Setting Goals

Here are some thoughts about goal setting that I found at Steve Pavlina’s website:

A major obstacle that prevents people from enjoyably achieving their goals is that they set their goals incorrectly to begin with. This problem occurs because people don’t understand the nature of time well enough. When people consider a particular goal, they often worry about the time commitment: If I start my own business now, it could take years to make it profitable. I’m so overweight it could take years for me to get in shape. If I break off this unfulfilling relationship, it could take years to get back on my feet again. Such thoughts are clearly demotivating, but more importantly they reveal a total misunderstanding of the nature of time.

We tend to think of time as a resource that we spend, just like we spend money. To complete a one-hour task is to spend an hour on it. How are you spending your day? Where do you want to spend your next vacation? How will you spend the rest of the year? Time is money, a disposable resource.

This is a silly and inaccurate way to think about time, however. Time is not a resource. You cannot spend time. Time spends itself. You have no choice in the matter. No matter what you do, the time is going to pass anyway. It doesn’t matter if you do one thing or another for the next five years. Those five years will pass no matter what you do.

In reality you are never in the past or future. You exist only in the present moment. Even when you remember the past or envision the future, you’re still thinking those thoughts in the present. All you really have is right now. And that’s all you ever will have. You can’t control the passage of time, but you can control your present moment focus. That’s all. No past. No future. Just right now.

The purpose of goal-setting isn’t to control the future. That would be senseless because the future only exists in your imagination. The only value in goal-setting is that it improves the quality of your present moment reality. Setting goals can give you greater clarity and focus right now. Whenever you set a goal, always ask yourself, “How does setting this goal improve my present reality?” If a goal does not improve your present reality, then the goal is pointless, and you may as well dump it. But if the goal brings greater clarity, focus, and motivation to your life whenever you think about it, it’s a keeper.

As you think about how your goals improve your present reality, eventually you’ll feel motivated to take action. At the same time, you’ll begin attracting resources into your life that will help you achieve your goals. There’s no need to force yourself — you’ll find yourself naturally drawn to take action as you keep bringing your focus back to the present. When you think about a goal in a way that motivates you right now, it’s only natural that you’ll begin taking action congruent with the goal.

When you set goals that increase the quality of your present reality, then what does it matter how long it takes to achieve the final outcome? Whether it takes one week or five years is irrelevant. The whole path is fun and enjoyable. More importantly, you feel happy and fulfilled this very moment. This drives you to take enjoyable action, so you’re productive too.

So what do you guys think? If you want to read his complete post, here’s the link. Is he right? What goals have you been successful with, and what goals do you find yourself continually struggling to keep up with?

One Response to Setting Goals

  • COMMENTS:
    shirley said…
    I can’t set a goal and keep at it for even 5 minutes. Even when I know it would feel good. It’s like I say, “OK, I’m going to do this, it will be easy.. fun… good… etc”. And even as I am saying it, I can feel the resistence rising up inside me.

    The things I don’t resist are my little internet projects… and drinking beer… and eating crap food.. and wasting hours and hours fiddling around avoiding any real work that would actually benefit me physically or financially…

    So what’s up with that? And how is this post from Steve Pavlina helpful to me with that problem?

    I don’t know. I’m going to have to go back and read it again I guess.

    1:19 PM
    Melissa J. said…
    I like how Steve says that time passes anyway. It’s not a resource we can spend, because time spends itself.
    Shirley, maybe the section where he talked about your goal only being valuable if it improves your present reality pertains to what you mentioned. If it doesn’t improve your current moment, then of course why would you bother putting energy into it? I’m not sure his theory applies to every situation, but I can see how this may be a reason we all procrastinate. We just have to figure out how we can make that long-term goal into something that has immediate positive impact for us right now today. But then, wouldn’t that be buying into the “immediate gratification” and “entitlement” problem?!

    12:18 PM
    shirley said…
    Hey Melissa! The thing is that I can set a goal of say… drinking too much beer tonight, or spending hours and hours obsessing over something ridiculous and unimportant, or playing mah jong for 7 hours.. and I would be able to keep each and every one of those goals.. easily. It’s when the goal involves something “good” for me.. something “better” or even just different from what I am currently doing.. then it just falls apart. It’s almost like I don’t want to feel good.. or I don’t want to do the work required to feel good.. or something.. I don’t know.. and I don’t know how to get out from under it. The part of me that “makes” me do stuff got broken several years ago (from over use) and I don’t know how to go about fixing that.

    12:30 PM

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