Why you should forget traditional goal setting this year (Part 2 of the New Year transition series)

This is part two of a multipart series one how to consciously transition into the New Year.  

Goal, goals, goals… We thrive on setting goals, don’t we?

We like to measure our performance at work, outperform our fitness scores and exceed financial goals.  Then there are the more subtle, less spoken about goals, designed to display a particular position in society; a better school for the children, a faster car, a bigger house in a nicer neighbourhood.

It’s a natural human trait to want to keep setting goals, to continue evolving, after all by our nature we are explorers and evolutionary beings.  

Once we had conquered the oceans, we travelled to the moon, and now spacecraft has reached interstellar space and the outer solar system. There is an endless desire to do more, be more, grow more that is deeply programmed into our DNA.

At this time of year, I hear even more emphasis on setting goals as my clients look to the year ahead.  Loose 10kg, travel to 3 countries, save more money…

But do we really thrive on setting goals, or does this endless competition with ourselves and others simply leave us feeling burnt out and disillusioned?

Ellen Goodman puts it beautifully: “Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” 

The deceptive nature of goals

There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, done well they can help us stretch beyond our comfort zones which can enable us to grow. However, we have become more and more focused on goals that are external to us, and in a deceptive twist of fate, they usually require another person’s validation in order for us to feel validated ourselves.

It’s tricky because this is often unconscious.  

Imagine it like this, we are setting up secret deals with ourselves and others that we’re not even aware of. These deals are dressed up as goals for ourselves, but secretly we hope if we achieve them a lover will love us more deeply because we are slimmer, a colleague will respect us more greatly for being well travelled or a friend will admire us more because we are wealthier. When you see this set up it’s no surprise that we quickly lose focus, desire and energy for these goals.

Your life is richer, more precious and more glorious than the goals you set. Click to Tweet.

I was taught that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our feelings.

So what if there was a different way of doing things, perhaps a more holistic way? Consider this – a different way of setting goals that isn’t based on targets, but based on feelings.

So how do you do it differently?

The key is to remember the connection to why we set ourselves goals in the first place, usually this is because we want to feel a certain way when they are met. We want to feel happy, invigorated, stretched, contented, evolved, secure, challenged, excited.  Notice these feelings are internal experiences, not external.  Only the person feeling those feelings can validate them. This is good news because it means the deception of external validation is removed.

Why not try it another way this year?

Imagine how you want to feel when you are with yourself, your family, at work, with friends. Imagine the word that sums up the feeling you would experience when you meet all of the goals that you would normally set.

It only needs to be one word. Perhaps it’s connected, free, passionate, flowing or alive. Whatever the word is that feels right for you and makes you feel good inside. It needs to inspire you and make you smile.

Find a place to capture that word where you will be reminded of it throughout the year, a screensaver, your password to log in to your computer, paint in on a stone or simply write it in your diary. Keep the word visible on a daily basis and then live and breathe it. Take this word with you like a mantra into the year ahead. Use this word as a foundation to lay your goals upon and give them real meaning. See what difference it makes for you when you bring this word to life inside of you rather than focus purely on targets.

If you would like to dig deeper into a different way of setting your goals this year, why not join me or one of the Pause team at the Instant Pause.  It’s a one-day workshop designed to give you time and space to think about your life. I will be running the Instant Pause in London on 12th  and there are more dates with the Pause team too.  Click here to apply.

Wishing you a peaceful year ahead.

With love,




Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

2 Responses to “Why you should forget traditional goal setting this year (Part 2 of the New Year transition series)”

  1. Wendy

    This is such an important point to make Danielle. Recently I learned a new way to look at results / outcome / goals. Total results include productivity level, total learning and total experience. It is limiting just to focus in goals. The question what will learn having pursued this or that goal and what is the experience I want when pursuing this / that goal. I found it more interesting to look at these three domains that encompass total result! I get cited thinking about it. The word that comes up for me is COMPLETE. Nothing left undone or unsaid at any moment in time.

    • Danielle Marchant

      What a beautiful perspective Wendy, I love what the word complete represents for you “Nothing left undone or unsaid at any moment in time”. I will post a Pause Bubble for you on my Facebook page of that!


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