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Why do you set goals?

What is your purpose for setting goals? Try to answer that question before you keep reading. Why do you set goals?

For the longest time I’d answer by saying that I set goals because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I want to achieve things because I want to improve my situation. I want to make things better. By setting goals I become more effective and I have a higher chance of creating the life I want.

Some time ago I found a different perspective that I find much more compelling and useful:

The only value in goal-setting is that it improves the quality of your present moment reality. Setting goals can give you greater clarity and focus right now. Whenever you set a goal, always ask yourself, “How does setting this goal improve my present reality?” If a goal does not improve your present reality, then the goal is pointless, and you may as well dump it. But if the goal brings greater clarity, focus, and motivation to your life whenever you think about it, it’s a keeper.

As you think about how your goals improve your present reality, eventually you’ll feel motivated to take action. At the same time, you’ll begin attracting resources into your life that will help you achieve your goals. There’s no need to force yourself — you’ll find yourself naturally drawn to take action as you keep bringing your focus back to the present. When you think about a goal in a way that motivates you right now, it’s only natural that you’ll begin taking action congruent with the goal.

When you set goals that increase the quality of your present reality, then what does it matter how long it takes to achieve the final outcome? Whether it takes one week or five years is irrelevant. The whole path is fun and enjoyable. More importantly, you feel happy and fulfilled this very moment. This drives you to take enjoyable action, so you’re productive too.

Even though it seems like you’re setting goals for the future, you’re really setting goals for the present. The better you understand this, the more easily and enjoyably you’ll achieve your goals.

The size and scope of the goal will cease to matter. The most important factor will be what effect the goal has on your present moment when you think about it. When you really grasp this concept, you’ll begin to adopt a lifelong mission instead of just a collection of disjointed goals and preferences. It doesn’t even matter if your mission can be achieved in your lifetime. What matters is the effect it has on your present reality. So you can feel free to adopt a really enormous mission, even one which may be unachievable in your lifetime, as long as that mission inspires and motivates you. If the mission is so big that it disempowers you, dump it. But if it really inspires you, go for it.

Find goals that make you feel inspired, hopeful, energized, optimistic and empowered right now, and drop the ones that don’t, even if they look good on paper.