Are Goals Necessary to Succeed?


Goals = Guilt

That’s the thing: even with goals, some people aren’t going to achieve anything, because they haven’t figured out how to motivate themselves. Goals don’t do that for you — they just make you feel guilty that you haven’t gotten them done.zenhabits

When I first started running, my “goal” was to be healthy.

I was already a ‘healthy weight’, but I wasn’t healthy. I ate junk food and couldn’t run a mile without stopping. Just because I had a fast metabolism, didn’t mean I was healthy or that I would stay that way forever.

I did not set a weekly mileage goal, time goal, or race goal. I just wanted to be healthy and exercise weekly.

Since I was prioritizing my health, I didn’t need to beat myself up for not running a certain time, distance, or quantity. If I skipped a day, no big deal. I’d just run the next day. I was still healthy!

Skipping a run for one day didn’t mean I was instantly unhealthy again.

With this mindset of “start running, be healthy”, over time I ended up running 5k’s, then 10K’s, then 15K’s, and then Half Marathons. But none of that was a goal in the beginning.

I eventually chose to race to challenge myself. Racing doesn’t make me “healthier”. I’ve had fun at every race because I don’t set a time-goal. I just tell myself to give it my all. If I don’t make a PR but ran the hardest I could that day, how could I feel guilty? And why should I make myself feel guilty after running a half marathon! Why should I feel guilty after doing something a lot of people will never do, can’t do.

Just because I was a few seconds slower than I wanted to be is no reason to completely dismiss the accomplishment.

What About Financial Goals?

You can fall into this same trap with financial goals.

Let’s say you set a goal to “save $3K in 2 months,” but you were only able to save $2K. You become guilty at yourself for not reaching your goal and wonder why you bothered anyway.

However, that goal guilt is keeping you from seeing what you did accomplish.

If, instead of setting a goal, you decided to value having a back-up via an emergency fund, then any money you put into savings would fall into this. Having a thousand dollars less than your goal doesn’t eradicate the emergency fund you do have.

These things aren’t all or nothing but we tend to see them that way. We feel that if we didn’t make our goal then we didn’t do anything at all.

I value financial stability, which to me is more than just savings & income goals. If I can’t put as much into savings as I normally do this month, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. It doesn’t mean all of a sudden I am in debt or financially unstable or I lose all the savings I do have.

Putting less money into savings this month just means some months are different from others and that’s life.

Goals Change, Values Remain

If I focus on nothing by my speed and the money I make, I’ll never be satisfied or content. The goal will change. I’ll always want to run faster and take more to the bank – and I’ll drive myself insane somehow finding a way to convince myself that I’m failing. That I can be doing more.Life Without Pants

I value my health. I value financial stability. It doesn’t matter whether I run a half marathon in 2.5 hours or 1.5 hours because at the end, I’m still healthy, and that is what I value. It doesn’t matter whether I have $5K or $15K in my bank account, because at the end of the day, I am financially stable and that is what I value.

I did monthly goal posts at one point then realized, that these usually made me feel bad at the end of the month.

If I set a goal to run a marathon next year in less than 3 hours, I will fail. This type of goal has nothing to do with values, but is a challenge that can be affected by physical limitations that are beyond my control. Values, however, are never impossible.

If you value travel/exploration/experiences, sure you can set up a goal to travel to 10 countries a year, but that might not be possible every year. You can still adhere to that value just by traveling to new parts of your state, region, country. You don’t need to feel guilty because you couldn’t afford to see new countries this year, you still traveled and gained new experiences.

Values do not have limitations, goals do.

Doing What You Love Value

A goal is a personal challenge and these help to push ourselves beyond our limits, but a goal should not be used as a judgement against ourselves.

You probably are already doing what you value! Not because you “should” but because you actually care about it. You care about your health, your future, your mental well-being.

Eradicate the word “should” from your vocabulary right now. Things we “should” do rarely get done and are only a set-up for causing ourselves to feel guilty later. This is a constant cycle that many of us continue to go through.

Unfortunately, many goal lists are things we “should” do.

The reason many of us fail at our goals is because we are doing something we don’t care about.


I know many of you swear by monthly goals. Would you be comfortable living without them?


If you have thoughts on this and would like to discuss please use Twitter or send me an email.