Are Your Goals Killing Your Dreams? My Guide to Not Setting Goals

I am a certified professional coach who helps people reach their highest potential. I am an athlete striving to reach her highest potential. You might think that makes me a total goal digger.

Not so much.

In fact, I’m not a fan of goals.

Let me explain:

I believe we do everything in our lives out of a place of love or fear. When we set a goal, we make it specific and measureable, and we give it a timetable. In doing so, we turn it into a pass/fail situation: If we hit our goal, we pass. If we don’t, we fail.

As we’re working towards that goal, we’re afraid of failing, of not reaching our goal—we’re operating from a place of fear. And, since fear is a very effective motivator, it often succeeds in driving us to achieve our goal.

But I’m not into fear. I prefer to choose love instead. And choosing love leads me to set intentions instead of goals.

So instead of setting a goal to finish a race in a certain time, I set an intention to get faster and faster. I set an intention to be present with each workout. I set an intention to honor the process.

A goal is an end point. But for me, nothing worth achieving has an end. I want to keep learning and growing. I want to challenge myself to keep evolving; to see what’s around the next corner.

Goals put limits on our potential. Intentions allow us to be open to possibilities.

Goals keep us narrowly focused. Intentions allow us to be curious.

Goals keep us externally focused. Intentions allow us to look inward for motivation.

Let’s use running as an example. Imagine setting a goal to a run a marathon in three hours. You do the work. You follow your coach’s instructions perfectly. You’re ready. Race day comes and it’s game time. You’re going to do what you set out to do.

Imagine that you achieve your goal. Yay! Everything worked out exactly as you planned. But what if you don’t get under three hours. What then? It’s over. You failed. You feel like crap.

Now, What if you set an intention to do the work and be curious about where it will take you instead of setting a goal. Same as before, you do the work. You follow your coach’s instructions perfectly. You’re ready. Race day comes and now it’s time to find out what happens when you put it all together. Say you run like a superstar. You run faster than you ever thought possible. You’re proud of yourself and wonder what else you’re capable of. But what if you try your best but your nutrition doesn’t go as planned? Or you just don’t have the legs that day? If you set a goal, it’s simple: you failed. But if you set an intention to simply do the work and see what came of it, you can walk away having learned something–or a lot of somethings. Maybe you’re excited to try it again. Or maybe you learned that you don’t really like that distance and want to see what you can do in a different race.

You keep moving forward—maybe at a different angle, maybe with a different approach. You keep growing. You keep evolving. You stay curious. You choose love.