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The Mistake You’re Making With Goals

"The Mistake You're Making With Goals" by Amy Eliza Wong, life coach in the Sacramento, CA area

Goals, dreams, vision… the focus of an intended future.

For most immediate things, we’ve little problem accomplishing goals – painting the kids’ rooms, updating a personal website, completing a course, taking that much needed week long retreat.

But for the bigger long-term dreams…

<cue crickets>

Something I witness often is visioning paralysis – folks who lack a vivid set of goals for their near and distant future.  I don’t believe it’s for lack of creativity, desire, or ambition, however. I strongly believe it’s for these reasons:

  1. We’re terrified we won’t reach it so why even bother.
    Failing would only confirm my worst beliefs about myself and the world. That’s too painful to bare.
  2. We think it’s too limiting..
    If I set too specific a goal, what happens when I get there and decide it’s not at all what I want? What a waste of effort, money, and most importantly – time.
  3. The hope must be kept alive. Not claiming big important visions keeps us from having to achieve them. If the day-to-day feels like a burdensome struggle, then the vision in the background silently keeps hope and optimism alive. With a vision in reserve, we believe we have an exit plan to pull out of our pocket when the time is right. But that’s the paradox. That need for hope keeps us from ever pulling it out of our back pocket. Because…
    What if I go full-out and put everything into achieving it and fail, THEN WHAT?! Not only might I contend with painful failure, I would be resigned to living my current existence for eternity with no hope for anything else. Ultimate despair.

Now that we’ve got those limiting assumptions out of the way…

Claiming goals and visions is less scary if we reframe them as signposts. The reality is, we’ll never stop moving in a direction so we can get rid of this idea of having to get “there.” What if,  instead, “there” was the feeling of excitement, hope, and momentum in a direction that felt good.

Goals: they are markers to throw out and head toward. As we head in that direction our landscape inevitably changes. A changing landscape produces evolving thoughts, ideas, beliefs, insights, possibilities, people, and opportunities. As we progress toward these markers, we augment our direction to fit our new purview until we realize that the goal has evolved or created  an entirely new marker to throw out. And we just keep going.

What trips most people up is that there’s a belief that it’s failure to not reach that original unaltered goal.

We can eliminate this fear and paralysis of visioning if we simply drop the rigid interpretation. Instead we can use goals as compasses, giving us motivation to create momentum in a certain direction until we learn enough to course correct. If we can shift from seeing the “there” from a destination to a feeling of exhilaration as a result of movement in a desired direction, then the goal can never be about the destination, it’s always for the direction.

Now isn’t that relieving?!

What dreams, goals, and visions have you not been claiming as a result of those three fears? What might shift for you if you set goals for direction and momentum instead of a destination? Tell me what goals have been waiting in the background of your life.  Now, how about we turn them into signposts and get moving!

Amy Eliza Wong is an executive coach, writer, and speaker committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy, meaning and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.