We are all FutureSurfers, surfing into the future with a backpack full of strengths and passions.

Is it important to set goals?

on September 5, 2012

Once upon a time I hadn’t even heard of the word ‘goal’ (except in relation to team sports of course). People talked about ‘New Year’s resolutions’. I tried writing them down as a teen and found that I forgot all about them within days, even hours sometimes! Then, many years and several careers later, I decided I wanted to help people be happier at work and became a career coach. I trained with David Rock and his team and learned about goal setting and having a vision, and lots of other cool stuff. I coached a few people using this approach and very quickly I learned a few things about goals:

Goals are a great starting point

If (like me as a teen) you have just been taking life as it comes, dreaming about doing some exciting things but never getting around to much, then setting goals is a great way to start approaching life in a different way. Thinking about where you are headed, and taking your wildest dreams a little further forward, to imagine what they would or could look like if they came true, and when that could happen… all these things are great steps towards taking control of your life rather than letting it drift by like a movie you’re watching.

Goals often morph as you learn about yourself

What I also found out was that for many people, the goals they started out with changed as they started to move towards them. One lady I worked with set a goal of becoming a bestselling novelist. The trouble was, week after week she was not actually sitting down and writing. She started to realise that she had a habit of setting herself very challenging goals, both at work and in her personal life, and that the goal needed to change, to be more focused on enjoying writing and making it a part of her life than about what the end product would look like. Once she took the pressure to perform away, she started to have fun writing!

It makes sense to do goals your way – one size does not fit all

As I carried on coaching and trained with some great coaches, I got a lot more relaxed about the process. Rather than follow the step-by-step method I had learned in coach training, I started to trust my intuition more and ask my clients about how goals generally worked for them. Some of them were highly driven individuals who liked to set ‘Everest’ style goals and as soon as one was achieved they’d set another one. Others had found they worked better with short term goals and liked to focus on small actions. Rather than tell them how to set goals, I found I could adapt and go with their preferred way of working most of the time.

Beyond goals to developing habits and practice

Right now I am experimenting with a whole new approach in one specific area of my life. I’ll be posting about it as I go along. Inspired by the London 2012 Olympics I decided that rather than focus on a goal of losing weight or even fitting into a particular outfit, I would develop the practice of fitness. So I’ve defined (more or less) what that looks like, some measure of what I will do, how often I will do it (at the moment it’s exercising for about 30 minutes, four times a week and I’ve maintained that for 3 weeks now so it’s still early days) but unlike a goal there is no end point. I am looking to develop a practice that I will continue for the rest of my days.

What’s your experience of goal setting? Have you developed a ‘practice’ in one or more areas of your life? If so, what wisdom would you like to share with those of us who are new to the idea?




One response to “Is it important to set goals?

  1. Sarah Anthony says:

    I love the idea of developing a practice that you have for life. This takes the pressure off an becomes a part of our life instead of something we “have to do”! The same result – the difference is a much more enjoyable journey! Nicely put!

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