Goal setting as a journalling practice

I find goal-setting a somewhat peculiar practice… Goals both encourage you to work towards the version of yourself you want to be, or to create a situation you’d like to be in, whilst also encouraging you to stay somewhat stuck on that goal so you actually achieve it. This is motivation, discipline, no?

But what if that goal no longer serves you? Is it right to force yourself to meet that goal?

When answering these questions myself recently, I realised that I see goal setting as a journalling practice, rather than a set of rules for myself that I must live and die by. I want to talk about this today as we approach the end of June!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to review my yearly goal tables in Capacities to check in with how things have progressed in Q2. During this review I was delighted to find that some goals don’t matter at all to me now, a couple are already completed (despite thinking these goals would take me most of the year) and others mean more to me than they did before.

I have a 2024 page in Capacities with 4 tables in (1 per quarter). I put the yearly goals down the left and 3 columns for a simple update on each goal each month.

I had to decide what to do about the goals that don’t matter to me now. Do I force myself to achieve them anyway, so I’m not a failure, so I can write ‘I achieved all my goals’ in my 2024 review? Or do I take a more moderate approach and do some introspection? Why is this no longer relevant? What has replaced it? What happens if I don’t achieve this goal? Am I avoiding short-term discomfort and therefore preventing long-term change?

I was doing all this thinking in my head so decided to write it out.

Then it dawned on me.

For me, goals are essentially a different type of journalling prompt.

This contrasts my previous tendencies to feel sad if I didn’t complete a goal, probably triggered by the voices online that tell you that failure is not an option. But maybe completing a certain goal isn’t in current me’s best interests? 🤷‍♀️ 

So I got thinking about this..

I think the act of setting yearly goals is you defining how you think you want your year to go and is therefore a really valuable exercise in itself. This has its similarities with my ‘totally outrageous goal setting’ portion of my yearly planning:

from this post.

The goals become a prompt to measure what’s changed from the day you did your yearly planning to today. Things change all the time and I find for me and my lifestyle right now, fully embracing and engaging with the change is often the best way forward. My journalling practice is my trusty companion throughout this reflection. In that way the reflection becomes more important than completing a goal just to say I’ve done it.

I should probably make it clear that this works for my type of goals. If your goal is ‘compete at the 2028 olympics’ then obviously there are different rules at play.

But of the year long goals I had over 50% are still going and I am still working to achieve them. It’s not about trying to weasel out of doing goals I no longer am in the mood to tackle, it’s actually about getting more in touch with what matters to me now, and running with those goals.

I already knew that defining success on my own terms was important, but this helped me realise that defining success isn’t a process I exclusively sign up to doing in the hour-long block I schedule for yearly planning.

So, am I saying that you shouldn’t set goals? Absolutely not.

But I think they have to be seen as fluid entities, and that they should fit into a broader reflective practice. I think I’ve been hoping that achieving my goals is proof of personal development, but personal development can come from anything, not just from within the confines of my goals.

We’re projects who learn from reflecting on experience. Why would you not take lessons you learn about yourself in each weekly or monthly review to adapt the vision a previous version of yourself set, when they didn’t have this information about you?

Set your goals, reflect on them regularly and adapt as needed. 🙂 Wishing everyone reading this a happy and healthy q3! 🥳

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