let us consider our goals

If you are anything like me, the title of this blog post may cause a tiny but noticeable pinch of anxiety.

Goals? Do other people do those?

Actually, I have set goals in the past. Achievable goals, which I usually achieve. (Except for the one about getting more sleep.) But today, I am questioning whether or not I should set goals for 2011.

My main concern being; do goals inspire or do they limit?

I could set the goal to sell Herbal Philosophy for at least $15 million in 2011.

Yes, that sounds nice. I wouldn’t have to worry about money for a long time. I could frolic in the garden and smell the roses with my children. Change the world through healing. Write poetry and fiction and non-fiction. Take romantic vacations with my love. Even practice reading your past, present and future in tea leaves. (Tasseography, anyone? I’m learning.)

But if I was seriously writing down my goals, I wouldn’t dare dream up something so lofty, of amassing a huge fortune, declaring to the world such a shocking intention. (I promise to use the money for the greater good rather than jewelry and cars.)

Perhaps I am limited, I have always been limited, by my own goals.

Leo at Zen Habits believes that the best goal is no goal. He says:

The idea of having concrete, achievable goals seem to be deeply ingrained in our culture. I know I lived with goals for many years, and in fact a big part of my writings here on Zen Habits are about how to set and achieve goals.

These days, however, I live without goals, for the most part. It’s absolutely liberating, and contrary to what you might have been taught, it absolutely doesn’t mean you stop achieving things.

It means you stop letting yourself be limited by goals.

On the other hand.

My mother sent me an article today, which went something like this:

“Scientists have discovered that in our brains we have over 100 billion neurons firing in infinite patterns. The “New Year on Purpose” process will help you harness the power of your amazing brain so your neurons can fire in patterns that will help you to focus on and achieve what you want.

Great achievers in many walks of life attest to the power of putting goals into writing. Reading these words here and now on your screen is one thing; it is actually doing the process that creates results.”

This article is circling around the internet because so many of us will be setting New Years resolutions and goals for 2011. Like I said, I am not a stranger to goals.

For my entire life, but especially after becoming a mother (and realizing that I will have to send my children out into this big, broken world, so I better do something to make it better before they leave the nest as well as make money so they can have a good education),  I have grappled with relentless desires to change the world, help people, achieve goals and success.

Sounds good, right?

Wrong. These desires leave me wanting. Anxious. Frustrated. Scared. Despite my busy life full of love and sweetness.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.

I know I need to eliminate desire to end the wanting, to recognize the perfection in the present moment, the completeness in the incomplete. Why is it so hard?

Perhaps this philosophy; the best goal is no goal; is something I should consider. Perhaps this philosophy will lead me to surrender to the present moment. To truly accept that everything is going to be okay, and to let it be.

What do you think? Will you set goals for 2011? Care to share one or two with me?


  1. Yes, when I saw your title, I thought, “Well, she is being ambitious!” 🙂 Here’s something to consider. I read it recently in O mag. Choose ADJECTIVES for yourself in the new year. Do you want to be energetic? Passionate? Independent? Healthy? etc. Choose the few the work for you and think about what you can do to reach feeling that way. I like that.


  2. I’m still doing goals, I can’t help it I’ve done it since I was a wee lass (or lassie?) mine tend to be more of goalposts then goals, does that make sense?
    But I am always striving to be in the present moment, so it’s a balance.


  3. This is a really interesting debate. I tend to err on the side of goals being a good thing – because my attitude toward setting them is shaped by my own experience, and I know that 2010 was the year I finally decided to write down everything I hoped to achieve in a year, and had I not done so, I would have simply coasted through another year in life without pushing myself. I think goals can be the best source of growth if you always keep a list of more. More to tackle, more to achieve, more to do. As long as you keep setting goals, you’ll keep growing and achieving – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.


  4. We are on the same wave length! While it’s true that goals should be attainable, I agree that goals can limit.

    For example, if I owned a company, my goals wouldn’t be to sell it for millions, my goal would be to build it into a successful business which financially provides for my family, while allowing me the time to spend time with my loved ones.

    One of my goals for 2011 is to cut of the empty calories in my life. I mean nutritionally, and the “empty calories” of my life — the time I spend wasting on habits and behaviors that don’t contribute to my overall well being and enjoyment of life.

    Wow, this is a long comment!

    Hope you are well, Lucy!


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