Are you someone who resists goal setting? Are you afraid to set goals?
As a huge fan of goal setting, it always stumps me when I talk to someone who says they don’t like setting goals. My wife is one of these people.
Any mention of setting goals and her rebel side kicks in, and she goes into resistance mode. If you’ve read The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, a rebel is someone who resists both inner and outer expectations, and goals come with expectations!
But perhaps you’re not a rebel, and you still don’t enjoy the thought of goal setting. Have you ever wondered why?
There have been so many studies on goal setting and the positive effects it has on people’s success that, for me, it’s undeniable. Yet, in spite of the research, many people still resist or avoid setting goals for themselves.
I believe that people who avoid goal setting do so because they possess one of five different fears, and it’s those fears that I want to explore today.
Maybe you don’t think you’re afraid of goal setting, but please humor me and keep reading. We often have fears that we have yet to discover or acknowledge.
If you’re someone who resists, avoids, or even scoffs at the idea of goal setting, dive a little deeper and see if any of these fears resonate with you.
Feel free to jump around:
1. Fear of Judgement and Rejection
The first fear is the fear of judgment and rejection. Have you ever set a goal for yourself only to have people laugh at it?
“That will never happen!”
“You could never do that!”
“That’s totally unrealistic/insane/stupid/crazy!”
Have you ever told someone about one of your goals and received a response like that? If you’re someone who’s actively avoiding setting goals for yourself, you might have to think pretty far back—maybe even to your childhood.
Maybe you wanted to be a famous musician, and people told you to get your head out of the clouds and focus on your homework.
Maybe you wanted to be a doctor, and people told you that you didn’t have the grades, weren’t smart enough, or that it would be too expensive.
Think as far back as you can. Has this ever happened to you?
If so, could it be that you’ve been avoiding goal setting to avoid ridicule, judgment, and rejection?
Here’s the Deal
When you set a massive goal for yourself, there are going to be people who think it’s impossible for you because they believe it’s impossible for themselves.
It’s as simple as that.
When this happens, they hope to hold you back at their level. That’s fine; those people can stay where they are—there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you aspire for more, then you should shoot for more.
Yes, people will judge you and call you crazy. Yes, reaching a new level might mean leaving those people behind, and they may reject or resent you for it. But if they sought to hold you back, why would you want them in your circle anyway?
You’re meant for more. You’re meant for great things. That’s why you have dreams!
You cannot allow people to place their doubts, fears, and limitations on you. You cannot allow the fear of judgment and rejection hold you back from your dreams and goals.
Do you worry about what people might think or say?
If so, I encourage you to set a goal anyway. Make it huge! The crazier, the better! Darren Hardy says, “If you state your goal and they don’t laugh, it’s not big enough.”
I agree! And here’s the thing, you need to find a new group of people who will cheer you on instead of judge you and hold you back. Let me be your cheerleader. Shoot me an email or hit me up on Slack. I’ll support you and your goals!
Looking for even more support?
Drop your goals in the comments below and let the whole community support you.
But whatever you do, don’t let the haters crush your goals or your spirits. You were meant for more!
2. Fear of Discontent
The fear of discontent is a fear that I encounter quite a bit—I even see it in my wife from time to time.
You see, setting goals for yourself means that you aspire to another level, and to aspire to another level means you don’t like where you’re at in life.
Or does it?
This is what my wife and I often debate. She’s content with life. She’s grateful for everything we have and so am I. On that much we can agree. We’re blessed, and we know it!
However, sometimes she’s afraid that, by shooting for more, we might end up feeling discontent with what we have. It’s a valid fear to be sure. It would be far too easy to fall into the trap of never being satisfied with life.
I’m just not convinced that goal setting leads to discontent.
Goal Setting is Not a Gateway Drug to Discontent
I don’t believe that goal setting is a gateway drug to discontent. I believe that goal setting is how we grow as people—it’s how we reach new levels in our lives. It’s not just about getting a bigger house, a fancier car, or a larger TV. Heck no!
‘Goal setting is not a gateway drug to discontent. Goal setting is how we grow as people—it’s how we reach new levels in our lives. You can want more in life and set goals for yourself AND be grateful and happy for what you have.’ —Austin BollingerCLICK TO TWEET
Goal setting is about pushing yourself to be better—to be a better spouse, a better parent, a better boss or employee, a better version of you, and so on. It’s about being #BetterEveryDay!
If you’re not setting goals because you’re worried that you’ll seem ungrateful for your life or that you’ll be walking down a path of discontent, please consider this:
You are not where you are because you stayed put as a young child. You had goals, you worked hard to reach new levels, and you succeeded. You are where you are today because, at some point, you wanted more and you went for it.
If you’re no longer setting goals, perhaps you’ve reached a comfortable spot in your life, and you’ve stopped pushing yourself forward.
But what still lies ahead for you?
You can be thankful for your life and everything you have and still want more. That’s okay because you’re not done growing as a person yet.
How will you know what you were meant to be if you stay where you are?
There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to higher levels in life—it’s how we grow and become the people we were born to be.
Go ahead, step forward into your greatness—set some goals for yourself and see what kind of life you were truly meant to live.
3. Fear of the Unknown
Next up: fear of the unknown. I put this fear in the middle because the first two fears seem to manifest in people who actively avoid goal setting. As you’ll soon see, the last two fears tend to manifest in people who want to set goals but are afraid of what might come next.
The unknown is the void that lies in between.
I encounter many people who don’t set goals because they don’t know where they’re going. Not only do they not know where they’re going, but they’re afraid that they might go in the wrong direction, so they sit still.
“If I pursue this, I may not get to do that? But if I do that, I may not get to ….”
The fear of choosing the wrong path is paralyzing. Everywhere you look, and every option you weigh only seems to provide more questions.
The lack of clarity can be overwhelming, even stressful to the point of driving you to stay where you are. If everywhere you look is more of the unknown, it’s easier to stay where you are.
At least you’re familiar with where you are, right?
Any Path is Better than No Path
If you want more in life, you have to understand that doing nothing is a short path to nowhere and it’ll get you there pretty fast.
If you’re actively looking at multiple options for your future, you obviously want more for yourself. You want to try something new. You want to reach higher levels. The problem is that you just don’t know which new thing or which higher level.
I would argue that if you have a lot of desires for your future—just pick one and try it. Something is better than nothing!
Set a goal and start down a path. Any path!
If it’s the wrong one, you will have learned something new about yourself. You can move on to the next thing with confidence that you’re closer to the right path. You’ll never have to look back and wonder “what if?”
Blue Sky Thinking
On the other hand, if you can’t bring yourself to pick a path and hope for the best, do some blue-sky thinking. Picture your life 25 years from now. If you had absolutely no limits, what would you do? Where would you be? What would your life look like as a whole?
Blue-sky-thinking is a great way to start with the end in mind. If you can picture where your dream life is going to end up, you can start setting goals and planning for that future today. You can overcome the unknown and step forward with clarity.
I used to have an internal struggle between several career options that I had in front of me. Once I did my own blue-sky thinking, I was able to end my internal conflict. I imagined my dream life and picked a path towards that dream. After that, my goals began to fall into place.
What goal can you set today that will move you forward towards the life you want?
4. Fear of Failure
I bet you didn’t see this one coming, did you? Yes, fear of failure is probably the most common fear that holds people back from their goals.
What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m not smart enough? What if I find out my dreams are unattainable?
We get so wrapped up in the what-ifs that we give up on trying altogether, and this isn’t always a choice. Sometimes the fear of failure sneaks up on us.
Maybe you’ve tried something big in the past, and it didn’t go as planned. Perhaps it was embarrassing, so you slowly and quietly stopped setting goals to avoid embarrassment.
This phenomenon is our brain’s way of defending us against painful and unwanted feelings. We’re naturally going to be drawn away from things that cause unpleasant feelings.
You Can’t Fail if You Don’t Try
When we try and fail over and over, we subconsciously come to realize that we can’t fail if we don’t try, so we begin to stick close to our comfort zones. When we don’t try, we can always use the old cop-out, “I could have done that if I had wanted to, but … “
“I could have become a doctor; I just didn’t like to study.”
“I could have been an NFL star. I just hated practice.”
It’s easier to convince ourselves that we could have, had we tried than it is to try and fail, whether the former is true or not.
John Maxwell has a book called Sometimes You Win–Sometimes You Learn: Life’s Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses. I’ll give you one guess as to what that book’s mostly about.
The title is an adaptation from the old saying, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose,” and the book is about turning life’s failures into your greatest learning opportunities.
You Can’t Lose if You Choose to Learn Instead
I believe that in life, you only lose or fail when you’ve accepted failure as a final outcome. I believe that in every failure, there is a lesson to be learned. So if you’re afraid to set a goal because you might fail, set that goal anyway and if you do fail, look for the lesson and try again.
Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again.”
It has also been said that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but moving forward in spite of it.”
If you’re not setting goals in your life because you’re afraid, I challenge you to be courageous and set some goals anyway. Then, if you think you’ve failed, examine your “failure,” look for a lesson, and try again. You only fail when you’ve quit, and you’re not a quitter.
You’ve got this!
5. Fear of Success
The fifth and final fear that keeps people from setting goals is the fear of success.
What? Huh? That doesn’t make any sense!
Sure it does! You see, when we try and fail, we can retreat to our comfort zones. When we fail, we can go back to the things we know. That’s not so bad, is it?
“Where I’m at is okay. If I don’t make it to the next level, I’m fine staying here.”
But if we succeed, we have to move into the great unknown, and if you ask me, that can be far scarier than failure!
The problem with the fear of success is that it’s tough to recognize or understand, and therefore, it’s challenging to overcome.
The Upper Limit Problem
The Upper Limit problem is when we subconsciously sabotage ourselves when we’re about to achieve a new level in our lives because we’re not prepared for a new level of success.
In his book, he says that we all have internal, hidden limitations from years of conditioned beliefs. Deep down, we may not believe that we can attain a higher level of success, so any time we come close, we sabotage ourselves.
Essentially, the Upper Limit Problem is the fear of success.
Here’s a great example: Someday I want to be the CEO of Element 74, the website and software development company where I currently work. As much as I want to be CEO someday, I don’t fully know what working as a CEO is like, or what it’s going to mean for my life.
I imagine it will bring some new stress into my life, but my overall perception is that I’m well-equipped for the job and will do it well. However, it’s still scary as heck to think about!
If I succeed, I’ll be responsible for growing the business, sustaining profits, enriching lives, and so much more. If I succeed in becoming CEO, my life is going to change in a huge way!
Now, I’ve learned to spot the fear of success through various books and articles that I’ve read, so I won’t let the fear of success stop me from trying. I’ve concluded that, if I want to shoot for new levels in life, I have to deal with the discomfort that each new level brings.
Leveling Up in Life
Leveling up in life is like leveling up in a video game—each time you get a better weapon or a new skill, the bad guys suddenly get harder to beat. If you’re a gamer, you know what I mean. Each time you reach a new level, you have to work extra hard to get back to your previous level of comfort.
When we stay at the same level, life becomes almost effortless.
Think about the last time you reached a new level in your life. It was hard at first, right?
I remember when I got my first job at McDonald’s as a cook. Everyone could assemble the sandwiches so quickly, and I thought that I’d never be able to keep up them. I was wrong—way wrong. I stepped up and leveled up. Wow, I was fast!
It was difficult at first, and the ingredients for each sandwich were hard to memorize, but only a few weeks in and the job took minimal effort.
If you think back, there have been countless times where you have reached a new level in your life too, and you rose to the occasion. It was uncomfortable at first but then became easier.
As we look at goal setting, we can see it’s the same thing.
When we set huge goals for ourselves, we’re aiming for higher levels in life. Don’t fear it, acknowledge it, and embrace it. New goals are going to be challenging at first, but they’ll get easier as time goes on.
You’ve done it before, and you can do it again.
Overcoming Your Fears
Now that you’ve read up on the five fears of goal setting, do any of them resonate with you?
Perhaps several of them do, but that’s okay! The first step in overcoming your fear is acknowledging it. Once you do that, you can begin to understand it, learn about it, and even master it.
The more you learn about your fear, the easier it will be to overcome.
Whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand and succumb to your fears. Strive to overcome them and set massive goals for your life.
As always, if you need help or encouragement, feel free to give me a shout.
And until next time, take care.
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