How to Set Goals That Spark Joy
If you walk into a room and ask 10 people what their personal goals are, chances are that 9 out of 10 of them will give you a To-Do List. Earning a certain amount of money, losing weight, getting promoted, buying a house, etc. When you press them on why and get to the core of it, there’s usually a limiting belief that’s driving those goals: Because I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy yet, I’m not safe, etc. The To-Do List is actually a list of means goals – the means to the end – and they often leave us feeling quenched even after being met. Starting with the end in mind, rather than aggregating a list of means, is such a critical part of the process!
So how do you start with the end in mind? Here’s how you shouldn’t do it: When we set goals for businesses, we typically follow a process of setting measurable targets (e.g. profit margins) and lining up priorities against a number. Everything is oriented around Doing. But when we set personal goals for ourselves, we need to un-learn this process. Starting with a number we’re trying to “optimize” or aggressively grow often leads to burnout and a scarcity mindset. The underlying emotion behind those personal goals tends to be one of fear. Without a clear picture of the essence of our Being (Who am I really? How do I want to show up? What do I stand for?), we can easily get lost in aimless Doing.
Instead, start with joy. Gratitude. Feelings of meaning and belonging. In order to set goals that spark joy, not fear, you need to first put yourself in the state where you can feel joy, gratitude and meaning. Defining goals from this state yields completely different results than defining goals when you’re in burnout, fear, or flight/fight mode. In the joyful flow state, you’re able to really reflect on your Why more expansively… the bigger vision for what’s possible for you and how you can contribute to the world around you. You need to be willing to dream a little, to tune into what gives you goosebumps and makes your heart flutter. This then allows you to define what’s known as Outcomes Goals or End Goals versus Means Goals. And here’s the trick: to actually get in touch with what End Goals truly feel meaningful for you, you’ve got to engage your heart and your intuition (body) more than your monkey mind. And that’s where a lot of people fail, in an era and a generation where we live most of our lives from our head and devices.
”You do not rise to the level of your goals”. You fall to the level of your systems.” – James Clear in “Atomic Habits”
Once you’ve gotten clarity on your end goal(s) and your Why, you can set your means goals as stepping stones towards that path. And after that, there’s an equally important process – creating a system so that you can actually stay motivated and meet those goals. This requires you to look at your current habits and future habits to re-wire how you’re operating. Research continues to show how limited our willpower really is and how much our habits drive our choices and outcomes (latest stat I saw was that 95% of our actions are automatic). So ask yourself: what habits do I need to be able to hit the goals I’ve set for myself?
All of this may sound intimidating and that’s where a coach can help you with the process and accountability! It’s an incredibly fulfilling, creative and fun process to go through annually and track regularly with accountability and kindness. To help people unlock their outcomes/end goal (their Why or at least a near-term purpose) and design a life & career plan around it for the year is the #1 request I get as a coach. And it’s badass!
If you want help, book a complimentary call with yours truly here. Regardless of whether you hire a coach or not, consider approaching your goals with more heart next year and be willing to tune-in to your gut more. You’d be surprised how much wisdom you hold within you, if you’re willing to pay attention.