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Why I Don’t Like Goals

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

What words come to mind when you think of a person who sets goals and achieves them? For me, I think of the words accomplished, capable, successful, and overall, I imagine that person’s got their shit together. What about someone who doesn’t set goals—what words come to mind? I immediately think of the words lazy, unmotivated, and unsuccessful. Why is that? Why does such a simple action have so many consequences for how and what I perceive about a person’s character?

In Western society, goals are seen as tools to help us achieve great things, and I believe that for many people, that can be the case. What about the people, though, who feel that goals are stifling? What about the people who value the constant ebb and flow that life brings?

I’ve realized lately that I’m not a goal oriented person whatsoever, and I’ve always felt that must be because I’m not a hard worker or because I can’t finish things that I start. However, our society is extremely goal oriented, so when someone doesn’t fit with that it can seem like there’s something wrong with them. I’m realizing I also like to focus on processes, qualities, and values instead. So instead of “I want to workout 3 days/week” I resonate way more with shifting it to “I want to enjoy movement” and “I want to move consistently.” That shift feels way more motivating or relatable. I can work to perfect processes my entire life whereas goals are either accomplished or not, which doesn’t work for me.

Now, I realize that goals can be modified given a new situation (like a pandemic) or can change once the original goal is met, but for some, the idea of setting a goal can seem so intangible. For some, they can become so focused on the goal that they lose sight of the process. For some, they won’t be happy until they meet that goal. That’s one of the many reasons I hate weight loss goals. People imagine that everything will fall into place when they “lose the weight,” like life isn’t worth living until they accomplish that goal. Newsflash—life is happening right now, why can’t we learn to enjoy what’s happening right in front of us? Moreover, what happens when the weight is finally lost? I really question whether or not it will provide the satisfaction one thinks it will. Speaking from experience, the person who just achieved their weight loss goal will still be dissatisfied with themselves and will just create a new goal, hoping that they will finally find satisfaction at the achievement of that new goal, until they realize they are still dissatisfied. It’s a never-ending merry go round from hell. Most people ride that never-ending weight loss merry go round their entire lives.

“But isn't that working toward constant progress?”

To me, it sounds like never fully being satisfied. It sounds like something that takes us out of the present moment. Going back to the weight loss example, what if we shifted that goal to a process? What if we shifted it from “I am going to lose ___ lbs” to “I am going to move my body consistently” and “I am going to eat in a way that makes my body feel good?” This process can be perfected over a lifetime, but it will focus on the present moment the entire time. There is no accomplished or not accomplished, just a daily ebb and flow. It teaches the person to acknowledge that they’ll get thrown off track by life and to find their way back. For the goal setter, getting thrown off track can oftentimes lead to the abandonment of the goal altogether. With the weight loss example, what if an injury happens and the person can’t exercise how they’re accustomed to for three months? In this example, it’s going to be pretty difficult to lose the weight they originally set out to lose. If they instead were focused on the process of moving their body, they could find a way to do so despite being thrown off track.

For the people who feel like something is wrong with them because they don’t feel motivated by goals or can never seem to accomplish them, this was for you. Nothing is wrong with you—it’s time to start questioning why we’re all made to believe that there’s one way of achieving success in this life.

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