The Not-So-Sexy Side of Goal Setting

Alone In The World

I was teaching a Grade 8 Economics Class for Junior Achievement last Friday.

Our first activity of the morning was a goal setting exercise.

Goal Setting.

Simple Goal Setting.

You put your goal in the top of the pyramid broken into 4 sections and reverse engineer your goal back to daily habits that you must take to reach your goal.



It’s much harder than it looks.

First of all you have to know what exactly it is that you want.

So, here is where ummmmm 80-90% of us fail.

We fail to even know what it is we really want.

(It makes financial planning or any planning extremely difficult!)

We would stare at a blank piece of paper all day.

It would probably be easier to fill the “goal” section with what we don’t want, copy someone else’s or some half-assed goal we really don’t care about but think we “should” do.

We have that figured out what we DON’T WANT in spades, but to actually pinpoint the thing we WANT is incredibly difficult.

We end up borrowing other people’s goals all the time.

  • run a marathon
  • make a million
  • save a million
  • pay off your mortgage/debt
  • lose weight
  • get married
  • have kids
  • have a white picket fence
  • a dog?
  • etc.etc.etc.

I mean, really, is this what we want?

Fake it till you make it doesn’t work with Other People’s Goals.

The easy part of this goal setting is the reverse engineering and figuring out all the steps we need to take to make our goal a reality – but again, most people don’t know what they want – they don’t know what to put in the top section of their triangle.

And I’m not talking the vague goals – like hitting a beach in retirement.

I’m talking about that picture goal where they could describe the taste, sights, smells, feels of their goal.

Okay, so we get that most people don’t actually know what they want and don’t really have goals.

By the way, I fall into this category often.

It’s realizing once you’ve climbed one mountain you are now at the foot of another mountain and then you need to decide which mountain you are going to climb now.

Sometimes you are just tired of climbing.

Tired of reaching goals.

There’s nothing sexy about goal setting.


Figuring out how you want to design your life – YOUR LIFE (not the life your parents wanted you to have) is hard work.

It’s definitely something that takes longer than 5-minutes.

Sometimes, for excitement, you keep on the goal hamster wheel, never quite accomplishing the ‘real’ goals because what is on the other side of that goal is change and fear and better to stay in the comfort zone of predictability.

And then when your life goes from not having anything figured out to having your goals totally laid out, figured out and you’ve boarded the train – no turning back – then what?

I had K (not her real name obvi) crying in my grade 8 class.


Friday morning.


I asked her what was wrong and she began to tell me how people will make fun of her if she goes after her goal.

Now, keep in mind that we just started the goal exercise which is supposed to take 5-minutes out of a 4-hour teaching program that I was facilitating.

I haven’t had enough coffee at this point yet….

So, I approached her and saw she had indeed filled out the top of the pyramid (you know, the one goal that most of us haven’t even figured out yet!)

She wanted to be a cartoonist.

My heart crumbled listening to a 14-year-old share with me her passion for wanting to create a cartoon and how she decided not to go after her dream because she cared too much about what other people would think of her, from her family to her peers and friends and how they might make fun of her and think her idea for a cartoon was dumb.

I was at a loss for words.

These are conversations I have daily with my entrepreneur circle of friends at age 40, not a conversation I would expect to have with a 14-year-old.

My heart wasn’t at a loss for words.

My heart just wanted to pour into her 39-years of encouragement.

I rubbed her back and just listened to her cry and share with me all the reasons she couldn’t become a cartoonist.

I tried my best, but what I really want to say to her I can’t say in a 20-second span of time.

So, I encouraged her as best I could to go for it and said a silent prayer for her under my breath – something along the lines of, “Dear God, Bless this dear girl’s dreams. Give her strength and throw me some too while you’re at it!”

Don’t worry, I didn’t tell her that life sucked and that she WOULD in fact be rejected by the world MANY times if she really did go after it!

It’s the horrible secret that successful people never want to tell you about.

Then I wrote this to her.

Maybe it’s not for her, maybe it’s for me today.

Maybe it’s for you.

Maybe one day she’ll read this or maybe my daughters will.

Dear K,

You have had a big dream placed inside of you.

It’s there on purpose. It’s what you are meant to do in this world, in this life.

You have to listen to that dream.

I want to warn you that it won’t be easy.

In fact… it down right sucks like 99% of the time.

You will have sleepless nights on your journey.

You will suffer bouts of depression and anger.

You will swear and curse and yell in frustration.

It’s not happy, it’s not glorious, it’s hard unrewarding work for most of the time.

You can’t give up because your only job is to share your gifts.

Your job is to make your art, create what you are here to create and share it with the world – even when it feels the whole world is laughing, even when it feels the whole world is against you.

When this happens, focus on ‘the one’.

The one person whose life you are going to change, transform and make better because you followed your soul, your dream, your passion.

That one person needs you.

(Even if that one person might be you.)

They need to hear you, see you – they are seeking the encouragement you will give them by living your dream out loud for the world to see.

And yes, there will be haters.

The more you share your gifts, the more people will disagree with it, mock you BUT the glorious side of that is that the more you share your gifts the more you will find your people, your community – more love.

Don’t live your life for someone else. It’s the biggest regret most people have.

Don’t live your life with out letting your dream out into the world – otherwise it festers like a cancer in your body when you do that.

You are rare and special and have a dream that makes you uniquely you.

Your only job is to follow that seed and see where it grows to.

It’s not your dream’s job to make you happy.

It’s not your dream’s job to make you rich.

It’s not the world’s job to cheer you on.

Those things will be by-products at some point.

For right now, it’s your job to tune out the nay-sayers who tell you to quit and get a “real” job, or stop pursuing your silly dreams (side note: WTH is that? A ‘real’ job?! People still say that to me!)

Your job is to stay focused on your art, that big goal ahead of you.

That’s it.

The rest can fall away.

There is no better feeling than feeling proud of the work you do and doing the work you were called to do.

You were called to this.

This is your LEGACY.

Live it.


xx Lisa