I’ve been pondering the power of goals for the past several days. It is the start of the year after all—a time to set New Year’s resolutions, or new goals, for the year ahead. I love this process. I find it exhilarating and empowering. But, as I’ve discovered (and remembered,) not everyone feels this way about goals.

The online community in my workshop How to Achieve Your Goals and Create a Life You Love has been open for just under a week. (Update: This class is now available as a self-paced online class.) This has given me the chance to understand the participants starting point, or in other words, their feelings about goals. It has also given me the chance to hear their desired endpoint or what they hope to get out of the workshop. What I’ve found is a range of feelings.

Some participants came to the workshop with their goals for the year already figured out—and they’re ready to dive-in and start taking action! Others came with a sense of trepidation—something was calling them to take the workshop and yet they arrived there with an underlying sense of discomfort about the process. I’m curious where you weigh-in on this. Are goals intimidating or empowering? Do you routinely set goals and resolutions, or do you avoid them like the plague? And I’d love to know if you know why?

It’s the why of it all that I’ve been pondering the most over the last few days. Why are goals something that some find empowering, while others find them to be intimidating? Sure, goals and resolutions aren’t as universally appealing as say water (or chocolate,) but…aren’t they just as essential to life? For me, goals are as essential to living my life as water (and chocolate.) Goals sustain my life (like water,) and make it much, much sweeter (like chocolate.) And yet, I know this isn’t the case for everyone, in part because of the discussion going on in the workshop forum, and in part because this wasn’t always the case for me.

So what’s holding back the would-be goal-setters of the world? Oh, there are probably as many answers to that question as there are would-be goal-setters. But, let’s sort out a few of them…starting with good-old fashioned fear of failure. You may be familiar with this one. I know I am.

As it relates to goals, there’s a belief that if you set a goal and don’t accomplish it (or don’t hit your deadline) you’ve failed. One of the first “official” goals I set in my life was to get a 4.0 GPA in my MBA program. Truth be told, I set this goal once I was well along in the program—once I had a pretty good sense that I couldn’t fail. But I have to ask you, what if I had gotten a 3.5 or even a 2.0 in one of my courses—would I have failed? I’m sure I thought so at the time, but looking back on it now, I don’t think so.

I know that simply by setting the goal to get an overall GPA of 4.0, I got far more A’s in my classes than I would have had I never set the goal. By setting this goal, I learned more and I engaged in each class with a higher level of intensity and purpose. In the end…I got more out of my MBA program because I set a goal—and a 2.0 in one course would not have taken away that end result. See sometimes the goal isn’t about crossing the finish line where and how you think you will…it’s about how you engage in the race itself.

But fear of failure isn’t the only thing that holds us back from setting goals. There are other things that can get in the way and trip us up. Here are some of the other biggies.

Setting goals feels selfish.

This one is completely understandable—after all there is an element of selfishness in goal-setting. Goals areabout the person who sets them. The distinction is this: being selfish isn’t necessarily bad. When you do things that nurture your body and spirit and enrich your life it is certainly a selfish act:  you’re putting yourself first. But that’s a good thing. You can only give to others that which you have to give. If you’re living a life that depletes your energy and zaps you spirit, how can you give energy and love to others? On the other hand, when you live a life you love, you create the very foundation from which you can most effectively give to others. And that, my friends, is a good thing all the way around.

Isn’t it materialistic to set goals?

Sure, many goals involve material stuff, but not all goals do. Goals can be about anything…like life experiences—setting a goal to change your career to something that is more rewarding and uses your natural talents, or health and fitness—setting a goal to eat more fruits and veggies, drink more water, or walk the dog more often. Honestly, you can set a goal about any aspect of your life that you want to change—it doesn’t have to be about stuff.

What if I set a goal and then decide it isn’t what I want?

The simple answer is this: you honor your decision to change your mind, and then set a new goal. And, you don’t give it another thought. I have set many goals and later changed my mind about them. One in particular was my goal to run a marathon. When I set this goal the motivation was to pick a goal that was really hard, so I could show myself “If I can do this, I can do anything.”

It turns out the marathon wasn’t really what I wanted. What I really wanted was the confidence I would gain by doing something that originally seemed so far out of my reach. The funny thing is that as I embarked on my marathon goal, I began to realize that I’ve accomplished many things that originally seemed out of reach. Consequently, the marathon goal was no longer necessary. I didn’t need the marathon, but I wouldn’t have known this had I never set this goal. The pursuit of the marathon had many side benefits. I learned a whole lot along the way, and I got in great shape. Again, all the way around—it was a win.

So how about you? Where do you weigh-in on goals and resolutions? Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em I’d love to know why. Thanks for sharing (and for reading this really long post.)

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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