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Setting goals is unnecessary and here’s why

At the beginning of every year, people start planning and setting goals for themselves to work on as a way to improve themselves, so much so that setting new year's resolutions is common practice done by several people all over the world, becoming a tradition for many. Of course, setting goals and creating resolutions has helped change and improve several people’s lives, however how often have you actually fulfilled and followed through with your resolutions? Do you really believe there is no other more effective way out there?

Why do we set goals, after all?

The aim of a goal is a way to create motivation and to aid in visualising the future when you want to see positive change in your life. Goals are able to help you achieve a series of things, ranging from improving health and relationships to work ethic and productivity. Setting goals is based on your values as a human being, as goals are able to be achieved and are oftentimes related to what we believe in, thus aiding us in becoming the best version of ourselves. If you believe that spending time with your family is important or that building strong friendships is necessary, you can create goals that encourage you to do so.

Goal-setting can be used as a tool in our daily lives as it can be ticked off and created in abundance, however it has also been used as a way to improve from mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, where it is hard to maintain a daily routine and fulfil tasks. Therefore, goals are able to motivate the person and help them in re-establishing their life after all hardships they went through.

Goals can range from short term, such as reading two books in a month, to long term, exemplified by goals such as quitting smoking or learning a musical instrument. Regardless of its length, it is imperative that goals are SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time related), as that is able to make the goal more feasible and attainable, thus raising the chances of it actually being achieved.

By applying those methods to your goals, you are able to create more realistic goals, however, similarly to clothing, a specific formula is not applicable to all.

Why are goals just not for everyone?

Achieving and setting goals may be complicated even after applying the SMART method, as several people are overachievers and create goals they believe to be fit and attainable while it is the complete opposite. By creating goals that are too complicated to reach, people can develop unhealthy habits that could harm both their personal life and even work life, as the stress and burnout caused as a result of working towards the goal can decrease productivity and become counterintuitive, bringing you further away from your goal.

Oftentimes, people may create goals that are not specifically related to what they desire for themselves and are not related to their personal values, instead they create goals that are what other people desire for them based on others’ beliefs. People pleasers can change themselves in order to achieve other people’s standards, however that is not sustainable and will not provide the person with long-term happiness and will most likely lead them to failure, as they do not really see the point in achieving the goal. Goals influenced by others are oftentimes superficial and have no deeper meaning, thus allowing space for becoming sidetracked and ultimately giving up since the goal provides no real positive change in their lives.

What are alternatives for standard goals?

When setting goals, people often set them with a certain idea in mind and sometimes apply the SMART method, however there are other effective ways to make sure you are always working towards self-improvement. Those ways include:

  • Starting goals while there are others in progress

    • According to Scott Young, the author of How to Change a Habit, when you create a goal you are not always able to see the full picture, therefore in order to continue working towards it and prevent failure, you can change and modify your goal during the process rather than making the goal as something set in stone.

  • Adopting a mantra rather than only focusing on habits

    • Rather than simply working on changing your habits, which may lead to failure due to how complicated executing that is, a mantra can be created which is defined as a “conscious choice to take control of your life”. An example of a mantra is “Ask and you shall receive”

  • Asking yourself “Did I do my best”?

    • As stated by David Dowling, a freelance writer, by asking yourself a vague question rather than creating a SMART goal, you are able to reflect daily on what you did your best in and what you still need to do to improve, which is able to help you turn self-criticism into self-improvement, as you will put your criticism into good use.

  • Optimising what you already have and what already works in your life

    • By focusing on what you already have rather than on what you don’t, you are able to improve self-compassion, as you are able to appreciate your current life while also improving. By improving self-love you are also able to improve your quality of life and overall happiness, which positively impacts your relationships and, ultimately your work life, as balance between work and pleasure is better regulated which prevents burnout.

  • Setting 90-day goals rather than long-term goals

    • According to Laura Vanderkam, a productivity expert, year long goals set in the beginning of the year to be reached at the end of the year may work for some, however it prevents you from stretching thin, as by setting goals within a 90-day time frame, you are able to focus on more than one large goals per year and if you are not able to achieve a goal, you know will be another 90-days in the future, thus aiding with motivation.

Even though setting goals can be effective for some, it may not not be effective for all, therefore it is important to experiment and find what works best for you. Finding an effective way to get things done and to improve your quality of life is imperial, therefore it is highly encouraged to practise other methods if the traditional method of setting goals does not provide any positive benefits. Since not everyone is different, accepting how people work the most efficiently and effectively and how they are able to improve themselves is key to creating a more accepting and positive environment.



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