If You’re Missing This One Thing, You’ll Fail at Your Goals — Just Like Last Year

The thing is not the thing: A coach’s perspective on setting meaningful, intentional goals for what they will make of you.

Darren Stehle
Jan 11 · 9 min read

As objectively as I could write the last paragraph, it’s no wonder that the slide into 2021 was a non-event for many.

My partner and I were in bed by 9:30 pm with fireworks on the couch earlier in the day (ahem). We had several frank discussions after considering the news and directions from municipal and provincial health officials about travel and family visits. We spoke with both of our parents and thankfully everyone agreed that the right thing to do was to stay home, self-isolate, and continue to practice social distancing and wearing a face mask anywhere outside the home.

Later in the day, I wrote in my journal, “What’s missing from my 2020 review?”

That got me thinking about this very article I’m writing, specifically, how to plan for 2021 now that I’ve completed a review of the previous year. Serendipitously, I received an email from a major publication on Medium with a link to a list of their top 80 plus articles about planning your goals for 2021. Seriously! 80 articles? Who has time for that? If there is anything to be said about focus, direction, and eliminating distractions, this is the very last link you would want to click. Well, I clicked it to see what it was all about, of course. They did a nice job organizing articles by type, from creating habits to etcetera, etcetera. I didn’t read a single one; I was only interested in the titles.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Moving from 2020 to 2021, or any new year, is a social construction.

We are quite simply ending one day and waking up in the next one. The personal development industry gets its audience so worked up with expectations about what they need to plan to accomplish that the herd runs headlong like bison toward the edge of the cliff.

Many coaches launch a “New Year, New You” type of program.

And why not? Everyone is doing it. Most gyms make their most money in January, thanks to all the New Year’s resolutions to burn off all the fat from over-eating and drinking at Christmas. Unfortunately, that will not be the case this year in many places where gyms will remain closed into February or longer. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted so much of our lives, but at the same time, we can look squarely at what was normal and ask ourselves how we wish to proceed in 2021.

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Photo by Jordan Hopkins on Unsplash

There is no going back to what was once normal. Why not consider why there’s so much fuss and confusion around setting goals as well?

Just because last year is over, doesn’t mean that my projects and processes are also done. To me, that’s a problematic precedent of being stuck in a ritualized norm of having to “start fresh” or “start over” just because it’s a new year. Why exactly would anyone want to do that? Why not keep building upon who you are, who you have become, and what’s working for you?

Life is like a river and life works out best if you move with the constancy and direction of the current.

You can avoid the major obstacles in your way by gently flowing around them. However, when you struggle against the current, trying to go against it, you are not awake in the present moment. You will have to work terribly hard to stay afloat while working against a relentless force that will eventually overpower you. When the current appears to turn against you in life, you must mindfully navigate across it, not against it, which is the only sustainable option, until you are no longer in its grip and back inflow.

The reason why I didn’t offer a way forward as part of my 2020 Personal Evolution Process Review is two-fold.

The first step of the process is about learning from your past year, and most importantly to be in alignment with how you feel about who you have become in your present moment awareness — what you have learned about yourself in how you think, feel, and what you have accomplished. That self-examination alone should be a powerful enough testament to determine what’s next, to see clearly the current direction of the evolution of your life.

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Photo by Clayton Robbins on Unsplash

But what about goals? How will I know what to focus on?

There is nothing wrong with setting goals. You can set them at any time in your life. You don’t have to wait until the New Year to read 80 articles to get your life sorted and to become even more confused about how to set goals because you read all 80 articles.

  1. You can’t put the action before the practice.
  2. You can’t put the practice before the process.
  3. Your process will fail if you are not in emotional alignment.

Please understand that there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t reach one or any of your goals.

Instead, there is simply something missing from the success process that you haven’t considered or that you were not made aware of. Most likely you have been too focused on the abstract thing — the goal or the outcome. But in this case, the thing is not the thing. What I mean by this confusing paradox is that the thing you think you want (the manifestation of your goal in the form of more income, a better job, a new car, etc.) is not the true object of your focus. There is no object to be truly had, there is only present moment intention.

Think not about possessing the thing, the result, state, or physical object that takes the form of the goal as what’s truly important or meaningful.

Instead, think about what the process will make of you — how you will transform into a more evolved human being — along the path to becoming more of whom you already are, and how you can make a difference in the world of your purview.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Darren Stehle

Written by

I help human-hearted creatives cultivate their purpose to experience more freedom, impact, and joy in their lives. DarrenStehle.com.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 150,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Darren Stehle

Written by

I help human-hearted creatives cultivate their purpose to experience more freedom, impact, and joy in their lives. DarrenStehle.com.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 150,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

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