The Real Reason We Don’t Set Goals

Achieving your goals is merely a matter of courage, commitment, and clarity.

Achieving your goals is merely a matter of courage, commitment, and clarity. Pexels

I used to dream of what my future would look like. I’d fantasize about becoming a writer or having the freedom to do what I wanted. And then life would drift by, indifferent to my dreams, and I’d find myself wondering, “Where did it all go?”

I was living but wasn’t fully alive. I had a job, but wasn’t really doing the work I was meant to do.

As is the case for many, my twenties were a period of feeling like I was clawing around in the dark, unsure of what I was supposed to be doing or even where I was headed. The experience taught me a lot, but I can’t help feeling like maybe it was wasted time.

During this decade of confusion, I’d occasionally think of what I wanted life to look like but then I’d never follow through on that vision. Something was missing, something important, something that was beyond difficult for me:

I needed a plan.

Why we don’t set goals

It’s hard for me to admit now that I spent so much time waiting for the right moment to take control of my life, but I did.

I am finding, though, that this isn’t so rare. A lot of people treat their lives as something that happens to them rather than a grand adventure in which they have a part to play.

When it comes to goals, many of us freeze. We get paralyzed. Sure, we have dreams, but to state them out loud or plot a course for achieving such things seems pointless.

Why do we do this? Why don’t we set goals?

There are a few reasons, I think:

  • We’re scared.
  • We’re lazy.
  • We don’t know what we really want.

When I interviewed Michael Hyatt on the subject of goal-setting, he shed some light on why so many seem to get stuck in dreaming that doesn’t lead to action. The secret to succeeding in your goals is, in fact, three things:

  1. Courage. You need to lean into the fear, not avoid it. Discomfort is a sign you’re on the right track. Don’t avoid the situations that feel challenging or audacious, because that’s where we tend to grow the most.
  2. Commitment. Yes, you actually have to do some work. Living the best year of your life won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be exciting – a grand adventure worth dedicating your life to. And it all begins with a decision to start.
  3. Clarity. Before you can set a goal, much less achieve one, you have to know what you want. You have to be clear about who you are and where you want to end up in life.

You need all three of these if you’re going to live the kind of life you dream of.

The life you’ve always dreamed of

A few years ago, I finally wrote down some goals. It felt scary and silly, but I did it anyway. These goals included:

  • Write and publish a book.
  • Make enough money to support my wife so she could stay home and be a full-time mom.
  • Quit my job and become a full-time author, speaker, and coach.

The target date for these goals was 2021. They were 10-year goals. I ended up accomplishing them in less than two years. In fact, I exceeded every single goal I set in one-fifth the time I thought it would take.

How did this happen?

I wrote my goals down in order to get clear about exactly what I wanted, and committed to a course of action to get me there. And in less than a quarter of the time I thought it would take, I achieved every goal.

What do you need to actually live the life you dream of? The best place to begin is to imagine what you want your life to look in a year, or even a decade, from now. Then ask yourself how you can begin to work backwards from there. It won’t be easy, necessarily, but at the same time this isn’t rocket science.

Achieving your goals is merely a matter of courage, commitment, and clarity.

So what does that mean for you?

It’s no coincidence that the year I finally wrote down those goals was in the context of a coaching group I had joined. I had a community to support me and people to hold me accountable to pursuing a dream.

When it comes to goal setting, we all need help. That’s why I’m thrilled to take part in Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever program. If you need some more help in this area, I highly recommend it. This is the fourth year he’s done it, and I intend to take it every year.

Spending five days in an action plan that leads to what could be your best year ever seems like a small investment. Doesn’t it? I would love for you to join me in reclaiming 2015 as the year when our wildest dreams come true.

I’m a proud affiliate of this course, which means if you sign up for it, I get a commission. But remember: I don’t endorse anything I don’t use and love myself. And you can download all kinds of free stuff without having to buy the course:

And once you do that, answer this question…

Have you ever written down your goals? What happened?

Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his family. He is the author of the national best seller The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffGoins. To get more articles like this, check out his free newsletter. As a thank-you, he’ll send you a free excerpt of my best-selling book, The Art of Work, plus other fun things.