Are Goals Necessary?


I asked that question on our Facebook page recently, and got a lot of great responses.

Technically, I asked “Are goals necessary to achieve success?” – a lot of people accurately said that it depends on how you define success. I agree.

But let’s say that success includes working toward something other time, whether a career goal, a relational goal, or strictly a personal project.

Are goals necessary in the crafting of a meaningful life? Here are a few responses from the group:

Maggie Dodson: Sometimes goals can be manufactured to convince ourselves and others that we ARE busy doing what we should be doing. Better we follow the feeling, the passion, and walk towards the dream.

Angela Stauder: No – but defining direction/trajectory is. Pick a point on the horizon and keep moving toward it. Define the method of travel (boundaries, values, key actions). Sometimes it is important to get clear on what success looks like. There is no one perfect formula that fits every situation. The wisdom and skills to navigate are critical.

Yoshiko Inagaki: I think one needs to have a Vision. Then out of that Vision emerges Goals, but stay organic with the how-to-reach-the-goals.

Carlos Araya: If you don’t have goals how would you know how far you’ve gone?

Kyle McHattie: Yes. If you don’t know what you want, you have no focus. Without focus you wander aimlessly and are ineffective. You need goals to achieve success.

John Saward: I’m reminded of Spike Milligan’s snippet of wisdom: “We haven’t got a plan so nothing can go wrong!”

Derek Kei Lap Cheng: Goals are not necessary to achieve success, but they sure do help MEASURE success.

My favorite of all responses, though, came from Barbara Winter, who for some reason reads this blog even though she could write it much better than me. Here’s what Barbara had to say:

Most people would think it ridiculous to walk into an airport with a wad of cash, hand it over to the ticket agent and say, “Send me someplace.” Goals are simply chosen destinations that we’ve decided are worth the trip. Without them, somebody else may be deciding on the itinerary for us.

I won’t try to add much to such wisdom. Just one thing –

I’d never say that everyone needs to set goals, but I do notice that some of the objections to goal-setting always focus on “living in the present” and not letting life pass you by due to being too focused on goals.

My view is that the odds of life passing you by are much higher if you have no plan for life itself—which is why I like Barbara’s analogy. You’re not going to miss anything! In fact, you’ll probably have the opportunity to give and receive more than you would otherwise.

That’s my $0.02. But what do you think … are goals necessary? How has goal-setting worked (or not worked) for you?


Image: Angie

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  • tara - scoutie girl says:

    I’m completely with Barbara. The idea that life is a journey doesn’t resonate with me – the quality of the journey comes from knowing where we want to go (and leaving room for detours, of course!).

    I recently tackled this topic myself and ended up on the idea of creating “spacious goals.” It’s no use to limit yourself to narrow goals that only allow for specific actions & follow through.

    You have to create a spacious, open framework that allows you to explore while still providing direction for the work you’re doing.

    And spacious goals don’t sound nearly as scary at BIG goals! 😉

  • Sarah says:

    If you already have an idea of what you want, making it a goal helps sharpen and specify it. It lets you set goalposts, timetables and, as Derek Kei Lap Cheng said, it’s excellent for measuring progress. The problem is, it can also keep us from setting out to explore the unknown. It always feels, and usually is, safer to keep to a known path. So many choose a goal that seems to be faintly in the vicinity of the undefined intuition they have- and follow it to the sometimes quite bitter end. I’d say if the goal really encapsulates what you want, go for it. Otherwise, follow that faint, tantalizing whiff off into the wilderness and find what you are really looking for.

  • Chris says:

    Vital, but self-esteem should not be measured on the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ to acheive those goals. Often times the attempt is what sets you apart, sets you free, and teaches you.
    There is regret for what has been tried, and regret for what has not been attempted. Not even trying is what leaves the bitter taste in your mouth and keeps you up at night.

  • Kate Ditewig-Morris says:

    Are we talking about “goals” or “dreams”? I have plenty of dreams, but let’s talk about goals for a minute.

    Now that I’m striking out on my own after nearly three decades of working for a huge, global corporation, I need to have a pretty good idea of where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. For example, I have goals around honing my business plan … developing my marketing strategy … getting my website and social media ready to go … targeting those first all-important clients.

    But my goals aren’t going to be rigid and inflexible, like the “SMART” goals I was forced to write at the Big Company. (S=Specific M=Measurable A= Actionable R=Realistic T=Time-constrained) Because in that world, if you didn’t meet any element of your SMART goals, you were penalized in all sorts of ways, including getting tossed out on your inadequacy. Rigidity and pressure like that makes me crazy and inhibits my creativity.

    Dreams, however, are a different thing altogether….

  • rob white says:

    Interesting topic, Chris. In my opinion, Yes the RIGHT goals are necessary. Without desire there is no vibrancy to living. Goals that are dictated by the False-Self (the ego) serve to only cause more pain and suffering and lead us further from peace and happiness.The right kind of goals and desires have us living from our Authentic Nature. In this state we are expressing ourselves and participating fully in life. When we are realizing our creative potential we are fully engrossed in the moment and moving steadily toward the goal.

  • markd says:

    The universe has bigger, better, and more bizarre plans for me than any “goals” I might come up with. So I roll with it, and follow what’s ahead.

    I learnt this after about 20 years in the corporate world, with lots ‘n lots of “goals” and plans for their achievement.

    Onward! Thru the fog!

  • Tobin says:

    I am hopeless without goals, then again, I am really excellent at creating fail-proof intricate plans that do not seem to happen. This has always bothered me till I read AONC and I came to a startling realization. Most of those detailed plans that did not materialize were for things I really either did not care about enough or that I really did not want to do anyway. The things that are important to me in life always have a goal, and with or without much planning, I seem to reach my goals. Goals, IMHO, are important if they are like a vision to work toward but only if they are a vision you really feel something for. No passion, no glory.

  • Brian Chandler says:

    But for most of those who read this blog and actively participate in life, I think we’re more likely to over-focus and over-measure than lack direction toward a goal.

    When I read Ms. Winter’s analogy of the airport, I found myself feeling more excited about the possibilities of a surprise destination than dread that I was handing the decision to another.

    I’ve spent a lot of time developing, refining, and achieving goals. I’ve found that, when I look back, it is a combination of focused goals and the unexpected “bumping into life” that has given me whatever success I enjoy.

    Achieving goals can be exciting, but often I’ve felt disappointment that my achievements haven’t brought with them real community or self acceptance. Maybe that’s more about the goals I’ve chosen than the process itself.

  • Leon says:

    I still wonder if having goals are necessary. I have my list that I look at occasionally, and it seems to be growing incrementally, but then I notice that I’ve already achieved a handful of them already and I didn’t even make a plan or broke it down into steps or anything, they just sort of happened. I’ll liken goal setting as a film maker does a movie: there’s a a script, all ideas are placed there but they’re not concrete, as we begin filming, new ideas appear (script change) or ideas taken out (script change). Sometimes the script gets transformed entirely, and most of the time it’s always better than the first script. My goals tend to flow, detours and happy accidents are always welcomed. So I guess moving toward something is the goal, being open to change is the plan.

  • Tricia says:

    Does it have to be one or the other? In my experience, I sometimes haven’t had the imagination for certain possibilities. By being open, or showing up at the airport and letting the ticket agent book a flight for me, my life has had some amazing, unforeseen twists. I think there might be a sweet spot in the middle of the two – one that includes a vision (or goals) and the ability to trust seemingly random impulses.

  • Hunter says:

    You may not need goals but you do need good habits or at least good plans.

    You may have a goal but with no tools to get there it is just a daydream. With good habits and the ability to develop skills you may not have a goal but good things may happen. With good plans you may be able to figure out how to get to a good place though it may be harder without good habits.

  • Amber J. says:

    I’m going to keep what Barbara said in mind. I love her sentiment so much! People often say, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” And I think that is the interesting thing about setting a goal. Yes, you are trying to get somewhere, but it’s the steps toward that thing that makes it really sweet when you finally get it. Setting, and achieving a goal can revel things about yourself that you didn’t know before.

  • David Williams says:

    I agree with Barbara that goals give a person more control over their own life. At the same time it is important to remain open to new opportunities that weren’t considered while setting goals. As we develop spiritually and intellectually, our goals must change to stay in alignment with that growth.

  • Sean says:

    Baby stepping works wonders for goals! Achieve small targeted goals first and that builds the momentum for the bigger crazy goals!

    Disclaimer, Dr. Leo Marvin and Bob Wylie had a big influence on my thoughts here!

  • louise says:

    I have learned the last while that having goals is good- yes… but not being too specific- being flexible and open. I have a vision, I have an idea of the steps I need to get there- but it is not always going to go quite the way I expect because there is a synergy with a force greater than myself I am seeking to tap into. So I have my vision- my desire, devotion,my passion, my belief- and the energy I focus on the vision/ objective/goal seems to be much more important. Also the quality of the vib created from this vision.
    I have to be open to different and often what seems suprisingly magical ways that my goals are accomplished. This seems to occur when I accept the dycotomy between being present- in the moment, being open with joy and wonder, believing that the opportunities to make my goal a reality are forthcoming while believing that one way or another if it is meant to be- it will be.

  • L. Marie Joseph says:

    I love setting goals. I get off just on the journey of achieving them. But once they are achieved, I get bored again. Sometimes I feel I set goals just for the hell of it

  • Cari says:

    Goals are all fine, well and good… but without the personal mojo behind them, they often dissipate into the ethers. What I find the most challenging is the maintaining the momentum to break through obstacles to get to the goals that I have set for myself. And most especially having faith that even if I don’t see immediate results, there are forces at work bringing me what I have asked for, often in ways I did not expect.

  • Joy says:

    General goals are necessary but I allow for flexibility and natural unfolding. When I sail solo (not a charter), I prep the boat, check the weather then set out. I have a destination in mind..however when I am out on the ocean I assess the current and the wind and allow that to determine my final destination. It is the joy of the journey and the peace of allowing for natural unfolding. I would choose to live the same way, if I could release the notion that I have obligations to my children that they may experience mainstream life as well as the peace of boat life.

  • Chris says:

    I agree with Barbara, goal setting helps me have a destination to think about and focus on. Overall though I will often reanalyze and change goals because perhaps they just aren’t based on where I want to end up with my ultimate goals.

    The interesting thing though is that I change and go through different iterations of my goals, the biggest goals stay the same and I really don’t lose my overall focus, I just find better ways to get there.

  • Brother John says:

    I have choosen to not live my life by focusing on goals, as I view them as generally self limiting compared to developing my conscious awareness and living in the present. I have seen too many opportunities present themselves by being aware of them when they arrive-in fact , the bigger challenge is willingness to take the first step into an opportunity that can actually change the course of our lives, even though we might be shaking in our boots with fear of the unknown. With that said, I have seen powerfull manifestations in my life come as a result of holding a desire of my heart or an unspoken vision for an indefinate period of time-until the manifestation unfolds in it’s own timeframe. This is not a mental exercise , but instead something above the mind that exists from within and from universal consciousness.

  • Sage Russell says:

    I dig the “set a direction and parameters” bit. This is conducive to feeling and checking in as you move along your path. A goal or destination is a tool only made useful when you understand that the journey is where living happens. two quotes come to mind:
    “The greatest goal is the greatest journey” ~ @JasonWebley
    “We often overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, but sorely underestimate what we can accomplish in a few months of directed daily action” ~ @foodpilgrimage

  • Hermann Delorme says:

    I will fully endorse Angela Stauder’s comments. Goals, no. Direction/trajectory, yes. As in archery, pick a spot and focus on it, then align your aim with the required trajectory for the arrow to hit the ”spot”.

  • Elizabeth Potts Weinstein says:

    when I read Barbara’s comment I said to myself – handing a wad of cash over to the ticket agent and saying “send me someplace” sounds really exciting! 🙂

    but seriously, I think that gets to my point – yes, sometimes it is good to have destinations and figure out how to get there.

    but every once in a while, it’s good to just put up the sails and see where the wind takes you – sometimes the universe (god/your intuition/your gut/your heart) knows much better than your brain where the most amazing destination would be for you.

    sometimes … just surrender and let it all go and see what amazingness happens. 🙂

    ~ EPW

  • Brett says:

    I tend to think that people who don’t like ‘goals’ just don’t like the word ‘goal’. It’s like they feel it carries all kinds of corporate, dry, non-organic baggage. That ‘point on the horizon’–that spot there–that’s a goal. To me, goals don’t necessarily mean finish points, but just spots along the way where we’d like to see growth.

  • Blair says:

    I drift like a wave on the ocean. I blow as aimless as the wind – Tao Te Ching

  • Hannah Marcotti says:

    It seems to me that without goals we are living flat dreams. Goals provide the sparkle, they are the beauty in the breath. Talk about goals can be so boring, but truthfully a goal is a sexy thing.

  • Tracy says:

    Goals are certainly necessary…otherwise where are you headed…just flopping around probably. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Ricky Ferdon says:

    For some reason it seems that “goals” is a dirty word. I suppose it’s just a matter of perception. As you stated, some who seek to live in the present (now) don’t believe in setting goals. As a runner, I may have a goal of a certain time for a future race. That’s the end of it. All my training leading up to that time-goal is done in the present tense. When I’m standing at the start line, waiting on the gun, I’m in the present moment as is each step of the race.

  • CountryDreaming says:

    Only real important goal for me: Heaven.

    Goals in this world? Can be hugely helpful. I think some have a knack for goal-setting moreso than others. Many may well be better than I am.

    With the art world, it all started out for me by following a very simple inspiration to set up a card table at a tourist spot and sell photos. (The card table dramatically collapsed at the end of the show!) From there, things somehow snowballed into my eventually winding up exhibiting in juried art shows at five different art galleries so far. But my basic plan to get seen in galleries was simply this … * drumroll please * …

    “Oh look, another art gallery and I still have time to apply before the deadline! This looks like fun!”

  • Austin L. Church says:

    Goals are necessary the way gardening tools and seeds are necessary. You need a tiller to make furrows, and you need seeds to plant. You could break up the earth and wait for the birds to sow, or you could throw seeds on the hard earth and hope they sprout. But if you want to eat fresh heirloom tomatoes and squash, then your best bet is a proven process. Our desires shape our goals, and our goals determine the process. The process—boring, mechanical, and unsexy as that word sounds—helps us identify the tiny to-dos that grow into the dream. I can hope for a garden, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get a lot of weeds and a few wildflowers. Or, I can roll up my sleeves in February, lend my loving determination to my goals, and enjoy delicious strawberries and peppers late into the fall.

  • steve frank says:

    Great question and discussion, Chris. Are they necessary? That depends but I lean towards Absolutely. Goals are like gears on a bike. Sure you can coast on a bike, but to sustain movement you need to be going downhill. When you’re in gear and engaged, you can keep yourself moving forward, even if you take a wrong turn. Goals help to keep you engaged and moving.
    Thanks, again. Make today count.

  • jessica says:

    I really hear and relate to all these perspectives. In my experience, the value of goal-setting depends on who you are and what you need to be successful (however you define success). I definitely need goals. But I also know that I love the act of goal-setting, and all the possibility that comes with it, a little too much. Goal-setting, for me, can easily become a distraction from just digging in and doing the work.

  • Jordan Clark says:

    If you’re trying to achieve success, is that not a goal? Sure, it may not be a specific goal, but don’t we all want to shoot for success?

    I think of a goal as anything we want to have, do, or be. Those are our big goals. To accomplish those big goals, one usually breaks them down into smaller, more practical goals that we can meet in the short term. Eventually, we hope, all those small goals will add up to the big goal of success.

    Is it always that easy? (Step 1; Step 2; Step 3;) Absolutely not. In fact, most of the time, our path is not as clear as a stairwell. It’s more like a dark back road in some foreign country. We know where we need to end up, but we realize the hows only as we journey forward.

    I hope that sounded as good as it did in my head.

  • Gav Duncan says:

    My experience is that goals are necessary in as much as they give you something to aim for, to aspire to. I also think one needs some interim goals as the stepping stones to your main goals in life. The big BUT! is that you have to remain intuitive and be prepared for the goalposts to move, and for the stepping stones to submerge as you travel along. You have to recognize these shifts and adjust or amend your life goals accordingly and enjoy the challenges that are presented to you.
    I use a multitude of “positive thinking” & “law of attraction” techniques to follow my moveable goals, which have taken me from working for The Man in Scotland to Professional fiddle-player in New Zealand to graphic designer/farmer/officeworker in Scotland to graphic designer/professional fiddle-player in Canada.
    The biggest lesson of all is to trust The Universe!

  • Sheila says:

    Most of what I wanted to say has already been said, so I only have two small things to add.

    I’ve noticed that I tend not to pat myself on the back for small successes. One advantage of goals is that I know when I’ve hit them, and I find that very motivating.

    The other is that goals are there for your benefit, not vice versa. If circumstances or your dreams change, you should feel free to tweak goals at any time, or even dump them.

  • Kurt Swann says:

    Interesting question and I don’t have an answer but just a few comments . . .

    I think some of the negative reactions toward “goals” result from having goals that, if we are honest with ourselves, aren’t that meaningful. Maybe because of new experiences or just growing up, the goals that once seemed so exciting now are just a big fat burden.

    Even meaningful goals can leave us feeling a little burned out at times especially if they are pursued without balance. Then it’s nice to ditch the goals for a while and just go to the airport and let someone pick a destination.

    Life has seasons or cycles. Sometimes we feel best when we’re being productive and focused on achievement. Other times it’s nice to just walk out the front door and see what happens.

  • June Donenfeld says:

    I like what Henry David Thoreau had to say on this matter, in Walden, Ch. 18:
    “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.
    In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.
    If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

  • Stormy Sweitzer says:

    Great post and reader comments. Having worked in quality improvement and project management where goals and action steps are everything, the idea of setting personal goals is really interesting to me. The concept is the same, but there is more at risk in managing one’s own life. The cost of being a passive bystander is what prompts me to set, follow, and review my personal goals.

    I find that being deliberate about my goals, while staying open to adventure and course-correction, has helped me to actively pursue the direction I want to go, recognize emergent opportunities as such (an opportunity is only an opportunity if it helps me achieve, rather than detracts from, my goals), and to actually be more present in my life because I’m not constantly assessing whether an experience is good, bad, helpful or otherwise…subconsciously, I already know.

    Thank you for another thought-provoking topic!

  • Erin Margaret says:

    After a few not-self-induced life altering events while in university I decided to have an experiment of not making any major life decisions for 5 years and see where it would take me. The only rule was that I had to accept the first possibilies that came to me no matter what it was. In the 4 1/2 short years that I have been doing this my lack of major life decisions has taken me to several continents and brought me to my current job (which I love) in Alaska.
    I did have any set goals other than to not have goals and it worked out great, I would say that I was successful in my travels, my studies, and even my career with no goals of any kind.
    Quite honestly I think I might extend the experiment a few years and see where else I might end up.

  • Robert says:

    Most of us don’t live our lives. We fall into (settle for) them by default, depending on what is made available to us, which is always somebody else’s reality, not our own.

    In his 1982 Nobel Prize speech, the great Columbian novelist, journalist and political activist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, put it beautifully. He said,

    “The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary.”

    I’m with Barbara – goals are a must!

  • Cheryl S. says:

    I see goals as tools. Setting big, audacious goals that come from the deepest part of my heart not only set my feet walking but also require me to become something more than I am. To me, the last part is the best…because even if my destination is re-routed, the person I’ve become while heading there is an unspeakable treasure. Do I need a goal to be successful? I’d say yes, a person always needs the right tools to do the job at hand correctly & efficiently.

  • Dave says:

    “Success in any venture is the intellignet application of Failure”…dj

  • Steve Lake says:

    A goal is a destination. The path that gets you there will meander for sure. You will encounter forks, cross streets, side roads, back roads and dead ends. Each one is a decision point. Having a destination will help you decide which way to turn, which road to take, and how long you are on your side trips. The destination doesn’t dictate the decisions but it does influence them. If you don’t have a destination, your decisions don’t matter.

  • MutantSuperModel says:

    I have lived a giant chunk of my life without goals and what happened was everyone ran my life– except me. Imagine a boat at sea. Without a course to follow, it is solely in the hands of the currents and the winds. Yes, you may end up gently washed onto the glorious shore of a lost paradise, but more than likely you will simply end up “lost at sea” and not in a good way. Even with a map and proper navigation tools, an ocean voyage is challenging enough, but a voyage without a destination is futile.
    The key word is of course success. Achieving a goal is not success, it is achievment. It is the process of working towards a goal that is success itself. Why? Because this is the only way to own your life– bad AND good.
    I’d also like to point out committing to NOT setting goals is a goal itself. 😉

  • Kathy says:

    I love this question and the analogy of goals being a destination. Setting course toward a goal and staying open to opportunity along the way expands who we are. Having a goal that we get to choose, that resonates and feels right supports forward motion. Trusting ourselves to take steps toward what calls us is an opportunity for growth.

  • Katharina says:

    I think that goals are helpful and useful if they are in line with your natural inclinations and talents. Then they can help you surpass your limits and be happier with yourself. Achieving them will truly mean something to you.
    But then, maybe goals are only props, and you recognize success when you don’t need them anymore, when you do things more naturally, when you do a thing that others perceive as hard work actually comes quite naturally to you.

  • Eli says:

    Few things come in mind.Actually everything everyone said so far comes to mind.Because for me it’s about exploring perspectives.”There is no right or wrong way there are only different ones” (still don’t know who said it)-it goes well with Barbara’s analogy,the different selection of words like “goals”,”plans”,”objectives”.
    What was really important for me was setting my Intent it’s underlying everything I do/think/feel.One word kept resonating with me when I was reflecting about this:HARMONY!
    In music the most beautiful melodies are the top voice of equally beautiful,fulfilling harmonies.You can look horizontally but there is also always something bigger, deeper vertically.Depending on the perspective.If you change the harmonies of that same melody it will change the sound.Re-checking with my Intent very often sets the direction and pace I wish to take without even knowing that a goal/plan has been set, because I know what’s the sound I want to make.

  • Christopher says:

    I’ve been pondering lately what is right in this world, Buddhism vs. “The Secret”‘s law of attraction.

    It’s important to live in the present in order to be happy. But it’s also important to have dreams because the society we live in is a result of dreamers. Like Yoshiko said above, the dreamer has a vision, and out of that vision, steps must be taken to see the dream more clearly and in big pictures. Goals measure, but we don’t need measurements in order to know you’ve taken a step.

    If the scenery is different, and you like the way it looks, haven’t you gone somewhere you wanted to go?

  • Richard Howes says:

    Grand goals and visions are great, but its important to remember they are reached one step at a time. Sometimes lofty goals can cause paralysis if you perceive the length and challenges of the journey to get there to be insurmountable.

    Take a step.

  • Tim says:

    I really really like goals.

    However I learned from Eben Pagan that most people DON’T when he recommended the book “If You Don’t Like Goals Solve Problems” by Bob Biehl.

    My favorite is what Zig Ziglar says about the guys who went up Mt Everest:

    When they got to the top they didn’t say “well, we were just out wandering around and ended up here at the top.”

  • Janice says:

    For me, goals are important because they clarify what I want (need) to do and serve as a subliminal guide to achieving it. Measuring goals is something else, I think, but goal setting can be as simple as writing down on a piece of paper something you want and putting in a place where you’re reminded of it. Every time I’ve done that, sure enough, 6 months later, a year later, however long later, I’ve achieved it. No big plan, but my actions must definitely be shaped by the goal(s). I got out of debt. What was the stated goal? “Get out of debt.” The one thing you’re not supposed to do. Be too general, have no time limit. Put it on a big piece of paper in my office. Other things as well. Works for me. It does keep other things from taking over your life unintentionally, so yes, I think they’re important.

  • Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker says:

    I’m with Barbara on this one Chris; I want to choose my own itinerary.


  • Life Adventure Jacki says:

    My goals are the roadmap of possibilites in my life.

    They are not set in stone, I am open to what the Universe might bring me, yet I am inspired daily but what my life looks like in 10 years and it allows me to be present and powerful in the work I am doing right now to get there. They are written down. Broken into 1 year, 5 year and 10 year goals – then again broken into personal, health and career goals. I look back at what I was and was not commited to in the past years and it allows me to get real with my life. Not your life, not what another person wants for my life – but MY LIFE! I set goals to create what is possible in my future!

    I love goals.

  • Niel Malan says:

    Plans requires goals, and without planning the saying goes “if you fail to plan, plan to fail.” Since failure is the opposite of success, it seems that goals are necessary for success. QED.

  • Gerhard says:

    I don’t really like goal-setting because I don’t like to check items off a checklist. Reality is too complicated and I’m too chaotic. I’d rather have a (pretty vague) vision of what I want and then try to sharpen that image as I go along.

  • April from Jersey says:

    Here’s my $0.02
    Goals tell you what to do, where to go, how to behave. It is Mom and Dad all over again! “Mom and Dad makes sure that you are not at the bus station trying to buy a plane ticket 🙂

    At some point you have to ask yourself, what do I want, what do I have to do, where do I have to go, what skills do I have to develop to get to where I want to get…and there you are…setting goals!

  • Colleen says:

    One of my favorite sayings comes from John Cage – “The goal is not to have a goal”.

  • Jen says:

    Currently, I’m somewhat put off by ‘goals.’ I’ve spent so much time and energy being angry with myself for falling short of them.
    But what is in a name, really? I like to dream big. I like to have a list of things I’d like to do someday. But when I look at them as goals, I see a big to-do list that is not getting to-done.
    And it makes me anxious. It makes me feel like I’m not accomplishing things.
    I’d much rather have a loose idea of things I’d like to do than stringent bullet pointed goals that must be accomplished. And I enjoy it a lot more when I can say hey, this is cool, I’m glad I got to do this in my lifetime – instead of thinking ok now I can cross that off the list. I’m happier.
    It’s a pleasant surprise instead of a tick mark to add to the wall.
    Not only that, but I find sometimes my goals don’t line up with the path I should really be on. It takes me a lot longer to realize I should change course when I have blinders on for that one goal. Better a direction than an end point.

  • Lise says:

    I set myself measurable goals this year, the first time I have done that and a new friend of mine saw them on my bedroom wall and made the comment that I have lots of dreams and goals, what if something happens that throws things off course? I simply replied that none of my goals are set in stone, that I adjust course accordingly, I’m flexible and I can adapt. This friend couldn’t quite grasp this concept, but it doesn’t really matter – it’s what works for you! I find that by actually sitting and setting the measurable goal, I have something to work towards, how I get there or what it looks like in the end doesn’t really matter to me, it’s that I’ve taken action that counts!

  • Jermaine Lane says:

    My mom has told me this several times: A goal is a dream with a deadline.

    Setting goals for me has been difficult. I find myself dreaming about writing and doing spoken word and playing music. But goals cause me to put my butt in a chair and create something and stop living in my head.

  • Ian McKendrick says:

    Goals set the destination; how you live each and every moment will define how you will travel toward (or away from) those goals. Flexibility, responsiveness, spontaneity etcetera could possibly suffer if you focus solely on your destination, without regard for the journey.

  • Martin Gray in NZ says:

    Robert Fritz (in his book “Your Life as Art” ) has some great things to say about Goals and orientation towards them. He makes the term ‘creative structural tension’ like stretching a rubber band between where you are right now and where the end result you want : the ‘tension’ in the band is constructive and MUST be resolved : either you give up on the end result and stay where you are, or the ‘tension’ draws you forth towards the end result so that ‘where you are NOW’ and the end result are the same !
    He also says that for small goals, we almost always just get straight on with them, and they get done (like the food shopping or getting dressed !) : For longer term or bigger goals, we need to be more ‘strategic’ and have a map/idea what and where and such like.

  • Danae Olsen says:

    Are goals necessary? For me, yes. Goals give me motivation to live my life to the fullest. Goals lead to personal growth and the overcoming of obstacles that will get in the way, making you a stronger person.
    Being single and living alone allows gives me a LOT of flexibility becuase I don’t really have to consider how my choices will make my partner feel and I have a ton of time to plan and come up with new goals. Right now I have a list of my goals on brightly colored little squares on my wall. These are things I want to accomplish in the next couple of years. I measure success by looking up at my goals and knowing that I am currently doing one/more of them or in some way working towards reaching them.
    My Goals: WWOOF, work in Alaska for a summer, Peace Corps, volunteer in the town I live in, travel, certification in massage therapy, grad school, teach esl in a spanish speaking country, go active duty military (I’ve done National Guard), learn Danish, and learn to play guitar.

  • IamDavid says:

    Goals are important, but the focus on goal and goal setting is a bit misguided.

    Values provide direction in life, values make life meaningful, and values are a reflection of what you hold dearest to your heart. Not goals. Goals are stuff like I want to get married by 30, I want to quit my job by next summer, I want to get a better job.

    These are all fine and dandy, but they don’t always make for a satisfying life. It’s living by your values that bring joy and happiness.

    Married: I value being loved
    Quit my job: I value having more time with my children
    Achieve a better job: I value doing engaging and meaningful work

    Goals are a manifistation of underlying values most of the time, but where all too many go wrong is setting a goal without understanding the value behind it. Like getting married. It’s just a goal, once you’re married it does not matter if you’re happy or not because it’s just a goal. The VALUE, that’s the secret.

  • Monica S says:

    Yes and No. I’ve been setting goals and making plans my entire life. But I have yet to accomplish one of those goals or follow through on those plans. Instead, I found my self living new dreams and going down different paths that are far more awesome and rewarding than ever. I did set goals and got sidetracked. To some definitions, that is not being successful. But I think that I’ve been very successful in ways that weren’t being measured (that’s the “No” part).

  • Lisa Glackin says:

    After setting and teaching goal setting for years, I know that Rob White is 100% right about his assessment on the subject. Unfortunately, most people set goals from egoic consciousness. If you are so inclined, to seek an unseparated consciousness and come from this Self. The “flow” that you have experienced and thought, “this is incredible”!! Can be yours always!!

  • Allan says:

    We all start with a goal.

    The goal in itself is not important but it’s how we get there.
    We all obviously want to reach our individual goals but it’s also about setting goals that we actually have control of. Setting unrealistic goals that are out of your control is just destined to failure. Having realistic goals and smaller goals can help you gain momentum and reach the big one. People tend to forget about the little victories on the journey and focus solely on the big prize. That can cause loss of enthusiasm because they only give themselves credit once they earn a million dollar, even though they just earned 800 grand.

  • kimberly marty says:

    I think that we all have goals, but we don’t always call them goals.

  • Judith Kolva says:

    I can’t remember who this quote is from, but I like it: A dream is a goal with a deadline.

  • Natasha Papousek says:

    I have spent a large part of my life drifting to wherever the wind (or the love of my life) took me. And I’ve always found work and enjoyed the process. But now I am in my mid-40s, and I recently realized that since I never had any goals, I have missed out on things — like a career. My husband had very clear goals and worked straight towards them, and revises them and has a very cool career and enjoys every day. And I am a little envious of that.

    So, now I am goal-setting — trying to pin down the dreams into specifics, create a time-frame and an action plan and go DO something instead of just letting things happen to me. I have had wonderful experiences in my life — partially because I have had the open-ness and flexibility — but I’ve also lost out on developing talents and abilities and feeling the joy of pushing oneself to ones’ limits.

    But it’s never to late. And I’m starting now…I’ve already achieved one goal, and now it’s time to focus on others.

  • Melissa says:

    Dreams and visions are right-brain and lateral: comprised of sounds, images, sensations, smells and emotions. They often “make no sense” but can meet our need for purpose, meaning, inspiration and enthusiasm, as well as a sense of being connected to something larger, and experiencing awe.

    Goals and plans are left-brain and linear: characterized by time frames, measurements, and process. They can often feel “unnatural”, but can meet our need for order, measurable progress and accomplishment, as well as a sense of making things happen, not just having things happen to us.

    I have a need for both, and appreciate having both “mind muscles” to use when I need. The challenge for me is when to use which. Sometimes I get too “goal-oriented” and miss the marvelous moment. Other times, I’m lost in my dreams, and find that time has passed and I haven’t taken any steps to realize them.

    I think both are necessary to a lovely and happy life!

  • Beverley Golden says:

    Personally, I was always the one with lofty goals and the perfect roadmap to get to them. I have now realized that dreams and the belief in possibilities is most important and I feel when I follow my intuition the achievement of the unexpected, becomes very real. A quote I love by Osho….Be Realistic, Plan for a Miracle says it all to me.

  • Amanda says:

    I like what Napoleon Hill said, “Dreams are goals with deadlines.”

  • Donna says:

    Barbara Winter’s comment immediately reminded me of what a treasure Air-Hitch was. You sort of did just what she said, you gave them your money and said “Take me somewhere.” Oh, you got to choose a target three cities, and a possible leaving date frame of five days, but all they promised was to take you somewhere in Europe. What they sold was the left over seats on planes heading that way. And the adventure was great fun.

  • Brent Sears says:

    “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
    If the answer is yes, then get to work and pay the price.

    If at any point you decide it is not worth the effort then you are free to stop.

    Goals are important because it takes small steps to achieve something. If you have that burning desire inside you to do something, then those step comes easy.

  • Shanghai Tim says:

    In football, definitely. Sorry, ‘soccer’.

  • Danielle says:

    hmm…what fascinating perspectives! I must admit, that I have been conditioned to be goal oriented. As a special education teacher I devoted a large portion of my life to writing them:) I love Barbara’s analogy; because it also speaks to our temperament, experience, beliefs and personality. Some people would be horrified by the thought of plunking down $$ and having someone pick their destination, while others go “cool, I wonder where I’m going to end up”. Honestly, I think you can have the best of both worlds.

    The one I like to use with clients is to have them imagine getting in a boat and deciding where you want to go. Now along the way, the currents may shift, the winds may blow and the course may be altered (which is where being present minded comes in), but the destination is still in front of you; the path may not be what you

  • Laura Forbes Carlin says:

    I find it helpful to set intentions that are based on qualities, purpose and values versus specific outcomes. I focus on how I will feel when I get there versus how it will unfold. While I may fantasize about the process and possible positive outcomes, I always leave room “this or something better for the highest and greatest good of all concerned-” knowing that the Universe’s plan may be much greater than what I can imagine from my current space.

    I also find that I have fewer and fewer future goals. Currently, most of my “goals” are what I call “process goals.” My process goals focus on everyday living and how I am with myself and others in each present moment.

  • Maggie Dodson says:

    Love the idea of going to the airport with a bag and a passport (not much for me, I usually have 23 kgs!) and deciding on the day where to go so Barbara’s idea is exciting.

    The recipe for achieving your dream.

    1. Visualise yourself doing it, being it….in detail.
    2. Plot the steps, the big ones. you need to take to get there.
    3. Do your preparation = courses, research, buying equipment.
    4. BELIEVE in yourself and your ability.
    5. Plot some of the small stepping stones necessary to get to step 1
    6. Make no comparisons between yourself and those who are already experienced; remember this is what you love doing.
    7. Keep the visualisation alive every day.
    8. Do something towards your dream every day even if it can only be thinking about it rather than a concrete action. Actually thinking is a concrete action.

    With belief and action on your part the universe will help. Things will drop into your lap, synchronicity will be evident and your plans may accelerate.

    IT’S A GOAL!!!

  • Soni says:

    I think you have to differentiate between intentions and goals. An intention is your overarching purpose (I want to travel, I want to get healthier), whereas goals are the specific ways you plan on meeting your intention (I want to go to Rome, I want to lose 20 lbs).

    Goals can be important, as has been said, for measuring success and focusing your action. But you have to keep your intention top of mind and use it as the primary navigation. Otherwise you could end up meeting your goal, but missing or even destroying your intention (taking a job in Rome that gets you there, but never lets you leave to see other places; developing an eating disorder that takes off the 20 lbs and then some, but destroys your physical and mental health).

    Focus on intentions and set goals that further those intentions. But always keep your eye on the intention and drop any goals or means to a goal that could endanger your intention.

  • Shauna Stacy says:

    Goals have been my life for the better part of a year.

    It turns out, they are just the beginning. They are babysteps to tapping your sense of purpose and developing a vision. With vision, goals transform from anchors to toys in a fun game.

    Once you figure that out, then you get to play 🙂

  • Dean Williams says:

    This relates to one of your earlier blogs: having the ‘superpower’ of knowing what to do next. There are usually a lot of “things” to do to get to a goal; tasks, errands, chores. I find making a W.I.N. list (What Is Next?) of about 10 to 20 of these smaller steps is very effective. I’ll write down those things I know I need to do to move towards the larger goal and try to get them all done that day and get them out of way. This helps me focus my day and when I find that I have checked off those things, it gives a sense of accomplishment. I do this 2 or 3 times a week.

  • Wyman says:

    If you have a vision of the life you want, goals are the measurements of the plan (steps) to get there. Without all three you just get knocked in any direction.

    You can still enjoy fun opportunities and adventures that come up along the way.

  • Ray says:

    Are goals necessary? No. For success? Still no.

    I agree with IamDavid. Values, personal mission statements, rules to live by, mantras, etc. These values set the framework for goals to placed within or measured against.

  • Joel says:

    Yoshiko’s comment reminds me of a relevant metaphor from orienteering.

    If you’re in the wilderness with the goal of, “I’m going to walk East,” you’ll find that you can’t be certain of your course if you have the compass out the entire time. This is because directional readings are parallel, and looking down at the compass “East” looks the same whether you’re at Point A, or 10 miles to the north.

    In orienteering you sight a direction on the compass, pick a landmark on the horizon, put away your compass and walk to the landmark.

    If you’re obsessed with continually checking your bearing by looking at your feet (or the compass) you’ll find it much harder (and stressful) to get where you’re going.

  • David Delp says:

    Being focussed on achieving goals is missing the point. I don’t think achieving goals will ever guarantee success unless success is narrowly defined as achieving goals. As Daniel Gilbert so apply concludes in his book, Stumbling on Happiness, we can never accurately predict how we will feel in the future, so setting goals so that we will feel good having achieved them is folly. I believe we set goals to help us focus on what’s important to us, which, much evidence shows does make us happy, and that in itself is reason enough to do it.

  • halley says:

    you can’t be going backwards if you don’t even know the destination.

  • Jeff Martinez says:

    I read about one article that said that if you tell others about your goals you are less likely to acheive them. I think goals are important. You need to know where you are going but you also need to be flexible to change if you need to.

  • David Willis says:

    Goals are essentially identifying what is important in your life and how you want to participate in that importance. When I don’t have goals, I wander around. I lose focus. When I do have goals, I accomplish. I grow. I am better because I am doing what is important to me. There would be no success if there was no goal. What is it that I would have accomplished? For what reason?

  • Jon says:

    I think when we really want success we automatically turn it into a goal whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. All future outcomes we have the power to actualize require a basic goal setting process. For example, our best friend invites us somewhere for the weekend, if it’s really our hearts desire, we’ll visualize it and then start plotting ways to make it happen.

    We can use a global definition for success, but to keep dreams alive, we have to turn them into goals now because a successful goal requires action in the present.

  • Matthew says:

    Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

  • Steve Errey says:

    There’s the stuff you mention about taking you out of the present and not being in the moment, but there are other complications too. Lack of meaning is one, and any destination has to be based on something relevant, meangingful or values-based. That gap between where an individual is right now and where the end point is can create a gulf of self-esteem and self-confidence that can be hard to cross and can be used to beat yourself up.

    I talk about getting into a game instead. A game is something you decide to play because you get great value from playing, every game makes you a better player and because you have the very real chance of winning at something that matters to you. A game is something you decide to get into & play right now.

    And I think that’s the difference in Barbara’s comment. She’s not setting a goal to save up enough cash in 6 months to get to the airport and get on a plane, she’s setting up an intention to do something that matters and is getting involved right now.

  • Peter Bryenton says:

    Goals are also known as aims, objectives, plans and destinations. Goals can lead to improved self-esteem. Greater self-esteem is only one of many ways to define success. If goals are realistic, then they will be achievable. It is often the journey (process) leading to the destination (product) which teaches us the most about ourselves. I can look at the books I’ve made from my photographs and writing. They remind me of how I produced them and what I learned in doing so.

  • Michael A. Robson says:

    Awesome subject. I have goals (somewhat arbitrarily chosen, eg., doubling this everyyear, increase something 1% each year), but everyday, I focus on the day. Hopefully that helps. So once a year, set up a plan, then work your butt off, on the day to day. At the end of the year, re-evaluate what your goals for the next year should or could be.

  • Cecelia Fresh says:

    When we were young kids our goals were innate. Meaning…inside of ourselves we had an internal compass that just naturally took us towards our desires and or destination. As we grew older, we became more complex and “diluted” in a sense…so our internal compasses and organic goals became more extrinsic and less intrinsic.

    My take on this question is that we need to return to that natural sense of knowing where it is we need to head to; and the goals will present themselves organically. No need to sit and make lists, and place our goals as an extrinsic destination 🙂

  • Ricky Ferdon says:

    I love Cecelia Fresh’s interpretation. That our goals were “innate” and that we need to return to that “natural sense of knowing”. Then, she states, “…the goals will present themselves organically”. Yes. Yes. Yes. Just as I hold that happiness and intrinsic joy are our natural state, so does she touch upon “an internal compass”. Herein lies enlightenment: when one realizes her/his true nature. All that corresponds with it is natural, such as “organic” goals.

  • Katalin Marghescu says:

    I think there are “no-goal-periods” in life, that are very important in order to be susceptible to new goals.

  • Benny says:

    I read a great analogy recently. Three boys were in an open field and wanted to walk in a straight line. Two boys just looked down and put their foot in front of the other trying to stay straight. The other boy just looked up, found a tree and walked straight towards it. Who walked in a straight line?

  • Trish says:

    I work well with short term goals – they tend to motivate me, but the longer term ones still present challenges for me to stick with. I do think having a general idea of where you want to go helps, and establishing short term goals that will help me get there.

  • Ben Whitehair says:

    I couldn’t be a bigger proponent of goal-setting. Starting with your goal setting foundations my roommate and I did an annual review at the end of 2009, and again at the end of 2010. The results have been nothing short of transformational.

  • Anthea says:

    I love Barbara’s comment, a goal could be also to be open to randomness ‘Send me someplace’ is a very open trusting sort of choice. To trust in the universe to provide. Not an easy goal.

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