Toss Your Goals in the Trash Can

They’re not helping you affect change

Last night I was on a coaching call, and my client was struggling with setting her goals. She had a story in her mind that she needed to lay out her 5-10 year plan, and I was going to help her achieve it. I mean, I’m happy to do that for someone…but that’s not what most people need.

In our culture, we reward and incentivize the goal setters. We’ve all heard the training…set S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound), but did you know this is completely useless information for 80% of the population?

Most people are not motivated by goals. They are motivated by solving problems.

Don’t get me wrong…about 20% of the population loves goals (my hand is raised right now). We get a high off writing down our plans and checking the box when they’re achieved, but for many people, words on a sheet of paper are not motivating.

Let’s go back to the example from the coaching call. I asked her why she even signed up for the 12 Week Create Peace course with me. She said that initially she thought she wasn’t a fit at all. She thought it was irrelevant timing to where she was at in life, and she wasn’t really in a mental-space to focus on personal growth and development or goal setting (a very common misunderstanding of the work I do).

However, she downloaded the free e-book Create Peace and printed it out because “Who can’t use some more peace?”. Her partner happened to see it lying around and read the first page. He said to her “This is exactly what you need,” so she decided to take the plunge and see what happened.

Naturally, I asked her what was preventing her from living in full peace. She went on to describe some challenges she is facing in her personal life, especially the inability to help an aging parent because of Covid-19, and the emotional toll it was taking on her. She described how she can easily swing back and forth from doing really well to emotionally dark places.

Right there.

It was that simple.

She was struggling to set an intention (a.k.a. goal) for her 12 weeks in the course, and it was right in front of her.

I shared with her how 80% of people are problem solvers, not goal setters. I asked her if instead of trying to set a goal she could pick ONE PROBLEM that if solved would bring so much peace into her life.

Her response was finding coping mechanisms on how to manage the low-lows of the emotional roller coaster. How many of us can resonate with that? How many of us have absolutely been there?

That was it. I encouraged her to set that as her intention for the course, that by the end of our 12 weeks together she would feel more emotionally stable and equipped to handle the day to day stresses of life.

She didn’t need a five year plan. She didn’t need a vision board with vacations and new cars and a fancy house to motivate her to make her life better. She just needed to make the decision that she was going to be intentional about creating some new habits to help her sustain a healthy mental space on a regular basis. And that is enough.

So, what about you? Are you a goal setter or a problem solver?


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