We have probably all had the experience of setting a goal and going after it with pure force until we’ve achieved it. However, instead of feeling accomplished and proud, we felt terrible and exhausted. In the end, it didn’t give us the magic feeling we thought it would.
Others of us have goal PTSD from perpetually setting goals and never achieving them. We have spent our time making it mean we are broken, useless, lazy, or whatever else. Now we never want to set goals because it feels terrible and like a setup to feel failure.
No wonder we avoid the topic of goals!
If you’re in this boat of avoiding goals, give me a few minutes to share another take on the topic and see what you think.
Goals don’t have to be hard
We usually set goals thinking they have to be hard. We have been trained to believe that the point of a goal is to push us to new heights, to challenge us, and to show us what we’re made of.
Now, I’m not ever going to say they can’t be that. Of course, I’m all about growing and showing yourself what you’re capable of.
But goals don’t have to be hard or all about growth. They can also be about inspiration, happiness, and personal satisfaction.
“Want to” goals
I think making space for things we want to do, and know we will do also allows us to feel success along the way.
At the beginning of the year, I talked about micro-resolutions and how they can be an important part of our ability to keep going and create real change. This is the same idea.
By focusing on what we WANT to do and WILL do, we can start to see that setting and achieving goals can be fun and possible.
Reframe your goals
Have you ever noticed we are often creating goals around what we don’t want to do instead of what we do want to do?
For example, I might set a goal that I’m going to stop drinking soda, or I’m going to not spend money on eating out this month. I might say that I’m not eating flour and sugar for the next six months, or no more overeating or eating off plan at night.
Even the idea that we are going to lose weight focuses on what we want to get rid of.
Reframing our goals to feature what we want instead can be a powerful shift.
Rather than phrase the goal as “I’m going to stop drinking soda,” you might say “I’m going to prioritize drinking water.”
Instead of saying “I’m not going to spend money on eating out,” say “I’m going to plan and prepare food at home.”
“I’m trying to lose weight,” can become “I’m learning to listen to what my body needs.”
You may think that changing the words doesn’t change anything, but I beg to differ. I think changing the words changes everything. It changes the “feeling fuel,” the emotion we use to take action.
Try on some of these goal sentences. Try on both versions. Notice how they feel.
Notice how the emotion is different and how the different emotions might have you showing up differently, with more peace, more acceptance, and more patience.
Look at the goals you have now. Reframe them into “want to goals”. What do you want to do or change?
Turn “have to” into “want to”
There’s another application of the idea of “want to” goals I want to mention. For many of us, our goals are “have to’s.”
“I have to lose weight to lower my cholesterol,” “I have to stop eating so much sugar so I can be healthy,” “I have to stop drinking caffeine to improve my sleep,” “I have to give up Diet Coke.” How awesome do those feel?
If you have some “have to’s” happening, ask yourself: “Is that true?”
Do you have to? Why? What happens if you don’t?
I think getting to the truth–which is, you don’t have to do anything–allows you the space to decide that if you don’t have to, if there is no requirement, do you want to?
For many of us, the answer to this is yes. We want a healthy heart and body and to live a long life. For some of us, that means limiting some things. But, it feels totally different to do it as a “want to” than a “have to.”
One thing I’ve been implementing for myself to help me overcome my goal PTSD is a focus on setting goals that I know I will do, not because they are going to push me to become a new version of myself necessarily, but because they’re fun.
They’re things I love to do but always seem to set aside for nobler, challenging, push-myself pursuits.
The unintended positive consequence of this may be surprising. Here are some examples.
The 2 fun goals I’m setting
I love listening to music and I love singing at the top of my lungs in the car. However, I was finding that at every opportunity, I was choosing to listen to a podcast, audiobook, or a TED talk about a topic that I wanted to learn about to help my clients or myself in some way.
So I set a “want to” goal to listen to some music every day. Now, you may be thinking, it seems unnecessary to set a goal to do something that you think is fun. You may think that doing fun things comes easy. But, how often are you actually doing those things you think are fun? For me, it was hardly ever.
I think music makes everything more fun. So sometimes my music goal looks like listening to music while I get ready instead of listening to a podcast or catching up on a coaching call I missed. Sometimes it’s being in the car while singing at the top of my lungs. Sometimes it’s listening to my favorite piano chill playlist while I write my podcast.
I had fallen into the thought pattern that if I was going to listen to something, it had to be something “worthwhile” that helped my clients or taught me something new. Now, I get to listen to music for no other reason than to enjoy myself and have fun.
Moving my body is another “want to goal” that has been fun. It used to be that exercise was for weight loss purposes only. There was no moving my body for fun or pleasure. There was only calorie-burning punishment moving, which was no fun at all. (This is the reason I was a biannual exerciser for many years!)
When I shifted to moving my body every day for fun, for strength, and for feeling alive, it changed my desire to exercise. I wanted to move.
I don’t have requirements or rules. Sometimes moving looks like a Pilates class, sometimes it looks like a Peloton ride, sometimes it looks like a walk while listening to music, and sometimes it just looks like stretching for 10 minutes.
Anything I want to do “counts” as moving. I go with whatever feels fun.
Notice both of these fun goals have a broad, flexible definition. Part of what gets us into the un-fun goal trap is us thinking it has to look a certain way to count. That a little is not enough. That it has to be all or nothing.
When I say music and movement every day and the purpose is fun, I get to decide what feels like fun that day. Guess who’s incorporating music and movement every day and feeling like a goal-crushing boss as a result?
Creating evidence and getting results
Fun goals, accomplished consistently, count as goals. They create a feeling of success. The feeling of success bleeds into other less traditionally fun areas.
The fact is, I am setting a goal of doing or accomplishing something I wasn’t previously doing or accomplishing. I am doing and accomplishing it consistently. I’m showing myself that I am a person who can do things consistently. I’m creating evidence that I take care of myself. I’m showing myself that I am a priority, that what I want matters, and that I do what I say I’m going to do.
The thing we say we’re going to do or want to accomplish doesn’t have to be painful and hard for it to count.
The power is in the principle.
I set goals.
I follow through.
I show up for me.
If this is true, then we can replace these “want to” goals with any goal and create the same result.
If you have experienced goal PTSD, try this out. Reframe your “don’t want” and “have to” to “want to,” and find some fun “want to” goals to create the feeling of success in your day-to-day.
If you are ready to start your permanent weight loss journey, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.