You’ve likely seen the hashtag. Besides just plain-old #goals we have things like “#relationshipgoals,” “#fashiongoals,” and of course we can’t forget, “#closetgoals.” I’ve been thinking about goal-setting a lot lately, partly because it keeps coming up as a topic in my work with clients (it’s weird how these things seem to come in waves), and partly because I recently set a big goal of my own.
Some people like to use that SMART method for goal-setting. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound). That works pretty well when you’re starting out learning or refining your technique. But when I first got the inkling and defined my big goal, I decided to quietly put it out to the universe, do my best to keep my mouth shut about it, and get busy. Talking incessantly about my goals often backfires on me, and there’s even some evidence to suggest why that is.
Some of my clients have given up on setting goals because pretty much everything they think about doing seems like good intentions that never happen (think getting that garage or basement finally cleared out). Or some avoid goals because they might happen - then they would be successful, and being successful is scary (“OMG, what now??”). Some clients don't ever set them at all, because the concept has never been discussed or taught. It doesn’t occur to them, it’s not on their radar. Or for some people, perhaps goals sound too much like work.
Some experts suggest you should never set goals, because the minute you do you self-sabotage your way out of achieving them (like New Year’s resolutions). So if you just DO all the time without thinking too hard about the future, you’ll be better off. But where does that get you? Being in the moment certainly has advantages, but perhaps it’s more a matter of what word we use to define how we want to go about accomplishing something.
The end. Hmmmmm. Sounds pretty final to me, and sort of discounts the infinitely valuable journey. If “goal” doesn’t work, what word could? I’m open to suggestions.
The magnitude and gravity of goals can shift and change over time, and depending upon needs. One month you might have a goal to start drinking more water and leave it at that. Next January you might aspire to spend the year gradually purging and preparing your home for sale so that you can downsize - a goal that would require more planning, checking in, reminding (like lots of mini-goals). In either scenario, how do you begin without some sort of an end in mind? I think where we often go off track is in letting the process get in the way of the product. It can be a little intoxicating to walk through some new way of accomplishing something, checking things off of the latest list app, shopping for a shiny new planner. If those things help, fine. But if they aren’t supportive of you actually working through and making it to that final “whatever,” they’re just more window dressing.
I do like to have a road map for things. When you’re setting a course for a particular location, it’s helpful to have some idea of how to get there. If you use a mapping app with GPS, you often see two or three choices of how to get to your destination - with highways, without tolls, etc. - choosing your route depends upon the time or money you have to spend, the level of curiosity you have, maybe even what kind of shape your “vehicle” is in.
Is there value in throwing the map away occasionally and just wandering around to see what you might find? Sure. You might stumble across things you would never have seen or considered otherwise. Interestingly (at least to me), when I started writing this post I didn’t have a particular destination in mind. I just knew that the “goals” thing seemed to keep popping up in conversation, in thought, and in various media I was reading, so why not explore it a little bit and see where it took me?
I think it’s taken me here:
- Call them whatever you want, but there are definitely times and situations where goals are appropriate.
- There is a difference between a Big Goal and the steps required to accomplish it. The steps, in and of themselves, can also be goals.
- Writing, thinking, talking, listing, and planning can be helpful (but not always essential).
- None of any of the above matters without taking action.
And finally, there's an idea, a journey (with or without a plan and cool tools), and a conclusion - whether a goal is achieved fully, or partially, or not at all.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?