We all have goals. Some large and some small. The idea of an extraordinary life is a big goal that has many smaller goals intertwined. Perhaps you have the goal to be fit or lose weight. Or your goal may be to attract a partner or improve the relationship you already have with a partner. Your goal could be to attract more money. For some, the goal is to have a better connection with themselves and understand their life purpose or to live with more passion. No matter what the goal, the process and the experience of achieving it is the same. Some goals are easier than others but that does not change the underlying laws at work that govern the manifesting of goals.
What is Your Goal?
Your first step is to set a goal. At first glance this may seem obvious and even pretty basic and yet this is a very important step. It is not uncommon for people to not be able to clearly state a goal. The goal is vague “I just want to be happy” or “I want to lose weight”. Many times people do not know what their goal really is. Even more common, the goal you think you have is actually not really the solution you are seeking.
A common practice when setting out to achieve a goal is to use the SMART acronym. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time frame. There is some validity to this approach. The key here is that the goal has to be set in a way that you will be able to know that you achieved it. So, approaching the goal in this way helps to make it clearer that is has been achieved. I want to be happy does not indicate when that goal will be complete. Losing weight does not tell you the amount of weight you need to lose to feel you achieved the goal. Achievable and realistic means that it should be attainable to that person and within the parameters set. For example, losing 100 pounds in 2 months is actually very unlikely and unhealthy. This is not to say that people cannot achieve goals that are very audacious. It would take a certain level of determination and dedication to go the course. The bigger the goal, the more thought, planning, and focus it takes.
Here is an example of a concrete goal by Brad Pitt’s organization called Make it Right “to build 150 affordable, green storm-resistant homes for families living in Lower 9th Ward” in New Orleans. 1
It is very clear what the goal is and when it will be achieved.
Whose Goal Is It?
Have you ever set out on a goal and found that you did not feel the way you thought you would when you finally achieved it? Or along the way to achieving it, you started to feel like you do not actually want it anymore? This is more common than you might imagine. There are two explanations for this. First, the goal was never truly your goal. If you took a closer look, you would realize the goal was to fulfill someone else’s expectation of you. It might have felt like what you were supposed to do. This is common with career choices, and even partners. Sometimes it is simply things like where you live, the car you drive and the items you purchase. A goal designed to improve your level of feeling accepted by others. This could be trying to keep up with the Jones’ lifestyle (or today it would likely be the Kardashian’s) or it could equally be a goal to denounce materialism. Too many times our goals are influenced by outside factors that are not true to who we really are. That takes us to the second reason. We are not always in touch with our true nature and therefore are confused as to what our goals really are. Too many voices in our heads giving mixed messages. No worries though, these mixed attempts can all be seen as trial runs to help you get to the understanding of what you truly desire. Coming to understand the soul’s agenda is key to determining goals that are true to you and bring you the most happiness. 2
The Downside of Too Many Choices
We already touched on the need for clarity and specificity in the goal. Where there is a lack of clarity, you will waste time and energy or even worse, you may get frustrated and give up. There are so many possibilities and choices in life today. On the surface this seems like a good thing; however, there are drawbacks to having too many choices. One negative about too many choices is the fear that you will miss out on something. This creates the pattern of taking on too much so not to miss an opportunity and it can keep you from committing fully to your goal-just in case. The decision to commit to a goal and go for it will require trade-offs including saying no to something else that could potentially be good. In his book “Essentialism” Greg McKeown outlines a model of how to weed through these choices and focus on only a few things that really matter. To help make a choice between a plethora of options it is helpful to see trade-offs as “what do I want to go big on versus what do I have to give up”. 3
There is a whole branch in psychology and science studying the “science of decision making” 4 and in this decade the term “decision fatigue” has been added 5. It is safe to say that your inability to set and achieve your goals may be influenced by the sheer amount of choices and the complexity of being able to prioritize among them. Remembering your souls agenda and taking the path of the essentialist, can help you immensely.
The Mistakes People Make
These are 3 ways the path to manifesting your goal may look (Diagram 1). Path A is short and direct. You set a goal and it is achieved. Obviously, this would be the ideal case. Path B is filled with ups and downs and looks to have taken a longer time. Path C starts off looking like A or B but then the goal is abandoned.
The first mistake people make is by judging these paths. It is human nature to prefer Path A but, in reality, it does not always work this way. The process of reaching a goal could take many twists and turns and at times even look like you are in a completely different direction. Path B brings into consideration the Law of Duality. The Law of Duality speaks to the nature of things being experienced by way of opposites. Sometimes we get to where we are heading by experiencing its contrast. We know what we want because we experienced it’s opposite and realize we do not want that. See these twists or bumps as learning opportunities and all is well. Judge the process and you end up making it harder, longer and sometimes impossible to achieve. This is often what happens in scenario C. The bumps get you down and you give up. However, sometimes as you are moving along you realize your goal is not what you want and so you drop it. Again, no point in judging it.
Another mistake people make is to give up too soon. It is normal to hit road blocks. Rather than seeing this as a sign to give up, see it as an opportunity to skill up. What do you need to do differently to move forward with this goal? Is there another approach or something else you need to consider? You are always growing and evolving and these bumps can be seen as an opportunity for this transformation to take place.
On the contrary, sometimes people stick to a goal for too long when the evidence is clear that it is not a goal to continue pursuing. It could be that you took the goal far enough and it is time to revamp it or, of course, there is the possibility that the goal was not in alignment with your truth. So, revisit your goal, self-reflect on your motivation for the goal and whether it is what you still want. Sometimes, you just change your mind and that is ok. Again, avoid the pitfall of judging it. It is not a mistake or a problem, just an opportunity to create a different version.
A short video by Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley “The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself” can help you to explore the motivation for your goals. 6
To design an extraordinary life you have to set your big and small goals. When you are deciding what that looks like you need to be sure to look within to what is true for you. Prioritize and focus on less but better. Once you decide on the goal, make it very specific so you know when you have achieved it. If you hit a road block, as you likely will, see this as an opportunity to skill up and revisit your goal. Be open & stay positive because you do not always know how you will get to your end goal. Sometimes the path has a bunch of twists and turns. Avoid judging the process and, most of all, enjoy the journey!
- Greg McKeown, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” (New York: Crown Publishing, 2014)