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Thoughts from a reluctant goal-setter

It seems as though lately my online travels keep leading me, again and again, to posts and articles focused on the same word (or, if not the word itself, then the sentiment behind it). Not surprisingly, this ongoing repetition is having the effect of gradually pushing, pulling, and dragging me in the direction of reluctant action.

The ubiquitous word in question?


“Why so reluctant?” you might ask. The thing is, I don’t actually like setting goals, and tend to rebel against doing so (perhaps I’m not alone in this?). It’s a whole lot easier, really, to just drift along with nothing more than a vague idea of where you want to go and just hope you get there some day, somehow, than it is to actually set goals and then work towards fulfilling them.

(Hey, I didn’t say that it would work – I just said that it was easier.)

On top of that, setting goals is frightening. Translating your fragile, unspoken hopes and dreams into something tangible and measurable can be an act of vulnerability and risk. Defining the steps you need to take in order to get where you want to go opens you to the possibility of failure and criticism. Giving an actual shape to a plan of action puts you in a position of accountability with a requirement to follow through.

Frightening indeed.

But lurking behind the cacophony of fear, reluctance, and outright rebellion distracting me into inaction is a small, quiet voice that whispers, “Just give it a shot.”

Just give it a shot… and see what might happen were I to release my hold on that fear of failure and actually take steps toward success.

Just give it a shot… and see what might happen were I to push aside that reluctance to define my dreams and embrace with enthusiasm all of the possibilities and opportunities available for the taking.

Just give it a shot… and see what might happen were I to turn my back on that rebellion against accountability and commit myself with a joyful heart to positive action and progress.

Put in those terms, the ease of aimless drifting starts to lose its surface appeal. Reluctance aside, it may be time for me to pay attention to that little voice and start digging a little deeper.

Are you a reluctant goal-setter?
Have you experienced the benefits of setting goals?

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • ElaineLK March 29, 2012

    This post really speaks to me. I’ve never been one for setting goals, either–at least not firm ones–for all the reasons you give. But I’m trying to change that. This gives me an idea for a post of my own setting forth one or two goals for this year–if I let the world know about it, it might just spur me to make them happen! So tell us what goals you’re going to set now!
    ElaineLK recently posted… Shenanigans (part 2)My Profile

  • dbstevens March 29, 2012

    I’m very good at setting goals and not accomplishing them. Life has a tendency to trip me up in ways I least expected? So my “goal” now is to continue to make goals for myself, but at the same time be flexible and forgiving when those things don’t turn out exactly how I planned.

    I think that has a lot to do with what you were saying with the positive-bit. If I continue to stay positive, the goals may take longer to do, but in some ways that just makes it more fulfilling when I do accomplish them.
    dbstevens recently posted… 300 Words or Less: Guest Writer — Isa Lee WolfMy Profile

  • Jo
    March 29, 2012

    I have always been a goal setter my nature. I make lists and then lists of how to accomplish the lists, if necessary.
    It works for me, but I also understand the reluctance based on fear of failure, I just don’t have that gene! I have failed so many times, it doesn’t scare me anymore. The world continued and so did my life right in the face of failure.

    One who never fails, never does anything.

    Just a thought…♥
    Jo recently posted… It’s Always That WayMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      March 30, 2012

      LOL – I am most definitely a listmaker, Jo! (Ask my husband about our “lists for life” inside joke!) But I’ve always thought that that was more about being task-oriented (which I am), rather than goal-oriented, but perhaps it’s just two sides of the same coin. Hmmm, perhaps another blog topic to explore?!

      I like your perspective – thank you!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Thoughts from a reluctant goal-setterMy Profile

  • Hey. You HAVE set a goal. Signing up for these Nablopomo thingies are a goal, and you’re succeeding month after month. Give yourself a big ole pat on the back, friend!
    margaret christine perkins recently posted… road trip: ponchatoula, louisiana, and a little bit of joy in a cupMy Profile

  • Corinne Rodrigues
    March 30, 2012

    Although I like the concept of goals, they never worked for me, or perhaps I didn’t allow them to work. At the start of this year, I made a vision statement which just had words and images of what I wanted to achieve. That seems to be working for me far better than anything else I’ve done before.
    Corinne Rodrigues recently posted… Polishing My MirrorMy Profile

  • Suzanne March 30, 2012

    I can relate to the reluctance to set goals. I am discovering, though, that for some things it’s just more stressful for me not to. Instead of having this vague thing hovering over me all the time with no clear idea of how to start, it helps to have some sort of loose plan that I can tackle one bit at a time. So the times I’m too tired or muzzy-headed to think about it, but I still want to work on it, I have done a lot of my thinking already by setting the goal and can just get to work. Does that make sense? Speaking of being muzzy-headed… 🙂
    I also try to be realistic in the goals I set – this can be a problem for me sometimes – but once I get into it and realize my timeline or the goal itself is unrealistic, I don’t feel bad about rearranging things to be a bit more doable.
    Suzanne recently posted… The Price Is RightMy Profile

  • Classic NYer March 30, 2012

    I want to relate, but I can’t. I actually find setting goals to be much easier. When I don’t set any goals, I feel like I’m just immersed in a vague mishmosh of shit-to-do that I don’t know how to get my head around, and if I don’t know what to do, I’ll end up doing nothing. I hate when I forget to write a to-do list at night. The next morning, I eat my breakfast, I drink my coffee, and I think “what the hell was I supposed to do today?” It’s very disconcerting to me.

    You know what? Try it. You might one day wake up and wonder how you ever managed to get through a day without setting a goal.
    Classic NYer recently posted… On bones and crackheadsMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      March 31, 2012

      It’s funny – when it comes to my job, I am very much that way: totally organized, with task lists and forward-planning. But when it comes to my personal life, it’s a bit more of a challenge. Maybe I need a break from it after living it all day at work? Who knows…
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Dream come trueMy Profile

  • Masked Mom March 31, 2012

    Goal-setting is yet another of those things I completely believe but regularly fail to follow through on. This is especially true when it comes to writing. During the time period that I accomplished the most (in terms of both output and sales/publications), I was religious about writing out a weekly list of writing goals and I was also religious about keeping them manageable so as not to set myself up for disappointment. (15 minutes per day on this particular piece, final draft of a query letter for this particular piece, submit that particular piece, etc.) I also had more general monthly goals that I put in my calendar at the beginning of each month as well. (Three greeting card submissions, one essay, one query, etc.)

    Despite ample evidence that my system was working, I allowed myself to get distracted and eventually discouraged. Beginning goal-setting again–even though I intellectually understand the efficacy of it–has so far been a daunting prospect. But, this post and others I have read recently make me wonder if the universe is trying to nudge me back in the goal-setting direction.

    Hope you’ll keep us posted on your adventures in goal-setting. 😉
    Masked Mom recently posted… Author, Plagiraize Thyself!My Profile

  • Jenn April 3, 2012

    Can we say polar opposite? Okay, I’m not exactly that opposite. I do like to set broad goals… sometimes even more specific goals. I don’t like to set in stone how I go about achieving those goals. I need a little freedom to be me 🙂

    Cheers, Jenn
    Jenn recently posted… CausesMy Profile


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