#Level Up

Goal Setting for Those Who Hate Setting Goals

Goal setting sounds pretty boring. For those that prefer going with the flow, there are still ways to chase our dreams without a ridgid structure.


person relaxing on a pier overlooking a lake

Do you ever get asked where you see yourself in 5 or 10 years and totally freeze up? I get it. Life’s crazy, and nobody knows what tomorrow brings. Personally, I’ve always been more of a go with the flow type of person, and prefer adaptability in life over mapping out every detail just to have those details blow up in your face. Isn’t the whole point of life about enjoying the journey and not the destination anyway?

The problem is that when we leave everything to life, there’s no guarantees to where it will take you. Without goals, we’re like a ship without a compass. Maybe we’ll run into some mystery island full of adventure, or maybe we’ll crash on an iceberg on the other side of the world.

ice berg at sea
Who's idea was it to put that there? Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Goal setting doesn’t have to oppose spontaneity, though. For all of us that love a good adventure, there’s a way to add a little direction without tying ourselves in knots - Backward Goal-Setting

Working Backwards, Living Forwards

Forget the usual “pick a target and force yourself to hit it” approach to goal setting. Backward goal-setting flips that on its head. Instead of small goals and nuanced deadlines, you dream big, painting a picture way out in the future. Then, you work backwards to figure out what steps or paths might take you there.

The point isn’t to make a super detailed plan. It’s about having a general sense of where you’re headed. Think of those goals as guiding stars. Then, focus on taking steps towards those stars.

snow mountain under stars
Is that an airplane or is that my hopes and dreams? Photo by Benjamin Voros / Unsplash

This is a pretty rad way to roll because:

  • Goals become an adventure, not a series of rigid destinations: Instead of stressing over every little step, you’re celebrating the progress towards a bigger dream.
  • Flexibility is king: One path didn’t work? That’s totally cool. Since your ultimate goal is the focus, you can adjust your path without feeling like you failed.

Let’s Get Practical

Here’s how it works:

  1. Dream Big: Forget the sensible goals for a moment. If you could wave a magic wand to have any future, what does yours look like? Don’t just think about goals like “lose weight” or “get a promotion”. What’s your intention behind those goals? What do you really want? What kind of life makes you feel alive?
  2. Break It Down: Now get specific about your dream scenario. Do you want to live a healthier life? What does that mean to you, what does a healthy person do in your mind? You want to start a business? What kind of business? What does a successful business look like to you? You want to travel? Why? What experiences do you want to get from traveling?
  3. Work Your Way Back: Once you can define what your end goal ‘looks like’ then you can start planning what types of paths would lead there. What skills or experiences should you be working on? What career opportunities might help? What type of people would help encourage you on your path? Now how do you build those skills or meet those people? Every step can break down into smaller goals, but don’t make them so rigid you can’t adjust later!

The Magic of the Long Game

Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.

~Winston Churchill

Setting big, long-range goals means there are many paths to get where you’re going. This keeps life interesting, adaptable, and way less stressful than the usual goal-setting grind.

The name of the game is shoot for the stars, and even if you don’t make it to your end state, you might land somewhere awesome, like the moon!


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