I don’t know about you, but goal setting (especially this time of year) can be kind of a stressful endeavour. There’s this pressure to renew ourselves, to better ourselves and to achieve (or at least set out to achieve) some pretty ginormous things. And you know what all that pressure adds up to? Anxiety baby! Which is not good fodder for building our dreams.
So how do we set goals in a healthy way? Because those dreams definitely aren’t going to achieve themselves. Let’s talk about it:
New Year’s Resolutions And Unrealistic Grandiose Goals Are Bad News Bears
There is no goal setting pressure greater and more all encompassing than that of the dreaded New Year’s Resolution.
Every New Year many of us feel inclined to make these grandiose resolutions. New Year, new you, right? Maybe not… Because unfortunately that mind set kind of sets us up for total failure. I’ve talked about it in detail here but the short version is this: starting a new year by vowing to make huge, often unrealistic changes is damn stressful. And you know what that means? Higher cortisol levels, which can affect things like thyroid function, weight, digestion and immune function. Total freaking bummer.
And the worst part? Most of the time these huge goals go unachieved. Which bruises our self-esteem and affects our well-being. These extreme goals are not propelling you forward in the end. They’re really just knocking you down and holding you back.
The same can be said for any unrealistic, monumental goal. When you set the stakes too high you often set yourself up for a ton of pain.
So Are Big Goals a Bad Idea?
Heck no! Dreaming and working to achieve the things that excite you are wonderful. But there are a few key factors that can make all the difference and save us from a lot of the unhealthy side effects. Here are 5 tips that can help:
5 Goal Setting Tips
1. Know The Difference Between Inner And Outer Goals
The distinction between these two babies is pretty freaking important. So what are they?
Outer goals are achievements that appear successful to the outside world. They might fit into a cultural ideal, please your family or simply be perceived as good by those around you.
Inner goals focus more on how you want to feel and what you want to achieve, regardless of outer perceptions.
Sometimes outer and inner goals align, and that’s fantastic. But inner goals should be your main focus. This is your life after all, you should be building something you’re excited about.
If you aren’t sure where your goals stand on the inner/outer goal spectrum, ask yourself these questions:
Are you hoping to achieve this for you or those around you?
Does this goal align with the life that you want to create for yourself?
Do you feel pressured to achieve this goal?
When you close your eyes and imagine achieving this goal, do you feel fulfilled?
2. Embrace A ‘Less Is More’ Mentality
You might be tempted to have a list of goals ten pages long, but that’s just not good goal setting darling! A long, strenuous, life changing to do list will only lead to panic and potentially inaction, just like those giant New Year’s Resolutions we were talking about.
When you set out like this you are biting off way more than you can chew, and that only leads to a burn out. So narrow it down and focus on a couple of things that are essential and or excite you.
If the idea of narrowing things down worries you, know this:
Goals are not the only way to achieve great things – you are pretty amazing and successful in a flow state too.
It’s important to remember that you are still able to achieve things, even when you aren’t exactly focused on doing so. When I used to do improv we had a saying “improv is life and life is improv”. It was a reminder that we are constantly unscripted and improvising, even when we aren’t on stage. And it turns out that that unplanned, everyday improvising you’ve been doing has some pretty fantastic effects.
Sounds kind of strange, right? But when you’re in a state of flow, uninhibited by your own inner critic you become more creative and expressive. John Hopkins Researchers discovered just that when they used MRIs to study spontaneity and creativity by observing jazz musicians improvise their music (source).
So set a few inner goals, but don’t over goal yourself and lose the opportunity to create a flow that allows you to create something authentically yours.
3. Realize It’s About Progress, Not Perfection
Oh perfection. That mean little word holds so many of us back. And I get it. It affects everyone from time to time. Goodness, I sometimes feel the need to be perfect right here on this site. Whether it be with my photos, my recipes, my articles. But that isn’t only impossible, it’s unauthentic and down right harmful.
Perfection undermines us in so many ways. Sometimes it stops us from even getting started in the first place, because the idea of perfecting something is so daunting and panic inducing that we feel like we shouldn’t even bother trying. It might burn us out while we try to reach it’s impossible heights. Or we toss in the cards and give up. And while it’s definitely ok to give up sometimes, I bet we wouldn’t do it as often if the pressure of being perfect weren’t there.
So let’s take a deep breath together and let the idea of perfection go. Let’s focus on progress instead, shall we?
When your goal setting is all about progress and not about perfect we add a ton of joy and discovery to our ventures. Progress cheers you on. It stems from an open minded place and sometimes even leads us in directions we never could have discovered under the pressures of perfection.
4. Give Yourself Ample Time
You know what else can cause a ton of pressure and anxiety? Time constraints. If you’re anything like me the crushing feeling of too much to do and too little time to do it is outright painful. And you know how we often deal with that kind of blunder? We steal time from other areas, like sleep or self care. That’s never good for our well-being.
It’s important to be realistic in our goal setting and give ourselves the time and space we need to feel safe and secure enough to achieve them.
And it really doesn’t hurt to add extra time to the plan too, just in case. Life is full of surprises and sometimes things take longer to build than we anticipated. A little leeway can do a long way.
5. It’s Ok To Change Your Mind
You may find yourself halfway through your goal and feeling unfulfilled, don’t panic. Pause for a moment, reflect on what you’ve accomplished and what you had set out to do in the first place. If the goal no longer aligns with your path, don’t be afraid to let it go. (If you need a little help reflecting, meditation is a huge help).
You are not bound to these dreams. Sometimes we outgrow things and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to walk away from something that no longer serves you, even if it’s your own dreams. You are allowed to outgrow goals before they are achieved. I promise you, there are new adventures waiting just around the corner.
Now it’s your turn – what goal setting tips would you add to the list? How do you pursue your goals in a healthy way? Share with us in the comments below.
Health and love,
Thought of the day: I will pursue my dreams in a way that is loving and respectful towards myself.
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