People set personal goals because they are inspired.
Goals come from our visions and dreams, and visions and dreams aren’t bound by physical, historical, or material constraints.
You can always dream of a better life and then work to make that life happen.
Therefore, goals innately possess power and a spirit of optimism and hope.
Someone without a goal is hopeless and cynical. But it’s the spirit of hope and optimism that brings enlightenment, curiosity, innovation, progress, and vitality to the world.
Every form of government, medicine, literature, philosophy, religion, and economy is the result of hope, optimism, and passion. And all of them started as goals.
People set personal goals for so many different reasons.
They may want to send their children to school. Or perhaps they want to be the first to offer commercial flights in space. Or to prove that they’re the best at swimming, diving, or fencing.
What’s so important about achieving a goal, anyway?
When you achieve a goal, you realize a vision for yourself. You become aware of your capabilities. And your ability to realize a vision satisfies you because it’s the perfect expression of freedom, autonomy, and agency.
So, if you want to set a personal goal, it’s essential to understand your motives, enthusiasm, and excitement.
It feels good to achieve something we genuinely set out to achieve.
When you know that you can create yourself in the physical world you feel free. You have a sense of power and agency. Agency makes you happy. Happier than the object you create or the record you set by achieving your goal.
Should you keep goals to yourself?
It is important to know how to keep your goals to yourself.
Successful goals are both spiritual and emotional and solitude and silence help in these areas.
Even if you want to make a lot of money, or found a powerful media company, it’s likely the emotional nature of the goal that ensures its success. And it’s easiest to identify your internal motivation for doing something when you are alone.
The noise and static of others’ opinions can confuse you or pull you into your head with fears of judgement or the fear of losing relationships because of having certain goals—to such an extent, even, that you don’t even dare to dream of some goals.
For example, a new father might never tell the mother of their new baby that he wishes to climb Mt. Everest.
“Are you crazy!” She might say. “Do you know how dangerous that is? What if you die? How dare you even think of such a thing!”
Knowing that this will be her likely reaction, the father doesn’t bring it up, and more, doesn’t even dare to dream of such a goal, so—for better or worse—it dies.
Sometimes loneliness is a good thing
You must be alone in silence and nature to find what moves you in life. The goal should be set in a state of freedom.
Some people have a hard time spending time alone, but we encourage you to try it.
Being alone provides you with ideal conditions for probing the depths of your mind and desires and in so doing discovering what it is that you are deeply passionate about.
It’s in silence and solitude that you can maintain a deep and open attitude to spirit and Self from whence comes the seed of vision: your sense of purpose and meaning in life.
In these early stages, it’s better to keep goals to yourself because most people—not taking the time to think so deeply—will be threatened by ambitious goals and discourage them in order to feel better about themselves.
It’s rare to meet the kind of person who, having given up on climbing Mt. Everest, will encourage you to do it.
He will more likely feel envious of your bright, young ambition and do what he can to derail you from your dream so that you can be more like him, which makes him feel better about himself.
Declaring your goal can help with accountability
If you can find a community of people who share your goal and who know and appreciate the difficulty of trying to live for it and attain it, then you’re in good company, and better off sharing your goal.
In Buddhism, this is the importance of sangha, that is: a community of like-minded aspirants who understand and appreciate the importance of maintaining living wisdom in the world, and how difficult it is to do such a thing.
Therefore, how precious, and valuable it is to be able to spend time with a group of good, encouraging, like-minded friends who are all aiming at doing the same thing.
But such a group should only be approached after your goal is clear, which is better to do in solitude.
One other point to note is that it’s important to read widely because reading gives examples of what other people have thought about and achieved in history and offers ideas about what kind of goals are possible.
In the right situation, telling your goal to a friend can be useful
An exception to developing your goals on your own is when you know you have found someone who is also striving to achieve a good goal.
Speaking with a trusted friend can be motivational and helpful. But only if you know that they are trustable.
If they have dreams and ambitions that are as great or greater than yours then you know that you can talk with them about what they want in life, what their dreams, hopes, and aspirations are for the world and for themselves.
You can reflect on what you hear and practice empathic, active listening, and this will help both of you grow, thrive, and nourish your vision.
This, incidentally, is much like what a life coach does for someone.
A good coach, in a sense, can be thought of as a good friend that helps you to bring out your vision from obscurity. Kind of like a midwife for your dreams. It’s important to be mindful of fit because not everyone has the same effect on your mind.
Some people are better for you and your dreams than others. You might ask yourself: how does this person make me feel? How does this person help me achieve my goals? What is the effect of this person on my life?
Even the Buddha advised that one should leave bad friends.
And one of the painful parts about having dreams is that sometimes, in realizing your dreams, you realize that you must leave people behind.
Not always, of course. But sometimes.
If this situation arises, you might want to reach out for help from a good friend or a coach to help you clarify your choices, values, and goals.
How can you achieve your goals?
You can achieve your goal by making a plan and taking one step at a time.
The first step I recommend you take in setting a goal is to realize that this process will require the effort of your will, intellect, and emotions. And all three are all equally important.
Pythagoras and Plato expressed this idea as the tripartite soul, that is, the soul that was made up of bronze, silver, and gold.
The bronze can roughly be understood as the realm of emotion.
It is a metaphor for tradespeople or the body—the aspect of life that works with form in the world.
Silver can be thought of as the aspect of will in the human soul.
It is a metaphor for the military class—those who governed society according to rules of Law, and who kept society in order.
Lastly, the intellect was a symbol of the mind and the spiritual aspirations of people and society. The ruler. This is where values come from, including the understanding of your meaning and purpose in life.
This realm of the soul corresponds to the intellect, which perceives logos, the Greek word meaning universal order and the essence of life.
As you set your goals, you can ask yourself how the goal engages your will, your emotions, and your intellect. A good goal should satisfy the requests of each of the divisions of yourself without sacrificing the requests of the other.
Next, identify your internal motivation.
Knowing why the goal is important to you, is the best way to achieve it.
A concrete “why” creates a powerful reason to pursue that which will give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Identifying your internal motivation will help get you much further with your goals.
So, anything you can do to find out what you’re deeply passionate about or energized by—something that keeps you at a high level of engagement, energy, and flow—is worth pursuing.
There are wonderful resources for doing this. I work with a lot of my clients from the book Designing Your Life, and you can download our Goals Motivator worksheet.
Don’t announce your goal, but do write it down
You don’t need to announce your goal to the world —no big post, tweet, or campaign for support.
Even if you are excited, your goal needs your protection and nurturing in order to grow up in the world.
But do write your goal down for yourself.
Make an announcement to you.
Write it in your journal, in your calendar, on your hand, on a sticky note, create a recurring everyday reminder to stay present to it.
Write it into your head — memorize it and say it out loud. It can be very powerful to say your goal by looking in the mirror. If you live alone or with a trusted friend, write it on the bathroom mirror.
The point is for you to stay present with your goal.
Lastly, keep reading—especially our piece on Goal Setting Techniques. There is a ton of information here carefully designed and considered to help you nurture your wisdom and flourish.