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How to Set Goals with No Guilt

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When we’re in the grip of inspiration, an idea has taken hold of us from the invisible reality of Spirit. Something that seems to come from afar, where we allow ourselves to be moved by a force that’s more powerful than our ego and all of it’s illusions, is inspiration. ~Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Goal setting can be a great tool for achieving and improving different areas of your life. It can also be a source of frustration, disappointment and anxiety.

We’ve all heard of the traditional S.MA.R.T. guidelines for setting goals (making your goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). It seems to be widely touted by personal development gurus and business professionals, however it may not be for every goal seeker.

A few years ago, I worked with a business coach to help me grow my business. I learned a lot, but I also experienced many negative feelings like the ones mentioned above.

When I didn’t meet my goals, I would get very down on myself. I felt like something was wrong with me. My self-esteem went completely down the tubes.

On the other hand, when I achieved my financial goal for the week or month I’d be very happy, proud even. But you know what? Those feelings didn’t last very long.

My coach would give me a new, increased financial target to go after and the cycle would start over. I felt like I was on a never-ending treadmill of striving and stress. I could feel a growing cloud of emptiness and loneliness taking over.

It turned me off completely from setting goals. I started seeing them only as a way to make myself feel guilty and ashamed. And who needs more of that?

But, in stepping away from goal setting, I realized something. It wasn’t necessarily the goal setting that was making me feel bad. It was the fact that I was so attached to the outcome.

I was attaching my happiness and self-worth to whether or not I was achieving my goals.

And those feelings of emptiness and loneliness, was my internal GPS trying to tell me that I was way off course. My goals weren’t in resonance with my spirit.

Have you ever felt this way? Maybe it was a job you were going after, weight you wanted to lose, or a business you were building. You started out excited and energized and when you didn’t see things happening, you gave up.

And told yourself you’re not good enough, lazy or just plain unlucky.

Well, here’s my first piece of advice…Stop it! You weren’t put on this earth to feel badly about yourself. No amount of self-degradation will get you anywhere.

Maybe, the time has come to reevaluate your priorities and the way in which you approach them.

Tips For Having Goals without Guilt

  • Make sure it’s a goal that comes from your heart or has meaning to you. For me, goals that were purely financial weren’t very inspiring. Everyone has different driving forces, make sure yours is right for you.
  • Release the outcome to God or the Universe. Of course you’ll need to take action towards your goal, but don’t get hung up on the results. Know that whatever is meant to be will happen, but keep in mind, it may not happen according to your timetable.
  • Enjoy the journey. If it’s a true passion, you’ll be in it for the long haul. Whether you achieve your goal or not, at least you’ll be enjoying yourself. If one of your action steps has you doing something you don’t like for a while, weigh the pros and cons; is doing something as a “means to an end” worth it for you?
  • Know that you’re already worthy. Your self-worth doesn’t need to come from what you do or your accomplishments.
  • Have the end goal in mind, but recognize there are different paths that can lead to it.
    • Be creative, make a list of all the different ways you can fathom to achieve your goal. Have fun and be irrational, you never know.
    • Sometimes obstacles come up, but don’t let them throw you off. Think of it as a detour.
  • Believe that the outcome will always be for the best. If one door closes, that means there’s an open door waiting for you somewhere. You just have to find it.
  • Treat it like a game (Unless you’re a sore loser) or an experiment and you’re just testing out hypotheses. When one thing doesn’t work out, go back to the drawing board and try again.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve outgrown a goal or simply don’t want it anymore. The sooner you admit it, the sooner you can move on to something that really inspires you.

Kinder, Gentler Goal Setting

For those of you who cringe when you hear the word “goals”, no worries, it doesn’t mean you have to move to a misty mountaintop on the other side of the world.

There are many to different approaches you can take to make changes in your life. In fact, you don’t even have to call them goals if you don’t want to. How about “things I want to do”?

Here are a few alternatives to the traditional S.M.A.R.T. method:

What one outcome would you like to make happen right now? Is there something you can add to your life that can get you closer that outcome? Or, would getting rid of something (i.e. a bad habit) be more beneficial?

Each day try to do just one thing towards your desired outcome. Those simple actions add up over time and before you know it, you’ve got a life full of inspiration.

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About the author

Ally Palmer writes about creating a life full of inspiration, creativity and taking on personal challenges to expand your comfort zone. Ally is a mom of 2, a massage therapist, music lover, guitar player, and introvert seeking and sharing quiet inspiration in a chaotic world.

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9 thoughts on How to Set Goals with No Guilt

  1. Wonderful advice! I’ve also come to believe we each need our own goal setting style. The SMART goal thing is not for me – but neither could I tread through life without goals. I love challenging myself and goals give me direction and focus. The solution for me was very similar to the steps you’ve outlined above – but the one thing that made the biggest difference was to shift my focus from the end goal to the journey and overall growth. So even if I don’t make it to whatever ambitious finish line I set for myself, if I’ve truly given it my all, and have learned new things and grown along the way, then I can still feel good about my accomplishment(s).

  2. I think the hardest part for me is identifying the goals in the first place. Crazy!

    Usually once I set my mind to a goal, I’m very disciplined in approaching it in a tactical manner and getting myself to accomplish. If it’s an on-going goal, I do it consistently and boom!

    But finding the goals…

    Thanks for linking to Leo’s article. I think I actually live a lot like what he is describing and so far it is working for me. It just feels odd when people ask me what my goals are and I can’t give them an answer.

    “I don’t know… I just do.”

    Hey, it’s working out so far.

  3. This article came at the perfect time :) Thank you so much for your insight and wisdom, Ally!

  4. cj

    Great post, Ally!!! I too play guitar – classical (www.cjrenziguitar.com). What do you play?

    I am open to both alternative paths and outcomes for goals,so I don’t even know that I really make any. And if I do they are very vague. My energy and enthusiasm seems to always to lead to something good, even if it is not what I had first envisioned.

    But yes, my goodness. Take the guilt out of goal setting and everything else for that matter!!!

  5. Thanks for the post. I too found that if my goals defined my self-worth and were externally oriented misery was sure to follow.

    Once I made all of my goals about my passion my life totally changed and ‘goals became my friends.’

    Thanks again for the reminders.

  6. Ally, I like what you said about letting goals go if they don’t work for you. I am much more realistic in my goal setting than I used to be. In fact, I don’t even call them goals anymore. Whatever I want to do, I create a habit. Daily exercise – made it a habit. Writing daily – habit too.

    I worked in a public school and felt like tearing my hair out whenever I heard the words SMART and GOAL in the same sentence.

    I love what you said about enjoying the journey. If not, why do it! Thank you so much for your post.

  7. Very good post. I’m dealing with some of these issues as well..

  8. Sahil

    what all i have to say is thanks a lot all for those magic words Ally .

  9. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.
    I will make sure to bookmark your blog and may come back someday.
    I want to encourage you to continue your great writing,
    have a nice holiday weekend!

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