Goal-Setting from the Soul
There must be at least a million different goals that I could set for 2019. I doubt that I’m patient enough to come up with all of those ideas, but with some help from everyone out there I’m sure a list that big is possible. What an amazing, big world we live in! How is it possible to narrow the list? What’s the point of trying to pick just a few things out of those million possibilities?
What am I really going after?
Recently I was asked by a couple of friends, “How do you set goals?” For anybody who knows me, this is a landmine question that means you are stuck for the next couple hours talking about my goal-setting process. Just kidding. Well, actually I’m not kidding. But at least I’m kind enough to warn people what is about to happen.
What I realized is that it’s hard for me to explain everything in one conversation. My goal-setting process includes ten years of iteration and deep learning from hundreds of books and brilliant minds. I can’t download all that into somebody new to the idea of goal-setting in one conversation. So where should you begin? Should everybody have the same beginning? How can I take ten years of learning and help somebody cover that ground in less time?
I don’t know. Maybe you can’t. Maybe you can. I’ve always liked the entrepreneurial question, “How can you accomplish your ten year goal in six months?” It challenges the status quo. Maybe you can’t get there in six months, but you usually get there a lot faster than ten years if you believe it can happen, and seek new strategies to make it happen.
In the pursuit of where to start, I began asking myself the fundamental question… Why set goals? What is all the fuss about goals anyway? What am I really going after and why are so many people drawn to the belief that setting goals is a good idea? We all clearly see something we want in people who are great at setting and achieving their goals. What is that, exactly?
I believe that the answer to this question is found in our souls. My soul, the way I understand it, is my mind, my will, my emotions, my heart. It’s about a feeling. When it comes down to it, we are all doing the same basic thing in our lives. We are trying to avoid pain, and pursue pleasure. There are myriad feelings on the spectrum, of course, and even more beliefs about how to achieve those feelings. But, I think it really is that simple. Every action I take is motivated by emotional energy, and trying to deliver an emotional experience in my soul.
So why set goals? Because deep down, my soul believes that if I reach that goal… I’m going to feel something good. I’m going to minimize pain in my life. I’m going to feel pleasure if I reach that goal. The incredible human ability to have a vision allows me to see into the future; Zach a year from now will be Zach with less pain and more pleasure if I can just hit goal A, goal B, and goal C. Especially goal A. I’ve gotta have goal A.
This is a big idea, and for many of us a complete mindset shift from anything you have heard before. Maybe for some of you it’s old news. My proposal is that we start here when looking at setting new goals for our lives. What feelings are we trying to get more of? Why do we believe that certain goal will make us feel that way?
Let’s look at an example. The most classic goal of all, “I want to lose weight and be skinny.”
- What will it feel like to lose weight and be skinny?
- Why do you believe that losing weight and being skinny will make you feel this way?
- Is it possible that you can achieve this goal and not feel this way?
- Are there other ways to achieve the feeling you want?
- Is losing weight and being skinny the best way to achieve the feeling you want?
Potential answers to these questions might be:
- Losing weight and being skinny will make me feel healthy and beautiful, which is important to me so I am accepted by my friends and society. Deep down, if I’m honest, I want to feel love and connection.
- All my friends are skinny and gorgeous, so being like them will help me feel accepted. Plus my doctor says it’s healthy to lose some weight (of course we have to throw in a noble reason).
- If I’m honest with myself, I have met a few skinny and stunning people who are miserable and alone. So yes, it’s possible to lose weight and not feel loved and accepted.
- Love and connection can be found in many ways. My family always makes me feel this way, and if I would just let them, my friends are there for me too. I could volunteer at Church or the local food bank. Maybe try out a new sport with my roommate. Perhaps if I had a cup of coffee with my best friend and chatted about this, we could come up with other ideas too.
- It’s going to take a lot of effort to lose weight, and if I don’t allow myself to be happy and feel love and connection until I get there, that means I can’t feel loved from now till then. Plus, how skinny is skinny enough to be loved? When you ask a question like that, it seems silly. Maybe this is not the best way, but I still want to be skinny and beautiful!! ARRGGH!! It’s hard to change our beliefs sometimes.
Haha, ok so I realize this is tricky stuff. Let me emphasize something here – I am not saying that the hypothetical person in this example should not lose weight. Being healthy is a GREAT thing. But, and this is a key distinction- if the reason for losing weight is to feel loved, it’s a futile pursuit. That is a one-way ticket to not setting goals again, ever.
If the reason for losing weight is to feel health and vitality, to feel proud of taking care of your body and increasing your energy to pour into other goals and people… now you’re onto something.
Planning to set some goals or resolutions for the New Year? No matter what goal you set, remember that in the end your soul is trying to move you toward a better place of feeling. Examine your beliefs about why those goals will take you there, then have fun going for it!