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One Secret Way to Approach Setting Goals for Next Year

setting goalsSetting goals toward the end of the year has a sort of mystical feel to me.

I envision myself with a brand new pristine notebook, great pen and pencils handy, a fresh cappuccino made with Cafe Moto’s Turkish Blend and several hours of uninterrupted time. Even better would be a 3 day retreat to someplace where I can hear and smell the surf.

What more often happens is I grab half an hour here and there, usually at the computer because my handwriting proves I should have been a doctor. I make a list of what I want to accomplish next year, prioritize it and attempt to see how I can make it happen.

At least that’s how I used to do it.

The problem with setting goals

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with setting goals. The goals I tend to set are those I think I should set, rather than an expression of what I’m really feeling.


Then there are all the rules about goal setting. Where, for example, did SMART goals come from? – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused and Time-bound are the words the acronym stand for. Every time I read them or about them I feel like I’m trying to climb into a box that’s way too small for me.

I did some research and found an expert who agrees with me. (Another reason I love Google – I can always find someone who agrees with me.)

Over at Business Insider, Chris Weller wrote an article called A top psychologist says there’s a huge misconception about goal setting. There he quotes Psychologist Adam Alter  saying “I think goals are inherently a broken concept in a lot of respects,” and “The nature of a goal is such that you have, for most of the time, effectively a failure state where you’re not achieving whatever that goal is,” Alter says. “And that’s aversive. That feels pretty bad to most people.”

Exactly! Because I haven’t reached what ever goal I’ve set, SMART or not, I’m always looking at what I haven’t done. Small wonder what starts as a mystical process ends up feeling all wrong.

What I’m doing this year instead of setting goals

This year, instead of sitting down to write out goals for 2018, I’m making space for two things:

I want to create as long a list as I can about what when right this year. What were my wins if you will. What did I do that made me feel good about myself, my writing, and the way I am in the world.

Next I want to take a close look at those things I said I wanted to do but didn’t, or got started on but didn’t complete. I want to check inside and find out if I really do want to complete each item or not. Then, taking only the ones I really want to complete, looking at how they fit with my life and what, if anything, I can do to move them forward.

Sure those might become goals, but it feels different.

I’ll let you know how this works.

What do you think? Does this make sense to you as an approach? Let me know in comments if you like. I do like to hear from you.

Happy Solstice – yes, it’s today, and as always,

Write well and often,





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