Does the Mention of ‘Goal Setting’ Spark Fear in You?


Does the Mention of ‘Goal Setting’ Spark Fear in You?

If anything could make me terrified, weak and queasy all at the same time it wasn’t a horror movie or thinking about sharks when I was swimming or thinking about a horror movie about sharks when I was swimming. 

No, for me, it was the mention of just two words; ‘goal setting’.

I had a sad and pathetic history of anticipatory anxiety about those words let alone the actual act of setting any goals. If there was even a hint ‘goal setting’ was about to be uttered, I would excuse myself from the conversation.

My husband (who is very goal oriented) could induce a cold sweat whenever he pulled out a whiteboard (or even a large piece of paper). I remember being reduced to a shaking, pitiful mess on one occasion when he decided that some goal setting would be a great exercise for us to do together. I had to threaten divorce a few times so he would put away the whiteboard markers.

He was brave enough to try this again a few years later, but I think my transformation into a screaming, tearful banshee who accused him of trying to control me might have finally clued him into the fact that I had a few issues … With goal setting. And yes, I had heard of all the smarty pants little sayings like “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” I hate smugness.

My reality was that goal setting made me feel trapped and powerless.

It would straightjacket me into a monotonous grind of never-ending non-attainment because what do you do when you achieve a goal? You have to set an even bigger one!

How were the vicarious winds of change and opportunity going to reach me if my path was such a straight line to death by coma-inducing goals? How could I possibly be creative? Sure, I would be organised, but I would be wretched and bored! Oh, the serenity … Of ignorance.

My husband (bless his goal setting heart) was my permission to avoid goals. He was setting them, so I didn’t have to! That was my reasoning and my excuse for never doing it. And yes, I can hear your shocked gasps of disbelief from here.

It was never logical or reasonable, and I knew that. I got enough done to justify my position, and you can bet your bottom dollar I was not looking to upset the goal setting apple cart.

Until just recently when I got reintroduced.

I explained to my coach (torturer) that I had a very strong reaction to the idea of having to set goals. I think she got an insight into the extent of my anxiety by my wide-eyed look of terror and my shaking limbs.

To her credit, she (metaphorically speaking) gave me a good slap. It was time for me to pull on my big girl pants. For nearly two months I fumbled through coaching calls trying to work out what goal setting ‘gene’ I had missed out on. Not only did I miss out on the goal setting gene, but I also missed out on the gene that had any idea about how to work backwards from the achievement of the goal, to know how actually to reach it.

Goal setting genes – zero. Strategy genes – zero.

This was the crux of it. I just didn’t know how to do it in a way that would make sense to me, feel achievable and not have me feeling like my life was now a straight-jacket. Fear of not getting it right and then having to be accountable for how ‘sucky’ I was at goals was an ‘apartment sized’ block.

However, it was suck it up and learn something different or suffer, because, I had finally found something I wanted badly; something that was worth the effort of facing my completely irrational justifications and excuses.

My desire was stronger than my fear.

I realise now that I have never been shown how to choose the correct goals, or how to build a goal with the right foundations. A goal with the correct expectations so that I could have confidence that I could do something every day to move closer to that achievement.

That every day it was more important to celebrate what I had done … To keep me motivated for the next day. How my goals could be short, and long-term, and that I had control over what was most important on any given day.

That it was OK for my goals to flex around my life. That having them meant I was in action and action is freeing, not restricting; attainable, achievable and exciting.

So, I accept I’m a late goal setting bloomer.

Maybe I could have had what I want now a long time ago if I had known how to goal set. Perhaps if I had learned this earlier, it might have saved my husband a great deal of frustration and deep concern about my mental state!

I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. I’m setting goals now, and for the first time in my life, it feels like I will succeed.

OMG, my daughter just walked in and told me about her goal to run a full circuit around the lake, and I didn’t freak out. Instead, I thought to myself, “Hmm, I wonder if I could make it to the letterbox?”

See … Awesome!

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