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Goal setting is over-rated

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

It is mid February. What happened to the list of New Year's resolutions?

Don’t loose courage if you didn’t set yourself goals or have just realised you have not quite achieved them yet, even though a sixth of the year is almost over. There is increasing evidence that setting goals is not the best way to achieve. Why is that?

Individuals and teams perform best when they can visualise what they are aiming for and when that vision has become so real that they can not only verbalise it but they can see it, smell it, touch it, hear it. PLUS They need to have a compelling heart reason why they can’t but achieve - once the longing in the heart is there, our vision PLUS the why becomes the magnet that draws us to see the vision realised. Our subconscious kicks in and works day and night to see the vision realised.

One of my colleagues who is highly disciplined recently laughingly remarked „why is it that I resist goal setting so much?“ - this question made me curious. Certainly it’s uncomfortable being on the hook, being accountable, there is a rebel inside many of us that doesn’t like being told what to do, even if that someone telling is ourselves to ourselves. For some it might be fear of failure before we even start. For others it’s not being sure where to start with setting a goal. But I believe there is another reason:

Many people don’t like goal setting as it puts them in a state of anxiety and pressure. Not a healthy or enjoyable place to live in, so naturally we want to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

Neuroscience shows that we perform best in a state of low levels of stress or with only the kind of stress that is perceived as positive.

I still remember the catalogue of the American outdoor clothing company arriving in my palm leaf lined home in Africa 25 years ago. The front page of the catalogue featured a family dressed in thick winter gear, the father carrying a freshly cut Christmas tree, the mother pulling a sleigh with Christmas gifts while one girl with a big smile hugged her from behind and the other three kids indulged in a snow ball fight, just having so much fun. My heart sang as I looked at the snowflakes while feeling the African summer heat on my skin.

It was then and there that it was sealed that this was my heart's desire - even though I was hopelessly single at the time. I had a glimpse of what my family could look like - by the grace of God and I never forgot that image. I can’t remember ordering anything from the catalogue, but I am forever grateful to that marketing campaign manager for planting a spark in me by this seemingly candid photo shoot.

Remember what it felt like being a kid when anything you imagined was possible and you had all the energy in the world? It’s that state of bountiful energy, curiosity, playfulness, bliss, resourcefulness that gave us the confidence to learn and grow and achieve. That’s the state anything is possible in again -so instead of adding pressure and beating yourself up for hating to set goals, not knowing what goals to set yourself or how to achieve them know there is a better way. Combine your calm, creative and courageous juices as the fuel for change.

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1 Comment

Kirsten Jack
Kirsten Jack
Mar 16, 2021

Well put. I really loved your article. And I agree - written goals don't mean nearly as much as the image impressed deep in our hearts. They just add stress. For the same reason, I often don't take notes while listening to inspirational talks. My heart keeps what it needs to keep.

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