Note: Make sure you listen to the meditation at the end of this post to harvest the wisdom from Future You!
Many people think that they know how to set goals. Yet, why is it that very few people actually have goals?
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If you ask a stranger on the street what their goals for this quarter are, the chances are very low that he or she will give you a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goal.
Some soulful, spiritual, creative women altogether skip the process of goal setting and writing down their goals. It appears there is a belief that “achievement” is not aligned with spirituality or femininity. For example, women tell me that they don’t set goals because they want to be in the flow of the universe.
I absolutely believe in being in flow with the universe. It’s quantum physics. At the same time I absolutely do not believe in being complacent in life.
I’m calling B.S. I have a guess that those who want to be in flow with the universe without setting goals are scared. They’re scared that the universe actually doesn’t have their back. They’re scared of the depth and breadth of their own desire. They doubt their abilities. They fear failure. I’m making this guess because I have a part of me that has those feelings!
Indeed, setting goals and “being in flow with the universe” are not mutually exclusive. In particular there is a third way: it is possible to set goals and be “in flow with the universe.”
Goal setting is spiritual. Desire is normal.
Above all, I believe that goal setting is a spiritual practice of compassion and love for yourself. And the first step is giving time and attention your deep and complex human desire.
Humans have the natural evolutionary impulse of desire, experience, meeting our full potentials, and becoming the best version of ourselves.
Most humans find the feelings of yearning and desire uncomfortable. We don’t trust it. But when we embrace desire, it always leads to a beneficial outcome such as release, experience, evolution, or learning. That is its purpose.
Relief is fleeting
Do you notice that when you follow your desire there is no lasting sense of peace? Once we’ve explored the last desire, we’re on to the next desire. We don’t always have to follow desire, but we must feel it.
If you depend on achieving your goals to “make” you happy or better in some way, you might notice that even if you achieve the goal, the moment of peace you were seeking eludes you.
That’s because the mind tries to escape the discomfort of yearning by following the desire. But desire is still there because it is part of being a human. It just takes a new form. Once you have that job; that car, that amount of money…there will probably be a sense of yearning for more.
So, don’t create goals with the mindset of trying to be “happier” or to “get” something you don’t have. Instead, try approaching goal setting from the mindset of gratitude for what you have, and also openness to evolving as a person.
Secondly, when you’re exploring your desire, it can help to approach with non-attachment. Let go of the need to follow the desire and simply feel the depth and the sensation of the desire:
- Does it live in your body? Where?
- Does it live in your brain?
- Does it have a voice? What does it sound like?
- Get to know your desire. Each one might be a different character.
Tending your mindset during goal setting
Think of desire as the chaotic feminine, and goals as the masculine guardrails that keep your brain on track. You might find that the mind goes wild down a rabbit hole as you explore your desire.
In fact, one of the reasons most humans do not trust their desire and feel discomfort around it is that it can bring up confusing thoughts and emotions such as doubt, fear, or shame.
If you have taken the step of exploring your desires or setting goals and you have not felt those feelings, you’re probably doing something wrong. These feelings are the doorway to growth and stretching yourself and your capacities. Read more about how to approach these feelings when they come up.
The brain loves patterns and it loves to repeat thoughts and beliefs that then create emotions, then actions, and finally results. However the act of making specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound goals can rein in the chaos of those thoughts (and emotions) to provide focus, direction and structure for your mind.
Remember that you create your results (through handling your thoughts, emotions, and actions)! Goals are a way to decide what you want your results to be.
Use this process for exploring your desire and setting your goals:
- When you explore your desires and set your goals, come from a mindset of abundance. Here’s how: Make a list of 20 things that you desire. Here’s the twist: for every other bullet on the list, write something that you want and that you already have. This will help you cultivate gratitude for what you already have and will help you come from an energy of abundance.
- Do you dream? Do you allow yourself to desire? Do you plan? People stop feeling their desire and stop dreaming because desire is a hunger for experience that can be uncomfortable. Desire helps humans evolve, and it’s a natural impulse. When you repress your desire, it can dull your inner fire If you react to every desire, you can get burnt out by the fire. Instead, welcome the desire, and realize you don’t have to always follow the desire, but feel it. Sometimes you’ll follow your desire in order to have a new life experience or to learn something new. Other times, it’s just a feeling to invite for tea and explore. Here’s how to explore: Write down your desires unfiltered. Then circle the ones you are serious about following and get focused on 1-3 desires that you’ll make into goals (or habits). Stop reacting to your life and set some time aside to feel your desire.
- Once you write down your desires, part of the process is for emotion to come up: fear, doubt, shame. If that does not happen, your goals are too small. Once you process those emotions, you will build your capacity to experience your emotion, and you will become a more powerful person.
- When you set your goals, don’t think about “how.” Instead think about the specifics of why, what, and when. Write it down so that you can see it every day and make it tangible on a piece of paper. Once again, those emotions of fear, doubt, and shame may come up. If they don’t, your goals aren’t big enough. After you set your goals, create a strategy or inspired action plan to set your goals in motion.
- Create your action plan backwards by harvesting wisdom from Future You. In this meditation, learn how you completed the goal. Once you’ve completed the meditation, create your detailed action plan, get the support that you need to complete the tasks and learn what you need to learn.