At the beginning of 2016, I heard a message regarding goal setting and why our goals can often leave us frustrated at the end of the year. Knowing that this January many of us are setting (or avoiding setting) new goals for 2017, I thought it was an appropriate time to share some of what I heard and how it is framing my approach to the New Year.
Goal vs. Desire
Much of the frustration that stems from unmet expectations occurs because people confuse their goals with their desires. Borrowing some definitions from author Dr. Neil T Anderson, a goal is “any specific orientation for your life that does not depend on people or circumstances beyond your ability or right to control.” Conversely, a desire is “any specific result that depends on the cooperation of other people, the success of events, or favorable circumstances which you have no ability or right to control.”
We often mistake our desires for goals. The consequence is that when we perceive our goals are blocked, it can lead to anger, anxiety, depression and feelings of hopelessness—when in reality, our ‘goals’ were really ‘desires’ because they relied on factors that we had no ability or right to control. For example, we may subconsciously set a goal of running into the grocery store, grabbing our chips and salsa, being back in our car within 5 minutes, and getting to our friend’s house on time. However, with chips and salsa in hand, the lone cashier and their line of 15 customers, all with curiously full shopping carts, appear to be ‘blocking’ your ability to get to your friend’s house on time…enter frustration or anger (or both).
Your desired outcome is made possible by the personal goals you set,
because hitting your goals put you in position to achieve your desires.
Clearly my example is somewhat simplistic, but I have personally found it refreshing throughout the year to be able to step back in the midst of mounting frustration and realize that I had made an incorrect assumption that I was in complete control of the situation, be it in a grocery line, at a doctor’s visit, or awaiting my beautiful fiancé to complete her makeup for our tardy departure to an event. And let’s be honest, how many of us say things like “my goal is to get a promotion this year”, or “…a raise this year”? Well this is exactly where we need to do a better job distinguishing between what is a goal and what is a desire – those aforementioned ‘goals’ require our company to be financially stable enough to give you a raise; or they need to have a position available for you to step into; not to mention the people that can make, or at least influence, the decision actually need to be paying attention to what you’re doing for the office and be willing to approach you for said raise or promotion.
I encourage each of you to not shy away from goal setting, just because they inflict an unwanted level of emotional pressure. Your desired outcome is made possible by the personal goals you set, because hitting your goals put you in position to achieve your desires. Stir up that ambition, write down the things you want to see happen in 2017, but rest in the fact that you can only control what you can control. Press towards your desires, but know that your personal success or failure is not tied to them.
Have a great start to your 2017 – happy goal setting! #resolve2evolve