Do Goals Really Work?

Posted by Nick Niesen on October 26th, 2010

I was talking to a friend of mine this morning about her financial goals for the year. After listening to her for a few minutes, I interrupted to ask how she felt about those goals.

There was a long pause. Finally, I asked if I could share my thoughts about goals - why I don't set them for myself, and why I think they're terribly limiting and frustrating.

By the end of the call, she was in tears, and I nearly was. I had been in the right place at the right time for her, and had helped her see a new way of approaching her business, her clients, and her whole life - a way that felt scary, but spacious and even inspiring in ways that traditional goal-setting just can't achieve.

Are you ready to try something new? Here's what I shared with her; I hope it will be as inspiring to you.

Goals are like Boxes
When you were a kid, it was fun to play in big packing boxes. But squashing your life into one is a very different feeling. And that's what goals do.

I've observed over and over again, with myself and with clients, that setting goals creates limitations - and panic! Once a goal is set, you immediately start thinking about it; you can't stop thinking about it. Everything you do is focused on achieving the goal. My friend saw all her potential clients as walking dollar signs- not very comfortable for her or for them!

"How will I meet my goal? What happens if I don't succeed? Will everyone think I'm a failure?" Then, as my friend commented this morning, there's always the "Oh, I didn't really mean that" thing that happens when a goal starts to feel unreachable.

On the other hand, when you finally reach your goal you think, "Ahhh... I achieved it. Now I can relax." And you put your feet up and take a deep breath. Whether you do this literally or figuratively, you've stopped. What amazing things would happen if you kept going? You'll never know.

An Invitation to Be
So I asked my friend, "Who would you be if you weren't so focused on financial goals?"

There was another long silence, but this one was full of electricity - I could almost see the exclamation marks flying in her thoughts. Finally, she said, "I don't know!"

"I've asked myself that question before," she added, "but it's always been what would I do. I never thought of asking who I would be."

When you start with an intention to be something special, to be more of who you really are, the goals you might have set are nothing compared to what you'll actually receive, accomplish, and experience. Just as I've seen people box themselves in with goals, I've seen them set themselves free with an intention to be.

The more powerfully you set the intention, the better. Set an intention that stretches you, that pushes you out of your habits, that makes you feel nervous and vulnerable. Set your intention with commitment and heart, even when it frightens you.

I know someone who was always giving. Immensely generous of spirit and in action, she felt threatened and vulnerable in receiving. When she set an intention to be someone who receives as well as giving, she knew it would be challenging. What she didn't know was how amazingly rewarding it would be. She received gifts of friendship, service, joy, peace, and love that have changed her life forever, in ways she could not have imagined.

And all she did was set the intention - and then she noticed whether she was being in alignment with that intention.

What will you be?

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Nick Niesen

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Nick Niesen
Joined: April 29th, 2015
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