How to succeed without the need for goals
We’ve all been there and done it, and many an article and much research has told us that we should. Set goals that is.
Evidence has shown that it will do us good, give us something to work towards and make us feel insanely wonderful when we get to tick it off.
Whether it’s fitness, professional, or even personal, common belief would have it that setting goals are a good way to determine our success.
Yet for some people the pressure to achieve goals and the sense of failure that comes from not being able to fulfill them is disheartening and frustrating.
“The biggest problem with setting goals is that most people don’t do it properly and usually focus on goals that are really hard, potentially unrealistic and unsustainable,” says health psychologist, Marny Lishman.
“Many goals that are set often involve deprivation or taking something away, and people don’t think hard enough about what the meaning for them is behind the goals.”
As a result of this, Lishman notes that people can become too focused on the bigger picture and adopt an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Subsequently, if they’re unsuccessful, this feeling of failure can transfer to other parts of their lives.
So, is setting goals always necessary as a measure of our success, or are there other ways that can determine this just as well?
Success as a state of mind
“Success can come in a variety of ways, and means something different to everyone,” says Lishman. “Therefore, it makes sense to measure it in different ways and we don’t have to set goals to be successful.”
“Sometimes success is just about acceptance of the status quo and being grateful for ‘what is’,” she adds.
As an alternative to setting specific goals, Lishman says to decide what success means to you. She suggests considering if it’s about being happy, healthy or resilient, working your dream job or yachting around the Caribbean for a year.
“Think about how you want to be feeling, both physically and mentally, and from here you can start to break down parts of your life to determine your success,” she says.
“For example, if you’re feeling happy, then it’s a sure sign you’re doing the right thing for now, so you’re likely to keep doing it.”
Despite this, Lishman notes that happiness changes from day to day and year to year, so it’s important that you allow it to be fluid.
And it’s much the same when it comes to relationships, both personal and otherwise.
“If we’re content in our personal relationships, then it’s likely that we’re content in ourselves, which might mean that we feel successful and happy,” says Lishman.
“People want to spend more time with successful, positive people, so if you find more people are sourcing you out, then it’s likely you’re impacting them.”
Living with intention
As a follow on, Lishman adds that receiving compliments from other people is also a good reflection of success.
Whether it be related to weight loss, work achievements, or personality, it generally means that others believe you’re doing something well, and their complements are a form of positive reinforcement.
“Positive reinforcement makes us more likely to repeat the behavior we are doing, and makes us motivated to keep striving to better ourselves,” says Lishman.
She says that bettering ourselves is all about looking at our gradual progress and celebrating the small wins, rather than focusing solely on the big picture or a goal.
“Small steps are the key to big successes, and often people want the big wins, but when they don’t get them immediately, they give up,” she says.
“Focusing on the specific, measurable actions that make up a step is more powerful than big overarching goals.”
Life coach Lee Alexander echoes much of Lishman’s sentiments and says that people often struggle with goals because they’ve forgotten or lost what’s important to them.
“People start to go through life’s motions, rather than living with intention,” she says.
“Rather than focusing on goals, people should think about if life feels meaningful, and if they feel connected to their values.”
Alexander says that from this people can start to create the change that they truly desire and, from this, success will come.
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