, tasks and end-results and not take into consideration the only thing they have control over: how and who they want to be in the process. When you’re too focused on activities and results, you’ll be blindfolded to opportunities that come your way. Opportunities that you couldn’t have imagined doing when you were setting your goals, but that can make your life and work better in ways you couldn’t have even grasped before.
The possibilities of a different perspective
This is what happened to the woman I mentioned above. During our session, she realized she already had an idea about who she wanted to be. She had a beautiful and powerful vision of that version of herself. So during the weekend, she started to ask herself the question “what would this version of myself do?”.
This question led her to take out a closet with drawers from her daughter’s room and replace it with friendlier furniture, that helped her daughter feel less irritated in her own room. While doing this, her creative juices started to flow and she repurposed the drawers, planting a whole new section in her garden. Now, gardening would have never made it to her weekly planning or any kind of to-do list, because she made her task and goal list only with actions in mind that were based on who she believed she was: someone who’s not at all good in taking care of plants. This is the mistake we all make, when trying to follow common sense goal-setting.
This spontaneous activity didn’t just feel fun and fulfilling for her. It opened her up to possibilities. After she got a boost of energy and motivation from gardening, she went on to do meal prepping for the week ahead, that made her feel spacious to do her work in the coming days, because whatever happens, she’ll have meals ready. It also made her feel accomplished and proud of herself, which is in and of itself a huge motivator for getting things done.
Doing the work from the inside out
So how do you set goals and create a vision to work towards? By starting with finding the person you want to be in the process. Goal-setting becomes a way of envisioning who you want to be, instead of what you want to do. When you’re clear on who you want to be, like how you want to feel and what posture you are taking on, that will inform the thoughts you’ll think and ultimately the actions you’ll take. But you can’t really plan actions too far ahead, because life is changing and moving around.
The only thing you can plan, is how you’ll be. That’s the only thing. I know this can feel scary and liberating at the same time.
When you let your focus rest on who and how you want to be, the right activities and opportunities will arise, without you needing to figure them out. That’s a huge load off your shoulders, isn’t it?! You don’t need to figure out what you’ll be doing a year from now, when it’s even pretty difficult to know what you’ll be doing tomorrow (Amiright??? *wink, wink*). So rest into who you want to be, and watch life unfold in front of your eyes, to help you live that vision.
And if you feel called to find the qualities, feelings and postures that want to be embodied by you right now, let me guide you through this meditation.
Here’s to your success!