My Philosophy On Setting Goals

I’ve not been much of a goal-setter in the past.

I’ve achieved things I wanted to achieve. And I’ve challenged myself to push a bit harder, to stretch myself, and (for the most part) to finish what I start.

But I’ve not been one to sit down at the beginning of the year and think, “OK, what do I want to achieve personally and professionally this year and how am I going to get there?”

And obviously if I wasn’t writing firm yearly goals, I wasn’t conducting quarterly reviews of my progress and analyzing my results.

I think one reason for this goal setting neglect has a lot to do with my personality type. I’m an INFJ personality type which means I’m not much of a detail person. I like to paint big pictures and follow my nose.

Frankly, in the past I’ve felt like setting time aside to plan goals (rather than just doing the work or living life) is a big distraction from what really matters. I also feel this way about organizing things, cleaning out my emails, and analyzing my finances.

These things feel like a drag on what I’m supposed to be doing. They don’t make me feel like I’m being productive, although intellectually I understand they are important.

I am highly motivated to achieve, especially when I’m inspired, passionate, or invested in some way. This has been my key to reaching “goals.”  There’s something I’m inspired to do, and dang if I don’t just get it done.  I’m not completely sure how or why, but something inside just urges me forward.

And the J function in my personality type (which is the part of me that is somewhat buttoned-up and organized) keeps me on the straight and narrow enough that I don’t miss deadlines, lose important papers, or fail to complete what I start.

It’s worked OK for me in the past — or at least I thought so.

But . . .  over the last few years I’ve realized this loosey goosey approach isn’t serving me as well as I’d like. In fact, I’ve likely left many potential successes and a good bit of money on the table because I’ve failed to set goals. Boo hoo.

It’s certainly nice to let life unfold and to do only what inspires me. But there’s more inside of me — and probably more inside of you too. I now understand  that setting some goals actually allows me to become more of who I want to be and to enjoy more of what I really want to do in my life.

Even though I haven’t set firm goals in the past, I’ve had a vision for my life. I know how I want my life to look and feel and how I want to operate within it. I like creating and having a vision. Creating a vision is inspiring and poetic — it suits my personality. It’s much less pedantic than the boot-to-the-pavement work of setting goals.

But darned if I haven’t discovered very late in life that if you want to make your vision a reality, you have to do some of that pedestrian work of setting goals.

If you have a vision of . . .

  • doing work you love;
  • finding the love of your life;
  • having freedom and flexibility;
  • enjoying fun and adventure;
  • making a certain income;
  • getting or staying fit and living a healthy lifestyle;
  • having great relationships;
  • or any other wonderful dream for your life or work . . .

Then you have to set a few goals, define some actions, plot them on a calendar, and actually follow through with them — if you want your vision to be more than a pipe dream.

Setting goals that are SMART (Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant; and Time-Based) actually accelerates your ability to make your vision a real-life, tangible dream-come-true. And isn’t that what we all want?

When you set goals and achieve them, other good things happen too.

  • You feel like a good doobie. You can make things happen. You can follow through. Woo hoo for you!
  • You realize you have more in you than you thought you did. You get taller just thinking about it.
  • Other people have more respect for you (and you have more for yourself).
  • You feel motivated to achieve other goals because you are so freakin amazing and talented and gifted and great and all other good things.  You are riding this high of your awesomeness!

My goal-setting philosophy

So this brings us to my philosophy on goal-setting. As great as goal-setting is, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I’m not suddenly going to morph into the goal guru who plans out every aspect of my work and life. Ain’t gonna happen. I just know me. And maybe you know you and you’re the same.

So instead, what’s worked for me is setting some “spacious” goals — a few big, broad goals with lots of room for shifting, mind-changing, and potential detours. If I get inspired mid-year, I want to have the time and flexibility to follow my inspiration even as I work toward my goals.

In 2012, I had three major goals:

1. Creating a new expert site devoted to helping people find and live their life passions. This was a huge goal and involved many smaller goals. But I was totally inspired and motivated, so it was fun.

2. Writing my book, The 52-Week Life Passion Project, which required having weekly writing goals so I could finish it in time to launch when my new site was up.

3. Creating my Path to Passion course which I presented as an interactive program in April and May.

I’m happy to say that by setting these goals and creating specific action steps to make them happen, I accomplished all of them by the end of the year. Having three big goals was just enough for my life, personality, and schedule.

Now there were lots of other general aspirations I had related to increasing my income, improving Live Bold and Bloom, building my readership, etc. But I didn’t list these as “official” goals. If I had, I would have felt overwhelmed and scattered, and probably would have achieved very little. This has happened to me before with too many firm goals.

Having just a few big goals, along with a list of “filler aspirations” I could work on when I had time, has worked really well for me. I’ve defined some big things I wanted to achieve but also left some wiggle room.

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else. ~Yogi Berra

I know this may not work well for everyone. Some people really work best with clear goals for everything and with a highly-structured plan of action. That might actually be a better, more organized way to go. But not for an INFJ. You have to flow with who YOU are and how you best stretch yourself toward your dreams and desires.

Having been an “anti-goal setter” in the past and in recent years a “spacious goal setter,” I can say that the latter is a much more productive, challenging, and expansive mindset. Setting goals really is the only way to make things happen in your life that align with the vision you’ve created (hopefully you have a vision).

Today, June 24th, is an important benchmark as it represents the
final week of the 2nd quarter of 2013. You have a great opportunity today to end 2013 with a brand new beginning, achieving things you didn’t know you could achieve.

What is your vision for your life?

What do you want to accomplish in the next six months?

Are you ready to set a few spacious (or detailed) goals? 

25 thoughts on “My Philosophy On Setting Goals”

  1. I have had starting my PhD as a plan for this year 2013. I even made it my email password. Because last year, I only wrote down “pursue my Phd” and due to some life incidents of family loss, it had remained at the stage of “pursuing”. This year I applies again and again and again.. and then I got accepted. Finally. After two years of following what seemed like a mirage that keep moving further every time I approached, it finally happened. 🙂

    The end

    • Congratulations Maram!! That is fantastic. So your goal-setting and persistence has paid off. Bravo for you!!

  2. Although I’ve been a “goal writer downer” for a long time, I enjoyed reading this. It puts into perspective the power of positive thinking. During June, 2011, I set some specific short- (3 month), mid- (2 year), and long-term (5 year) goals. Without getting long winded, I can safely say I achieved all three of my short-term goals and both of my 2 year goals! I have actually started on my 5 year as well!

    • Jessica that is so inspiring. You can be my poster child for goal success!! How did you accomplish the goals? What strategies did you use to measure your progress?

    • Hi Jackie,
      I’m delighted you like them! I’d love to hear what you think of the 100 Day Challenge.

    • Hi Sandra,
      I’m not surprised given what you blog about! You are probably an INFJ as well.

  3. Very nice concept of spacious goals – goals which are big but give lot of leeway to us to tweak the execution as per our other priorities. That was another good insight about setting goals. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you for the great information. I’m an INFP so can relate to the struggle with goal setting. I need to get more specific with my goals and like the idea of starting at the beginning of a quarter instead of waiting for the new year.

    • Hi Monica,
      Yes, INFP might even have more trouble with goals than INFJ’s. Having some sort of system to help you can make a difference. I know there are several good goal-setting apps for iphones.

    • Mike, that is so true. The process of any endeavor can teach us so much, even when we fail at it. Maybe especially when we fail at it!

  5. I find that I’m very much the same. I’m very determined and structured, but I have felt that taking the time to write out my goals is a waste of my time, especially when I knew where I was going. In the last few months, though, I have had to set goals and schedules. I wrote a book which is on Amazon Kindle and I’ve started a blog about change and how to change your life. But in creating a blog and marketing system there is so much work and study involved that I’m discovering that I need firm goals. To many days I don’t get my writing or blog posts or forum posts completed. I’ve noticed that what started out as a two month project is now a 3 or 4 month project.

    I’m convinced that I must finalize my goals in writing with activities that will help me achieve my goals.
    Thank you for the post.

  6. I loved this because I also struggle between this balance of setting up goals and just going with what calls at me. For this year though I had the simple goal of doing something big that would set me apart from last year and after starting an urban organic farm in Costa Rica, starting a blog and some other interesting events I am happy to say I am well on route. Now the question is what do I want for the second half of the year 🙂

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