Goodbye to Goals

Goodbye to Goals

New year, new goals.

What better time is there to get a fresh start on where a person wants to be than at the beginning of a new year? After all, there are 12 months—or 52 weeks or 365 days, depending on one’s preference—to create a step-by-step plan on how to reach one’s ultimate aim. And for those that don’t know how to get started, there are plenty of helpful articles, books and published posts that offer tips on setting and achieving goals. Seems straightforward enough.

But even now, just one month after those hopeful starts, many plans already have fizzled out.

Sigh. Unfortunately, I’ve found the most notable effect of goal-planning, complete with spelled-out steps for success, to be the guilty and disappointed feelings I get from unmet objectives. In fact, too often, the whole process has left me feeling less-than I was before I created and put my plan into action. Awful.

Another issue I’ve found is that concentrating on as-yet unattained goals puts me in a constant state of wanting—of waiting for something I don’t have. Of looking to the future for the happiness I’ll finally feel when I reach my target instead of appreciating the fabulousness of the present.

And then, when I have hit a goal, the wonderful high and well-earned sense of accomplishment I’ve felt has been short-lived. After all, what comes next? My experience has been one of three things: the pressure to maintain the goal (5 a.m. workouts, anyone?), the follow-up planning of next-step goals (where my focus, again, is on the future), or the fallback, where the overwhelming effort to maintain a met goal sets me back to my original state (sleeping in versus getting up for those 5 a.m. workouts).

Now wiser, I avoid establishing goals and the subsequent plans to attain them.

That’s not to say I don’t have aspirations. I do. A healthy lifestyle is important to me. So are meeting work-related deadlines, enjoying rewarding relationships, and having financial security, among other priorities.

But instead of laying out steps to reach of those aspirations, I do my best to live them. I don’t worry about how I’m going to get from A to B to C. I focus on what’s important to me and live there, as I’m able.

Living my goals doesn’t mean I don’t take steps to move forward. Without discipline, structure and order I wouldn’t be able to do the things I want to do or be the person I want to be. I pay attention to opportunities and take advantage of those that align with my priorities, whether they stem from my actions or someone else’s, which helps me stay true to my ideals. Doing so helps me stay grounded and productive without the strain and inevitable failure of forcing myself into a rigid plan.

My colleague swears by goal-setting and planning. It’s how she gets to where she wants to go, and not only does she have a lot of places to go, but she also gets to nearly all of them—as planned. Bravo!

If that works for you, I’m genuinely glad. But if not, why not make this year’s goal to live, instead of plan for, yours?

Karen Maserjian Shan is an account manager at Impact PR & Communications, Ltd. and can be reached at (845) 462-4979 or karen@pwithimpact.com