Why You Shouldn’t Set Goals.


I have a problem with goals. I think setting goals can be detrimental to getting what you want. And the further away, or larger a goal is – the worse it is for you.

Reaching for a Goal can be Exhausting.

The outward focus it takes to reach a goal can be very tiring as we are always striving to get somewhere, other than being where we are now. I find that with reaching for a goal, we lose connection to the present. And in the present is the only place where we can find calmness and contentment. Getting to a goal makes us get into a mode where we just tick the boxes, get stuff done, move on, don’t look back. But this isn’t living. Life is what happens in the now, not in the mad, exhausting push to get another tick in the box.

Reaching Goals is Demotivating.

Here’s a huge stumbling block for anyone trying to get what they want – once they have it, the motivation has gone and usually people back track until they are once again at the starting line (where they worked so hard to get away from). Quitting smoking and losing weight are the two biggest demotivating goals. They are absolutely fine things to want, but if your only focus in on a date where you can call yourself a non-smoker, or a number on a scale that you desperately want to get to – then you’ve set yourself up for a fall. Once the date, or number has been reached – what then? Why carry on? You’ve done all the horrible hard work, and now it’s over! It’s very hard to set another goal when you’ve drained yourself on reaching that one. And it’s also very hard to think of another goal when for the last few months you had one sole focus. A lot of people smoke again, or gain the weight back just so they can re-use the same goal. Not a sustainable practice.

Reaching Goals Puts Life on Hold.

For many, reaching a goal means white knuckles and gritted teeth. Head down – charging forwards, until the goal is met. This means that life passes by, but it cannot be enjoyed until you reach your destination. If a goal of yours is to exercise every morning for 12 weeks until you look like an after photo on Instagram, then, although you get that great feeling that you’re doing what you set out to do, it can feel very tough at times. Sometimes to support the goal, you have to surround yourself with things to keep you going. Reading blogs of people who’ve done it before you, reading new workouts, buying more kit to keep you cheered and motivated. Frankly – it can be obsessional. Whereas before you might have enjoyed a walk on the beach with the dogs, now it’s spent doing leg day in the gym. You get the picture.

Another Way.

As you can see, the goals I have a problem with are those one off, big goals. Numbers, dates, a new look. They just aren’t sustainable. The way to get what you want is to frame it in very immediate, yet sustainable, terms. This is the real work of getting what you want. So for a smoker who wants to stop smoking, it’s a great idea to swap that one goal of being a non-smoker, to a much larger and vivid picture of living a whole life, without cigarettes. And to be that way, you live it today. Meaning you embrace each challenge of a craving each day, and that is all there is to it. You open your eyes to the cravings, and the way you live your life – boredom, comfort, desire – and you meet them in the present. You create new ways of living each day, until, naturally you are living a smoke free life. But you feel far richer, and more fulfilled from having taken it one day at a time with eyes open, rather than closing your eyes and bearing down until you can kind of fake it until you make it, and after 3 months, open your eyes again and hope you’ve become a non-smoker.

It’s the same for losing weight. Instead of reaching for a number on a scale, you open your eyes every day in the present and come face to face with your addictive desires and how you live your life. You notice first, and then see what feels kind to you. Perhaps you notice a constant need for seconds, and then thirds. You don’t just grin and bear eating one measly yogurt until 12 weeks is up – you sit and feel the discomfort after each meal, each day, and meet yourself where you are. That way you become a truer, more real, you. In this way you build self-trust that you are there to meet your pain and you survive it! This awesome feeling is missed if you run away from what you need to know, and just ‘meet a goal’ instead. Don’t reach a goal, feel your daily pain! That is living, that is life. You will learn how to kindly respond to your needs until you know you are always there to hear your pain, and somehow, it doesn’t need stuffing down anymore.

There isn’t ever a ‘there’ to get to. It is rather indulgent of us to think that life will still carry on as normal three months down the line into your goal getting. How do we know? We only have now, this moment. Don’t fritter it away, waiting for the day you become who you want to be. The truth is, you are who you are now and when you get to that date, surprise surprise, you’ll still be you. Wherever you are, there you go. Learn to live with your whole self today, and only today, working on new habits and routines that build a richer life – instead of a habit look alike that only serves one goal. Life is richer than that.

Setting small habits is more rewarding than one big goal. Do your exercises and healthy eating because you love yourself and you want to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is a kind of goal that is limitless. It is just the way you live your life. You take care of yourself every day, in a plethora of ways. This way, you never get demotivated or exhausted. It’s a more immediate feedback loop as you are there to notice it every day, rather than twice a year when a goal has been met and the feedback is ‘that sucked!’.


I wish you all the best for all your moments!

2 responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Set Goals.

  1. I heard Eric Thomas, the motivational speaker, say basically the same thing about goals. I understand the reasoning, but I think saying that you are chasing a goal is more inspiring than saying you are changing a habit. I think it takes a fairly high level of emotional and spiritual maturity to stay motivated with a habit change. A lot of people aren’t there yet. I think it is all in the connotation.


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