Today’s podcast episode is about goals, and I know how that sounds for some people, but I promise this will surprise you and possibly even delight you instead of causing the typical eye rolls. In my everyday work, I would guess that around 75% of my clients are so frustrated with setting goals that they just stop. Whether it’s a feeling of burnout or frustration from not hitting the goals, it’s not a lovable topic.
In this episode, I’m using my background in industrial organizational psychology and the classes I’ve taken in human motivation and goal setting. Plus, I have 22 years of experience studying humans in the wild and going through the process myself. Hopefully, each of you will gain some new perspective today.
I’m giving you permission not to set goals. In other podcasts, I’ve said, “On a personal level, you don’t need to have goals, direction, or anything. You can just float through life. You can be happy, you can be creative, you can be unstructured. You can be whatever you want to be, or you can be like me.”
I like structure, and I am very habitual. I can thank my ADHD for that. I’ve had to figure things out in my own way and have developed strong executive functioning skills. But not everyone is like me. Nothing bad is going to happen to you if you do not set goals. With business, some benchmarks need to be hit to succeed. You need to be able to pay yourself, support your family, and support your financial direction. Goals can help ensure you aren’t floating aimlessly adrift. But at the same time, you do not have to set goals.
Making the Case Against Goal-Setting
In my life, I’ve achieved some really big things. I had to prove myself at a collegiate level and take no credit classes to prove that I could do math, read, and write. After barely being able to get in, I graduated magna cum laude from a top research university. I also received one of the most competitive internships and doubled my salary in less than a year.
I started a business alone with no financial backing or partners to rely on. I did all of this while still in the window of a previous bankruptcy, so getting a credit line for my business was impossible. I have now earned income for nine years without working for someone else. This podcast is in the top 2.5% of podcasts listened to, according to Listen Notes. My journey has taken me from someone who isn’t confident with money to being sought after as a money expert. I was featured in Yahoo Finance and Money Magazine.
None of these things happened because I set goals. I didn’t even have many of these things on my radar. These were intentions, desires, and happy accidents. My successes have come from wild ideas, impulses, and following breadcrumbs. If I set a goal, I would death grip it. It would strangle the creativity.
Choosing Vision Over Goals
When you’re thinking about the future, choose your vision over your goals. Your vision is who you want to become and what you want life to look like. Your goals don’t carry the same weight so you can hold them loosely. I’ve had a few recent examples to outline the difference.
The Bold Profit Academy is a really good recent example for me of something that took a turn when I lost sight of the vision. It started with a vision. But in order to scale up, I set some specific goals to grow the program. It required using some tactics that were not fun. I became a monster and was constantly frustrated.
An example of the opposite mindset brings me back to my backyard in May 2021. I was reading the book The Simple Path to Wealth by J. L. Collins. I love reading about the Financial Independence/Retire Early (FIRE) movement, even though I’m not necessarily part of it. I asked myself what it looked like to retire early. What would “work optional” look like? With my journal, I started writing out some questions and brainstorming different dollar amounts to invest. Retiring early became a vision, and it was fun to think about.
Another easy way to think about goals is like clothes in a dressing room. Try them on for a bit. See how you feel. Keep the goal for an amount of time and see how it’s working for you. It took me five years to decide to drop the goal for the Bold Profit Academy.
The Real Truth About Plans
Everyone is looking for a plan that works. But before you can come up with a solid plan, you have to have goals that work for you. There is no easy plan laid out in any situation. As the saying goes, “Man plans, and God laughs.” I planned to invest $100,000 per year for seven years. It worked for two years, but then I couldn’t make it happen this year. I refocused on my vision and how it’s evolving and changing.
Many people are recalibrating. After the challenges of the past few years, it’s good to be rethinking and making adjustments. I have made trade-offs that were important for my well-being. Flexibility is good. If you are obsessed with plans, you could be harming your own productivity.
Think about it this way: I can give person A and person B the exact same goal and plan, and one of them will achieve it, and the other will not. Why? Because there are unique beliefs, systems, support, and realities.
Replace Plans with Pathways
I’m intentionally leaving this loop open to give you food for thought. Instead of goals, spend some time each day asking yourself, “What do I want?” Asking yourself that question for 30 days is hard, which is why many people rely on goals. Instead of a plan, consider pathways. There are multiple ways to reach your vision. There might be forks in the road, so don’t be so linear with your thinking.
Lean into your confidence to make the decisions that will get you closer to the vision. When people work with me, I don’t want to hear their plan, I want them to work on the confidence to make decisions and ask for my help prioritizing. Being flexible with goals will allow you to use them to achieve your vision and even accelerate your progress.
Add a few purposeful objectives, and you’ll see progress more clearly. You’ll be able to narrow down your big vision and make some steps in the right direction. Sometimes, it’s as simple as acknowledging the steps you’ve already taken. Trade in the word plan for pathways. Determine if the pathways allow your chest to open and take deep breaths. Take the first step and see where it leads. I’m rooting for your success!