The Goal with No Oomph
Written by Brittany Veenhuysen
As a woman in a man’s corporate world, and as a lover of words, I’ve paid close attention to the language we use in board rooms, workshops, and team-building exercises when it comes to setting goals.
This is what the world has taught me so far: Goals need to have an element of time restriction. They must be realistic, specific, effective, and they must be planned and strategized using rational and proven methods. Importantly, the outcome must be measurable, otherwise you won’t know when you’ve achieved anything (it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment you achieve your goal to “get fit”).
I don’t know about you, but my eyes are already glazing over. This language makes it sound like our minds are lazy distracted donkeys that, without constant supervision, might just wander off into the blue. Do I really need to stand here with a horsewhip to keep myself in line?
Regardless of my glazed expression, I love setting goals and have always used this language to set my own, since it’s the only language I’ve ever known. As a teenager, I treated goal-making as an art of sorts, a trick of language. I got really good at making goals but I wasn’t so hot at seeing them through. I usually blamed my own willpower when I failed to keep my donkey mind on the right track.
Not long ago, I went through some journals and found New Year’s resolutions from years past. I had a few good laughs, let me tell you. I really wanted to see which goals I had achieved and which ones I hadn’t, and figure out why.
In the “Achieved” column was my grade-eight goal of getting a boyfriend, my grade-eleven goal of submitting a short story to a competition, my grade-twelve goal of passing my final piano exams with distinction, my goal to move to another country for a spell after high school using my own cash, my post-university goal to pay off my entire student loan in a year, and my most recent goal: quit my full-time corporate job and freelance.
The “Not Achieved” column was much longer. There were lots of ridiculous goals in there (like convincing my parents to buy me a horse). However, a lot of them seemed pretty reasonable, and they repeated year after year. I had this cute pair of shorts from high school that I wanted to wear again, so for three years in my early twenties I made it my goal to improve my body enough to wear them proudly under the hot July sun. Fitness appears over again in various forms, sometimes as a number I want to see on the scale, and sometimes as a weekly workout total.
These goals were specific and fit all the criteria to a T... so why the heck couldn't I just follow through? I eventually turned those shorts into scrap material.
Other goals I didn’t achieve had to do with organization – my goal to keep my bedroom clean gradually shifted to a goal to keep my whole apartment clean. Another repeat visitor was improving my spending habits. Paying off my debt was a rare gem in a decade of spending too much money on silly things I know I could do without. No sooner had I tightened my budget that I was at Starbucks justifying a latte.
Why do we succeed at some goals and fail hopelessly at others? I discovered a common thread. Every time I achieved a goal, it was because I felt deeply excited and confident about what was beyond the goal. For example, I worked two jobs before moving to Scotland the year after high school, because what I wanted most was a sense of certainty that I could handle myself under pressure. When I made a goal to pay off my student loan, I was already revelling in the freedom I would experience once I was rid of that monster.
In essence, all of these goals weren’t goals so much as they were desires. What is the difference between the two? We make goals in our minds, because we have an idea of what a good life looks like. We are certain our goals are the vehicles that can get us there, so we go through the motions of achieving them. In contrast, we want to fulfill desires with our whole heart. Desires are rooted in feeling. My mind isn’t a renegade donkey, it’s a bright spark that responds with clarity to the deep desires that drive me forward.
The goals I failed to achieve had no “oomph” behind them, even if in theory I wanted them really bad. Yes, I wanted to fit into those shorts again. However, I distanced myself emotionally from my goal, probably to protect myself from the sharp blow of failure, and in this way, I had already failed.
Other goals I failed at weren’t even things I gave a crap about. I saw beautiful homes in interior design magazines and those images created a powerful sense of “should” in my mind. One goal, to write a novel I've never finished, was the most interesting– although I’ve always loved the concept of writing a novel, for years I never had an idea raring to burst out of me the way I did with my short story competition, my piano exam, or my freelancing. I was lacking certainty, that “let me at ‘er” attitude that is a creature of the heart.
Fulfilling our desires are above and beyond language. It doesn’t matter how well-worded, outlined, planned, and thought-out our goals are; if we can’t back them up with a strong feeling, a strong desire, to light our way, they mean nothing to us.
I would even hazard that sometimes when we blindly achieve a goal, we arrive at our intended destination only to discover that we wanted something else all along. Feeling unfulfilled, people purchase an expensive car, or finally move into their dream mansion next to a lake, only to feel empty. They wanted something deeper and more intangible all along, like peace, security, or freedom.
The other day, Yvonne painted a scenario for me: driving through Tuscany in a Porsche convertible, sometime around sunset when everything turns golden and dreamy. “What is it about this scene that is so desirable?” she asked, “The Porsche? Tuscany?”
This sounds like a goal that can be achieved by simply following an actionable plan. Step one, purchase a plane ticket for the correct destination. Step two, toss your credit card onto the Porsche rental desk. Step three, check your watch and turn on your GPS. Bing bang boom, in an hour or so, you will indeed be driving down a satisfactory road, in the vehicle you intended to drive, and at the correct time of day. Take a quick Instagram photo, fly home, and tick your box. In a corporate meeting room, this is how we might talk about achieving this goal.
I just completely un-romanticized that whole scene, so let me turn it back up a few notches. What we want isn’t the Porsche, or even Tuscany. What we want is a feeling of complete abandon as we step on the gas and turn the countryside into a golden blur. What we want is to feel the rush of air blowing through our hair and tickling our bare arms. We want to crank up the music and sing along at the top of our lungs, laughing outrageously at the whole situation. We want to drive in whichever direction we’re currently heading with no care in the world about the time or about anything else we should be doing. We want the joy and we want the freedom. How’s that for a desire to fulfill?
I cannot afford to fly to Tuscany and rent a Porsche; however, I have a car with windows that roll down, a good playlist at the ready, and the whole Albertan foothills outside my backdoor. I am armed with the most precious gift of all: clarity of the heart. This is the power of fulfilling desires rather than achieving goals: I know I don't need Tuscany, or a Porsche, to get what I need.
Here at YvonneWinkler.com, we are all about creating solutions to help you on your journey to fulfilling your ideal life. With the New Year coming up, join our FREE Goals with Soul Workshop on November 25th in Calgary, where we will get clear on what matters to you on a deeper level and help you design a roadmap to get there! Contact Yvonne to reserve your seat.