**This article originally appeared on ALOHA.com
I recently moved and joined a new gym. A complimentary personal training session was included in the membership, so naturally I took advantage of getting my ass kicked by someone else for free. One of the first questions the trainer asked me was, “What are your fitness goals?”
Now, having struggled with over exercising and an unhealthy gym routine in the past, I tend to avoid setting fitness goals. I tend to avoid setting most goals, actually—work, personal, health—and I’ll tell you why:
1. Goals can make it so you never feel good enough
A goal is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” Thus by setting them we risk feeling incomplete or flawed in our current state. Try to see your goal not as a place you NEED to get to in order to be worthy; rather, an experience you’re curious about—a stopover point on your journey.
2. Goals can prevent you from appreciating the current moment
Focusing on the future inevitably takes us out of the present, and focusing on where we want to be prevents us from being mindful in the here and now. Think of it like this: On that proverbial drive down the “Coast of Life,” you want to check the map occasionally, but for the most part you keep your eyes on the road and the sights out the window. So, try to keep your gaze on the present, while checking in every now and then to make sure you’re not getting lost.
3. Goals can lend to procrastination
Have you ever found yourself cleaning, watching YouTube, going to the fridge, or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook to avoid an overwhelming task? If our expectations are too high, we risk of feeling anxious and subsequently procrastinating. Be realistic. Goal setting has a place in your process, so get really specific with the steps involved and focus on good enough rather than perfection.
4. Goals can make for haste-related errors
If we don’t give ourselves enough time to meet our goals, we start cutting corners. The quality of our work suffers, we make mindless errors, we crash diet, or we get so fixated on meeting the goal that we forget why we set it in the first place. Be mindful you don’t get tunnel vision and cut corners.
5. Goals can turn into perfectionism, which keeps us from turning inward and perpetuates unstable performance-based self-worth.
Do you always have goals? Have you ever met a goal, felt satisfied briefly, then set another one just as fast? We often avoid our painful feelings or counter our lack of self-worth by focusing outward on meeting goals or accomplishing. “When I lose weight or get in a relationship or finish school or travel… then I’ll be happy,” we think. But how many times have you met those goals, and still felt unfulfilled? Find the courage to look inside and feel your difficult feelings, rather than avoid them by setting a goal. If it’s anxiety provoking and uncomfortable, it means you’re doing it right.
So, the next time you find yourself setting goals, make sure you aren’t falling into any of these traps! Pay attention to the journey, look inside, be realistic and intentional, and be self-compassionate—your self-worth will be a whole lot more stable.
I have just written a post on how setting a physical goal can actually boost self-esteem, but I completely agree that you need to tread carefully when setting a goal. As long as it’s attainable and realistic, I think it can be a real boost to achieve something you really want to do once in a while.
Thanks for writing this 🙂
What a great article. I never thought of setting goals in this way, but it is so true. It will change how I set goals…thanks.
I find an interesting predicament is to compare the affects of goals on mood, be they realistic or not, with ‘aspirations’ and whether they are set well or well understood. I think aspirations allow you to work toward something whereas a goal is quite definitive. Then again, maybe I need to think this one through a bit more.