January 11th, 2021
I like to set goals in a mindful way, so that my goals give me a balance between being happy; and striving for growth.
After years of studying Psychology and Neuroscience and experimenting with my own personal development, I’ve managed to put together a 3-step goal-setting method, that helps me grow as a person and have the resilience required, to achieve ambitious things.
To find a balance between being happy and striving, I follow a 3 step process:
Gratitude - Purpose - Process
Gratitude begins with taking the time to appreciate who you are, before you start setting goals and pushing yourself to become something else.
This year, the first thing I'm writing in the goals page of my journal is:
“I’m fine with who I am and I love who I’m becoming”
This shifts your mentality when setting goals, from thinking:
“If I achieve this, then I will be happy” to “I’m okay with who I am and I’m making a commitment to continue growing.”
This way of thinking, detaches your happiness from your goal and sets you up for longer term success. Having the ability to get deeply involved in something, and still be able to step outside of yourself and be objective, can increase your chances of achieving it, and won’t let your goals trigger unhelpful emotions that can set you back (like fear or sadness).
If you get attached to a very specific outcome, you could subconsciously be telling yourself: “if I don’t have this, I won’t be whole”, and that can be damaging to your mental health and trigger feelings of anxiety, sadness, fear or jealousy.
So the overarching goal before setting any others is to recognise that you are still you, without any of these things. Remind yourself of this daily. Create a reminders page in your journal if you need to, or affirmations. And it can really help you detach and focus.
I’m personally working on being passionate without being emotional.
For example, if I attach all of my happiness to growing my YouTube channel, my emotions would probably lead me to obsess over the numbers. I would be constantly analysing my subscriber count, scrutinising why one video didn’t do as well as another and generally making myself miserable. Fearing that I won’t get to where I need to be, or feeling sad because I don’t feel I’m good enough. Eventually I wouldn’t be able to focus on getting good quality content out. My emotions would get in the way, every time something doesn’t go as well as I’d like, or if I fail to meet a milestone.
Finding a way to be passionate about the goal without being emotional is key for me. Being passionate is what keeps me coming back to create more content, and being objective and grateful for the small things, stops me from giving up.
Gratitude is the conscious decision to appreciate something just because it exists. That can be people, tiny things in your life, yourself, your goals. You can be grateful for anything, even as simple as having running water.
And believe it or not… it makes a huge difference to helping you achieve your goals.
Some goals feel really tough to achieve and require hard work from you, for a long period of time. Whether it’s to write a book, to get in shape or to work on an exciting project. These things don’t happen overnight, and you need the energy to keep taking steps towards these goals every day, for a long period of time.
Having a gratitude log throughout the year, keeps you grounded. It gives you the perspective and the positivity needed, to keep taking steps towards your goal.
It helps me notice progress, even in the tiniest ways, and not overlook the small things. And this changes my perspective, increases my happiness levels and gives me the positive energy I need to keep going. Even capturing little things like going for a peaceful walk or a family meal during lockdown. If you take the time to appreciate the little things, you’ll find more energy to tackle the big things and persevere.
The second stage is purpose, and the first step is identifying your direction. My goals lately have been more of a direction that I want to go in, rather than a fixed outcome.
Believe it or not, in January 2019 I thought it would be good to be able to share more of my bullet journal on YouTube or Instagram, but I didn’t have a specific goal to start a channel. I identified that I wanted to do something that I love for a living, and that I wanted to share more online. I thought I would share things that I found valuable for living a happier life, and decided I would start sharing it through my bullet journal.
When you know your direction there might be different paths to get there. You want to give yourself the flexibility and freedom to take the route that works best for you, as you grow and learn more about your craft. I made a list of things that I was going to commit to doing last year to head in the direction I wanted to go in. Things like, journalling everyday and sharing something online every day. I immersed myself in those activities, and learnt more about myself and my offering, to be able to make an informed decision about what I wanted to do.
This worked really well for me because I knew the direction I wanted to go in, but didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do or what value I could offer to others.
Once I’ve thought about my direction, the first question I ask is, why?
Why do I want to do this? Why is it important?
I find it helpful to ask why a few times, to fully understand my reasons. Sometimes you discover reasons you hadn't thought about before. Or the true reason, when you strip away all of the other surface-level reasons that come to mind.
For every broad goal or direction that you identify, write down your reason why. Ask and answer it 3 - 5 times.
Knowing the real reasons why you want to do something, beyond the obvious reasons can help you keep going when you want to give up. The goal needs to be meaningful and the way to make it meaningful is to fully understand your why.
Your why will save you, at those times when
you’re feeling tired, lethargic or overwhelmed and your brain tries to convince you it’s a good idea to give up;
unexpected external events throw you off course;
you don’t meet a milestone, and think you don’t have what it takes;
you ask yourself 6 months after starting, why am I putting myself through this;
people challenge your choices.
The thing that keeps you going, is knowing your why. A solid why, will make you unstoppable regardless of what happens around you.
A push goal is a specific goal that you push yourself to achieve. A pull goal is one that you feel a pull towards because you enjoy it. The push goal requires some force to meet a very specific outcome and requires pressure and will-power to meet it. The pull goal feels natural, because you’re drawn to it and it's fuelled by passion and enthusiasm.
To figure out what you're drawn to, ask yourself what activities you enjoy doing, regardless or the outcome. You can then use this overview of your interests, to identify an overarching direction you want to go in.
You commit to dedicating time to it on a consistent basis. For example, if you enjoy writing and identify that you want to write more this year, commit to writing for 10 minutes everyday. If you can commit to writing for 10 minutes a day, even without a defined objective, eventually you’ll notice your writing turning into something. It might lead you to think you could have an idea for a book, or make you want to start a blog.
If you focus on the craft itself, the exciting outcomes will start forming.
Commit to consistent practice, let your knowledge of the field grow and you then you can make educated guesses about what you want to do with it specifically.
Using activities as goals, means that you’re focussing on what you can control. Setting goals like: earn a certain amount of money or get a certain number of followers, aren’t fully in your control. As Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote:
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.
When we focus on what we can control, our thoughts will trigger positive emotions which will give us the fuel to achieve great things.
For example, I can keep sharing on YouTube but it’s not a guarantee that I’ll get 100,000 subscribers. And I can set myself up for disappointment and then give up, if my goals aren’t based on things I can control. Instead, I can commit to the process and set a goal to publish 4-5 videos a month.
Which brings me to the final part of the process: reflect and refine.
Take the time to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t. You can tweak and refine things throughout the year to make it work for you. And you can tweak your goals as you learn more about your craft.
By committing to publishing 4-5 videos a month last year, I ended up discovering where I can add value, by reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. What I enjoyed most and what I didn’t.
So this year I can make an informed decision to publish 4-5 videos a month about mindfulness and productivity. In the knowledge that I enjoyed these topics the most, and provided the most value to others through those topics.
I also learnt more about making and selling products for Etsy, like how long it takes and what I need to do. I got some more ideas for new products. So I can have a goal to create and release 12 products in the next 12 months.
You can choose your commitment based on where you’re starting from, focusing on the things you can actually control and see what amazing opportunities unfold.
This also stops you from measuring yourself against some sort of ideal. Your goal is to commit to consistent practice, so when you assess your progress, you’re only going to be comparing yourself to yourself, before you started. You’re not comparing yourself to someone who’s been doing this for 3 years already. You’re measuring the gain not the gap, and that’s going to help strike a balance between being happy and striving for progress.
I hope this post has helped you think about a goal setting balance, that could work for you.
Watch my YouTube video to see me set up my own goals while talking through this process: