Setting Goals 

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” – Napoleon Hill

Setting goals is an activity that most of us discover along the way, if we are lucky. It is not something that is often taught in early educations, so most would come into contact with the concept of formal goal setting when we strike out into the world of tertiary studies, or even in the first few years of formal employment. Even then goals are often seen to be a list of things to be accomplished, without the true focus a compelling goal deserves for achievement.

Compelling goal setting, if done from the heart and the mind, requires higher order thinking that requires an understanding of unconscious and conscious paradigms, and the ability to set a vision of what the (temporary?) dream is about.

An unconscious paradigm is the set of beliefs and patterns of behaviour that is so deeply ingrained that we are not even consciously aware of it. This includes deeply held beliefs, assumptions that we hold about the world without any proof that it may be true; meta programs, internal representations of how we perceive the world; and values,  which are important and lasting beliefs that are typically acquired from your cultural upbringing and perspectives. Unconscious paradigms need not be an unexplored world, as the conscious exploration of our unconscious paradigms may lead to self-knowledge and deep understanding of the way we relate to the world and how we behave in it.

Developing an understanding of our unconscious paradigms is essential to the setting of compelling goals.

(For more information and exercises on how to start shining a light on our inner unconscious world see our E-Guides)

Part of the foundation of getting to compelling goals is the ability to have and formulate a compelling vision. A vision is a dream of the future. Sometimes it is a dream for a specific time, but more often visions are broad, aspirational situations, or experiences, that we want to move towards. It is often seen to be the ideal destination at which we want to arrive given the resources, skills, attitudes and wishes we are aware of at this moment. It is important to see visions as temporary, as it will change as we learn more, experience more and change as human beings.

Visions are often intangible and a way of moving forward to achieving them is through the setting of goals. In our opening quote, Napoleon Hill explains that a goal is a dream with a deadline. Using this perspective it then follows that a goal is something that will have a limited lifetime, and once achieved makes space for the achievement of other goals. As Aldous Huxley explained, “Every ceiling, when reached, becomes a floor, upon which one walks as a matter of course and prescriptive right.”

The observation that flows from this is that goals create a world of dependence, and often of interdependence, in which it can be dependent on other goals being achieved and pursued before its achievement may be possible.

So why do we want to set goals? Is it not possible to simply live in the present and enjoy the moment as it exists?

Of course it is. It is however a deeply held human instinct to pursue a better life, even if it is a simple one and it rests on one of our most deeply held human rights: the ability and freedom to decide for ourselves what our future may look like.

Then another question may be:

Is goal setting the same for everyone?

It depends on how you view goals. For some goals are something that is analysed, described in great detail and then planned for in précises steps and activities that are dependent on each other and relies on a critical path to its eventual achievement. For others it is simply a broad theme which is considered continuously as choices are made on moving forward. For most of us goals lie in between these viewpoints, and depending on how clear it is in our minds and how much we desire its achievement it will vacillate between the extremes.

So what about the obstacles that lie in front of us?

Henry Ford remarked about obstacles that they are the things we see when we take our eyes of our goals. In setting out to achieve goals we will often run into situations where we are ill-prepared and for which we often lack the skills, experience and resources. Normally this is where many goals fall by the wayside instead of obstacles being seen as opportunities to acquire more skills, experiences and resources. This is why our goals should be so compelling that we will pursue them regardless of the size and seemingly impossible obstacles that appear before us.

So how do I set compelling goals?

Compelling goals are goals that draw us towards them. They are goals that will enrich and magnify our lives and contribute to our sense of wellbeing. Compelling goals touch our innermost and strongly held values and beliefs and makes a life of meaning a reality.

To set compelling goals we have to consider the dimensions of unconscious paradigms, our dreams about the future and the dimensions of our life that we want to enrich.

Defining the dimensions of our life, it is about (in very broad terms) health, wealth and happiness. Other popular views break the areas down into physical health, spirituality, finances, relationships (family, friends and community), learning, career and service. Regardless of how you view the different dimensions of your life, it is important that you create a holistic view for the purposes of goal-setting, as all of the dimensions that are important for us, will be deeply interconnected.

Setting compelling goals is a simple process that follows the following steps.

  1. Understand your values and beliefs. Take the time to open up a window into your inner unconscious world and see what is important to you.
  2. Develop and explore your vision. Take the time to dream. Create a dream worthy of pursuit, one that matters and will make a positive difference in your world.
  3. Then spend some time setting goals. An approach we use to setting goals can be summarized as follows:
    1. Find a place and a time where you will not be interrupted, or disturbed for a couple of hours.
    2. Using a notebook, write down the things you want in life. Take your time – write down a hundred, two hundred, three hundred ideas. When the ideas stop flowing, persist in thinking of more. Often our deepest desires and opportunities only surface when we get all of the superficial and meaningless goals out of the way.
    3. Once you have written down everything (try for another 50 goals), group your goals into broad themes that may correspond to the dimensions of life (or not), described above.
    4. For each theme, then group your goals into grouping of goals that can be achieved in one year, in three years, in five years, and beyond five years.
    5. The within each timeframe, for each of your dimensions prioritise your goals from most important to least important.
    6. Focusing on just the top 5- 10 goals in each grouping assess the importance of each goal in terms of step 3 of Setting an Outcomes Based Goal. Do not be scared to discard a goal that does not resonate after evaluation. The beauty of this process is that there are always as many goals as you are determined to have.
    7. Once you have a set of goals that are compelling, then plan for it (step 4 of Setting an Outcomes Based Goal).
    8. Then persist! It helps to review your goals and action plans frequently to monitor and measure the journey you undertake.

And remember:

Anytime we head into the unknown towards some distant destination, we run the risk of failure, setback and being pushed from the direct path of achievement. Always consider the following:

FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real
FAIL = First Attempt In Learning


And… If your goals change along the way?

It’s OK.

Dreams have a habit of growing clearer and more colourful as you approach them. Pursue it!

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” – Louisa May Alcott


P.S. If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about our goal setting workshops, or our coaching, please contact us.


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