Goal Setting Exercise: Are Goals Holding You Back?

Goal Setting Exercise: Are Goals Holding You Back?

“I’ll be happy if I fit into my old Levi’s.”

(She really did make your ass look good.)

Have you ever said such a thing?

Or how about:

“I’ll be happy if I make a six-figure income.”

“I will be happy if my child goes to a good university.”

“I will be happy when I meet” my person.

The truth is that most of us have such a belief floating around in our psyche.

If you’re a coach, you’ve probably seen this too:

Customers who think they will not be happy until they reach a certain weight, body fat percentage or athletic performance.

“Enjoy the journey? Phew. It’s all about the destination,” they say.

Of course, some eagerness to cross the finish line is normal and totally okay.

And hey, having goals is great.

Goals give you a sense of purpose and direction, encouraging you to grow beyond your previous abilities into a wiser, better version of yourself. Additionally, research shows that goal setting is a sign of confidence, commitment, autonomy, and motivation.1.2

The problem is that some people are constantly postponing their happiness thinking a better life is always only on the horizon.

But in this article, we’ll discuss this counterintuitive fact:

Achieving a goal doesn’t always make you happy.

In fact focus too many on the outcome of your goals can cause you to miss the potential you have NOW for happiness.

If you think it’s you (or a customer), check out the quick three-step process below.

This quick exercise will benefit anyone who feels:

  • Like it their lives are on hold until they reach their goal
  • As their purpose is make them miserable
  • Concerned about their purpose may not be sustainable or even possible

Sounds familiar? Read more.

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Enjoy your goals (and life) more in 3 steps.

These steps are a mix of ‘thinking’ work – making you aware of your beliefs and behaviors – and ‘doing’ work. (Hint: it’s the doing that will actually change those limiting beliefs and behaviors.)

Think-brain and do-body, activate!

Step 1: Find out what your “I’ll be happy if…” beliefs are.

Grab a piece of paper and brainstorm all your “I’ll be happy if…” beliefs.

You may have many.

For example:

“I’ll be glad if…

  • … I have visible abs.”
  • … I am moving to a bigger house.”
  • … I finish top five in my next triathlon.”

Everything goes.

Once you’ve done a good brain dump, pick one from the list to focus on, preferably the one that feels most important and urgent.

Step 2: Find out how you held yourself back.

Now it’s time to do a little digging.


What are all? things you are waiting to do or feel until you reach your goal?

These aren’t just the things you’re excited about, but things you don’t “allow” yourself yet.

For example, “Once I’m 20 pounds lighter, I’ll…

  • …letting myself wear the clothes I like.”
  • … start dating again.”

Or: “As soon as I make six figures, I will…

  • … feels like a success.”
  • … start taking weekends off.”

Or: “As soon as I meet my soul mate, I will…

  • … finally feel confident.”
  • … go on a Mediterranean cruise.”

Chances are you’ll come up with a range of things – some trivial and some very meaningful – that you won’t allow yourself to experience. Probably because of the belief that you don’t deserve to do or feel those things until you’re “better.”

Well, we have a surprise for you…

Step 3: Stop waiting and live.

Once you realize that you’ve been holding yourself back from feeling good about yourself and doing all these cool, meaningful things, it may explain why you’ve been so impatient to just get there already.

It may also explain why you might not like the Process to reach your goal.

Somewhere inside there is a part of you that believes that your life cannot really begin until you have achieved your goal. And that you are not “supposed” that good things will happen to you until you are leaner, faster, stronger or more successful.

This may be an uncomfortable realization. Exposing that belief can make you feel sad, relieved, angry, or a combination of emotions.

You may want to take some time to unravel those feelings. However, nothing creates more significant change than: action.

So choose the easiest, lowest hanging next tangible step to start living and feeling the way you want.

For example:

  • Create a dating profile, using photos of what you look like now.
  • Buy a pair of shorts, a tank top, a sundress or whatever item you’ve been waiting to wear – in your size – and wear it with pride.
  • Think how you are already successful: Want to show up at work? That’s success!
  • Stand up straight, and say nice things to yourself about your dignity as a person.
  • Book a solo fun weekend away for yourself. (It’s not a Mediterranean cruise, but it’s a start.)

In short: allow yourself to feel and do the things you would do if you had achieved your goal, even if you haven’t reached it yet.

This can feel uncomfortable. But with a little practice you will discover…

Happiness is not the effect of achieving goals. It’s the cause.

Once you stop holding yourself back, you will find that your goal becomes less important. (Maybe your luck doesn’t depend on fitting into those jeans.)

Or maybe the goal is still important, but you’ll enjoy the steps you need to take to get there more now that you’re no longer putting your life on hold.

Either way, you’ll probably find that whether you’ve reached your goal or not, you’re starting to behave, live, and feeling like the kind of person it would reach.

Because even though achieving a goal feels good, people usually don’t want the outcome of the goal as much as they want to become the kind of person who gets that result.

You are not only able to bench X-weight. You are a fit person.

Your kid didn’t just become an Ivy League. You are a good parent.

You don’t just make six numbers. You are a smart and capable professional.

You didn’t just win the race. You are a winner.

This is the secret why the above process works. Because whether or not you’ve made it to your own personal finish line, your identity is beginning to shift into the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be.


You do the things that such a person would do.

The best part?

You don’t wait anymore.

You just live.


Click here to view the resources referenced in this article.

Are you a coach or do you want…

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