Goal setting with heart
Achieve those heartfelt goals you can’t stop thinking about.
By Belinda Potter
We’ve all heard those tired clichés and nuggets of wisdom you find on Instagram that are meant to rock your world. ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’, or how about, ‘If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time’. No goal setting article is complete without the ‘SMART’ mnemonic which reminds us that our goals should be: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based.
But here’s an interesting quote about goal setting that really speaks to my point, ‘Goals are like magnets. They’ll attract the things that make them come true.’ Now, I figure that Tony Robbins knows a thing or two about accomplishing goals. In fact, I’m sure that he knows a lot! So perhaps this is something worth taking note of?
What I know about most ‘SMART’ goals is that they are usually based on a deficit mindset. I say most because, of course, there will be some smarty pants who comes up with an exception to the rule. For the most part, goal setting in this way focuses us on a perceived flaw and encourages us to be self-deprecating. ‘SMART’ goals also fixate us on the future which makes life in the present seem somewhat unfulfilling.
So how do we enjoy today while striving for our future goals? Just as importantly, how do we ensure that those goals are the heart-felt kind – the ones that really light us up inside? Well, I have a new mnemonic for you – it’s time to set some goals with ‘HEART’.
HEART-CENTRED: What do you truly desire? It’s important to distinguish between the ‘nice to haves’ and those goals that truly speak to your heart; the things that you feel you were born to do. Very rarely will this be something as superficial as having a killer six-pack or a thigh gap. These goals are attainable but fleeting at best as often the sacrifice isn’t really worth the effort or short-lived reward.
In getting to the crux of what you really want, it’s important to tease out your heartfelt desires from your wishes and wants. Although people often use these terms interchangeably, there is actually a significant difference between all three which speaks to your personal investment or level of commitment to achieving them.
- Idly wishing for something to happen without any commitment or drive behind it
- Daydreaming, ‘if only’ thinking
- Often feel so farfetched that we don’t even believe that they are achievable
Wishes are in the stars.
- Stem from a lack or deficit mindset
- We achieve them and then move on to the next thing, like a checklist
- Easily discouraged when things don’t go to plan
- Come and go or are forgotten about altogether with little real consequence
Wants are in the head.
- A yearning, craving or longing for achievement
- Desires build in intensity, until they are actualised
- No obstacle is insurmountable. We become active problem solvers
- We take inspired and purposeful action
- Seeded in emotion
Desires are in the heart.
It can also help to really get clear on the ‘why’ that fuels your goal. Try this – think of a goal and ask yourself, “Why is this goal important to me?” Take that answer and ask yourself again why is this important. Keep peeling back the layers by asking why is this important until you reach the emotion that is your driving force and it should be a positive one. When we move away from something we don’t want (negative motivation) rather than towards something that we do want (positive motivation), we create a goal seeded in fear or desperation. Fear-based goals are like beating ourselves with a big stick and expecting to be grateful when it stops. Always use the carrot and not the stick to inspire your goals.
EXPANSIVE: “I want my life to be rigid, restrictive and miserable”, said no-one EVER. When we create our goal game plan, we often make a list of all of the things that we’ll have to sacrifice. What if, on the other hand, we moved towards our goals with excitement and curiosity by adding rather than subtracting from our lives? What do I mean by that? Well, what if getting in shape didn’t mean chaining yourself to the treadmill? What if it means engaging in some other kind of joyful movement that filled your need for fun and connection and got you fit in the process? What if eating well meant going to a cooking class to learn about real food and nutrition rather than counting your macros? Get the picture? Your underlying question should be, “How can my pursuit of this goal bring more fun, freedom, power or love into my life?”
“A pattern of struggle cultivates more struggle. A pattern of joy cultivates more joy.” – David Zappasodi
APPROACH: Focus on progress, not perfection. Some days you are going to stuff things up and some days you will be an unstoppable force of nature. When we fixate on the end result rather than the process or behaviours that help us accomplish things, we can become disheartened with our progress. The only thing that you truly have control over is your behaviour, the outcome will be what it will be. So, rather than feeling as though you have failed or fallen short if every day is not perfect, focus your energy on the small behavioural changes that improve your happiness quotient and move in the direction of your goal.
RIGHT NOW: It’s important not to neglect our present lives while we are busy cultivating our future. When we look at traditional goal setting, our motivational mindset becomes solely about ‘getting there’. We then tend to rationalise all sorts of restrictions and deprivation now in order to obtain our state of bliss at some magical time in the future. Author Jenny McFadden terms this living in the ‘future perfect’ rather than our ‘pleasant present’. How, then, can our present be pleasant when we don’t have exactly what we want? I am sure that if you reflect on where you are right now, there are plenty of things to be grateful for - it just takes a little mindfulness. There are likely to be things that you love or, at the very least, like about yourself at this very moment. Please look past the merely physical. Remember, you are not a meat suit - your character counts for a lot.
TAKE ACTION: We all expect to wake up one morning and immediately feel committed to the task ahead, like some divine ‘a-ha’ moment. Sometimes, though, even our heartfelt goals can leave us feeling overwhelmed or scared when the distance between where we are right now and where we want to be seems insurmountable. When you feel this way, ask yourself, “What is one thing that I can do right now to move me in the right direction?” Do that. Keep asking yourself that same question each and every day and follow through with the action. Some days, the ‘one thing’ will be small and some days it may be monumental, but take action knowing that you will always be moving towards your ultimate vision for yourself and expanding as a person in the process.
McFadden, J (2001). Diet no more! The totally diet free way to achieve permanent weight change, Nectar Australia, Hornsby Heights.
Glasser, W (2000). Reality therapy in Action, Harper Collins Publishers, New York.
Zappasodi, D (2014). Immovable heart unstoppable mind, A personal guide to the 6 essential practices for living a healthy and fulfilling life, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, South Carolina.