I’m finally going to do it, just come out and say it directly…  I think it is time to let go of one of the key components in the “growth” space.  Almost every business and personal growth course I have ever seen includes a section on declaring, setting, and achieving goals.  This is often counterproductive for a couple of important reasons that I want to explain today.  Some of you reading this who have worked with me either in an executive mentoring or a personal empowerment coaching environment might be scratching your heads thinking “wasn’t it you who asked me to explain to you what I thought a success story would look like after certain increments of time?”  Absolutely, that was me.  I ask each new student what would need to have happened over the next 12 months in order for them to feel like they were a success story.  In each “welcome packet” I send out to new clients I have each student/client write an answer to the question If we were meeting 3 years from today, what has to have happened during that three years time in order for you to feel happy about your progress? I prod clients along with statements like “how can you accomplish what you want, if you don’t know what you want?”  My focus in asking these questions, however, is to help each person discover their purpose, their mission.  It is very different, let me explain:

Goals are good... right?

1) first of all, goals lead many to believe that success or happiness is always in the future.  After you achieve a goal, then you can be happy, right?  How many people buy into this line of reasoning?  How often have you caught yourself thinking that you will be happy when you have more money, or said to yourself; “I’ll be happy when I graduate; I’ll be happy when my business is more successful; I’ll be happy when my back feels better; I’ll be happy when…”  Of course if you never achieve that goal, you have a built-in excuse not to be happy!  Then again, what happens when you do achieve your goal?  Life becomes meaningless if you placed all of your meaning on that goal, unless you set another goal.  Once another goal is set, you have something to strive for, and you give your power and focus to some future moment when you can give yourself permission to be happy again. So goals come from information and beliefs from your past, and they project you into the future– where you believe success and happiness can occur.

2) the second issue I have with goals is they often place you in a position of hyper-focus.  When you set a goal, especially a goal with deadlines and action plans set out, they set off the subconscious alerts that will lock you into finding ways to accomplish those goals.  You might think that is a good thing, but not necessarily.  What if, in your pursuit of the established goal, your narrow minded focus kept you from seeing better opportunities available to you?  Remember that there are many, many ways to fulfill your purpose in life.  What you really want is not to have a laundry list of accomplished goals at the end of your life, but to have lived your purpose.  When real focus and commitment is placed on reaching goals, you will miss out on opportunities for greater growth, simply because you can’t see them.

So what is the solution?  I teach my clients to be as clear as they can be about their purpose in life.  Ultimately, when all is said and done, we are all pursuing happiness.  Living that clear purpose each moment is where happiness is found.  Don’t get me wrong, when I say to focus on the moment you are living in right now it does not mean that you will stop being active and trying to achieve great things!  On the contrary, you will find that you will be extremely active and LOVE it!  Each pulse of inspiration you feel will come with it a burst of natural energy.  This energy makes life fun!  This energy accomplishes far more than a well thought-out goal plan ever will.

So often goal-setting becomes so much of a focus that it blurs what you really want.  In all honestly I believe goals are actually a good thing, as long as you keep them in the right perspective.  The problem is that they are misunderstood and misapplied by so many people.  That misapplication has created a great deal of needless frustration.  Goals are nothing more than great tools to helping you take action that will further your inspired purpose in life.  In order to ensure that you are using goals correctly, you can check on two key indicators; are they flexible?  and are they dynamic (changing)?  You should feel absolutely no pain when you decide to redirect your energy away from a goal you had set previously.  If you are feeling some kind of inner resistance or shame, it is because you set that goal as a commitment to yourself, and the goal itself became your purpose.

Tomorrow I will share an incredible story that illustrates this principle very well.  Stay tuned!

You can read “tomorrow’s” post here.


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2 Responses to Where Self-Help Gurus Are Wrong

  1. Christian says:

    I love this one Steve. This has been a great reminder to me as I focus on my goals. I don’t have to wait to be happy when the goal is done. Happiness is here now. Happiness does not come from a goal. There is a great sense of achievement from finishing what you start out to do, but goals don’t make you happy. In fact i think what you’re getting at is that it works the other way around. As you experience happiness in the journey while you’re working on your goals, the goal is much easier to accomplish and probably ends up much more powerful too.

  2. […] Inspiration: ALWAYS a Good Idea!By Steve – July 6, 2011Posted in: Empowerment ShareYesterday I talked about how goals can and often do get in our way. I promised to share a story to illustrate.  As […]

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