Goals: Overrated or Necessary

As someone who coaches people to help them make positive changes in their lives, it may seem curious that I am lukewarm regarding the subject of goals, goal setting and even, ‘goal tending.’

Not all goals are good, even when created from a place of sincerity.  Some goals, in fact, can hinder our forward progress simply because they miss the mark.  We think we’re sure footed on the path to the Summit because we can see the peak, only to find we’re off the trail, lost footing in scree, helplessly lost and frustrated.  It happens.  It’s happened to me, PLENTY of times.

That’s when it’s decision time- we can slide back downhill and say it was just too hard or dangerous to continue, or we can pull up our big people panties and figure out how to get out the hell out of our current mess and keep going.

As someone who makes her living by asking people to look beyond what they may believe is possible, I’m also asking us to also look beyond the goal itself.

Because it’s not the goal that drives us, it’s the energy and vision behind it and that’s something very different.  That’s intention.

The reason so many of us fail to reach our goals is because we haven’t done the prep work. Perhaps, because we were told that we’d never accomplish anything without setting goals, we understood this to mean that the goal was the goal.

The goal is NOT the goal.

When I was 8 years old, my parents took me to a dude ranch in Colorado called Peaceful Valley.  It was the first of many Summer trips there that I remember with great affection.  These trips were my first exposure to the mountains, wilderness, the grandeur of nature, and horses; all still great passions of mine.

The Ranch’s owner divided the parents from the children which was, of course, a great relief to both of us. Emancipated from my parents, I had the freedom to explore, run wild, make new friends and, fall in love with horses. My first love was a horse named Strawberry.


This was no casual romance.  I was completely, insanely, unconditionally smitten.  

In retrospect I can see she was a geriatric, definitely past her prime, (I mean, what other kind of horse are you going to put a little fat, inexperienced and excitable eight year old on), but all I saw was her solid beauty, and magnificence.

On her back, I felt regal, powerful, free and entirely happy.  I loved the smell of her, the way my feet felt in the stirrups, the rough touch of her mane and the way she sassed her tail about.  As we meandered through thickets of pine and fields of summer flowers, I felt that unique inspiration reserved for young children. She and I were ONE and I knew, whatever it took, that I MUST have a horse of my own.

I informed my parents of this fact and they said that was great!  I certainly could have a horse of my own, when I earned the money to purchase one.  Knowing my parents, I suspected this was coming and resigned myself quickly to the reality that this was going to take some time.

My goal was to own my very own horse.  

But even at eight years of age, I knew this might require more from me than I had to give.  That scared me and made me resent my parents.  Why couldn’t they just buy me the horse; that’s what NORMAL parents did.

It took me several years to earn the money through baby sitting, errand running, delivering magazines door to door, etc, but I did it.  I finally had enough money to go horse shopping.  You can imagine my intoxication at my first horse auction; the smell of horses, the hay, the cowboys and that silvery tongued auctioneer! I sat there dreamy and dazed, hypnotized with romantic anticipation; my future horse and I would literally ride off into the sunset.

I didn’t purchase a horse that night, but I do remember a definite shift in my consciousness.  For the first time in my life, I knew I was near accomplishing a really, really big goal, and that has a way of redefining who you know yourself to be.  Even at twelve, especially at twelve.

Later that month, I found a horse in the classifieds and made him mine. I can still remember the clothes I had on, the new brush in my hand, the breathless drive from stable to stable.  His name was Santana, and as it turned out, he would be instrumental in teaching me many more lessons.  But that is another story.

So yes, I do believe in goals.  But only the goals worth making, (not having).

The goals that require action and planning, passion and pruning. The kind of goals that through the process of achieving, can literally change our lives.

Of course there are no guarantees.  Even with the best of intentions, the greatest of plans, we can falter, stumble and lose our way.  The truth is, any goal worth the effort is freaking hard work and we’re going to have to recalculate our intentions along the way if we truly want to succeed.  This is recalculation is the tricky part and that’s the part that interests me most in my work.

What we expect and what we get in life are rarely in sync.

I love this picture because it says it all.  The first step in managing this, I believe, is to have a really good sense of humor.  Shit happens, ok.  Move on. Look up.  Keep going.

It’s how we keep going that is the good stuff.  That’s where I like to play. That’s also where I feel we can have the most impact with one another – by taking the time daily to be mindful not only of ourselves, but the people around us.

Once you see that we’re all doing the best we can, the noise quiets down and it’s easier to hear that voice in your head (and now I’m talking about the good one not the critical one); the voice that calms you and centers you and makes you laugh at stupid stuff.

The small and patiently persistent voice that whispers, ‘Go, ahead, make my day. Be kind to yourself and others and see what happens.”

Because when we do that, our goals come around with a lot less effort and a lot more joy…. the length of our journey and the path we take is still all up to us. But as long as we’re on it, isn’t it good to remember that the journey is half the pleasure, and just about all of the purpose.


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