While out shopping this past weekend, I saw a mindfulness planner. As someone who finds it physically impossible to not look at planners and journals when I find them, I naturally picked it up.
Ooooh, mindfulness. Now they’re speaking my language.
But something jumped out at me as soon as I read the back cover. One of the features that the planner boasted was “goal setting.” Cue Renata going off in the middle of a small local shop (on Small Business Saturday, no less!).
Goal setting!? In a mindfulness journal? Talk about contradictory!
Mindfulness journaling is all about getting your thoughts onto paper. It’s about understanding yourself and your internal dialogue better. Now, I do understand that sometimes, this can lead to people wanting to set goals pertaining to their internal worlds (such as working on giving yourself grace when you don’t meet your goals…but setting goals around that sounds sketch to me), but normally, goal setting guides like this are meant for external goals, and for me, that just isn’t compatible with mindfulness.
I’ve found that when I make goals, I can be a bit one-track-minded. I put my head down and grind, blindly working toward completing it. When you’re easily bored, find large tasks daunting, and work in short bursts of energy, that’s pretty easy to do. Then, sometimes I’ll get to the end result and realize that I didn’t even want to achieve that goal in the first place. If I do decide to abandon the goal, whether or not I decide I actually wanted it, I don’t give myself any grace. Of course, in my head, the solution has been to overcorrect and not have any goals whatsoever.
As per usual, I am the epitome of balance and level headedness!
Because of my rocky relationship with goal setting, I sometimes forget that there are ways to set goals and work toward achieving them in a mindful way. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that mindfully creating goals, much like mindfully doing anything in life, is possible with a bit of extra effort. Or a lot of extra effort. That being said, I would love to learn how to create goals and work toward achieving them mindfully, so I thought I would write about it.
Am I writing this guide for you or for myself? Why not both!? Take a peek at the guide below and let’s both try to set goals mindfully moving forward, deal?
Set the goal intentionally
If you’re going to mindfully work toward your goals, you’ll need to make sure you set them mindfully in the first place! Makes sense, right?
Every time I’ve achieved a goal that ultimately made me unhappy, it was because I didn’t focus on my “whys.” I’m all about living my truth, and those moments when I lose sight of my truth and my “whys” are when I blindly create and strive toward goals, only to get to the end feeling miserable.
Had I checked in with myself and my “whys,” I probably would’ve realized that I didn’t actually want to make that goal in the first place, saving myself some time, energy, and self-hatred.
So the first step is to check in with yourself and make sure that the goal aligns with who you are as a person. Not only that, but try to differentiate what you want from what you actually need.
Sure, I would like to get my yoga certification eventually (and it totally would align with who I am as a person), but what I really need right now is to take time for myself and relax, to be the student, not the teacher. Maybe my needs will shift eventually, but for now, I need to be realistic about where I’m at.
Break it down and check in
Anyone anywhere will tell you to break your goals down into smaller tasks. Large goals can be daunting, but small tasks can feel simple!
If you want to do this part mindfully, you’ll have to check in every step of the way. At the very beginning, write down how you feel about the goal you’re about to work toward. Who are you in this very moment? How will achieving the goal serve you and what do you hope to learn?
(You know that this is going to come back later, right?)
After you complete the first small task (or maybe the first five tasks if they’re really small), check in and make sure that the goal still aligns with your “whys.” Is it still applicable for you? Do you still want to continue?
If not, that’s okay! Nothing wrong with abandoning a goal that no longer serves you. That’s the most important part, after all! On the whole, there’s no point in creating voluntary goals that will just make you miserable. You should complete goals because you want to, not because you feel like you have to finish everything you start.
As cliché as it is, you only live once, don’t spend your life chasing goals that aren’t serving you!
Pay attention to the lessons and benefits
I mean, this is a post about mindfulness, so you know I’m going to tell you to check in over and over.
Double check in.
Double dog check in.
Triple check in.
Triple dog check in.
There, now you have to do it or else you’re a chicken.
While you’re checking in with yourself, don’t just look ahead to make sure it’s still aligned with what you ultimately want, also do an about face and look at the task you’ve just completed. Write down how you’ve grown and changed since you started on this journey. What have you learned?
See? I told you those thoughts from the beginning would be making a comeback!
Reflect during each step of the process and recognize how you’re growing. Also, take a moment to celebrate, too! Look at how far you’ve come, you rockstar!
Give yourself grace
This is easily the hardest step (for me, at least)!
We’re not perfect. We all stumble while working toward our goals, and sometimes we choose not to complete them at all. Beating yourself up won’t help you in the long run. If you stumble and berate yourself for it, you’ll associate those bad feelings with your goal, making it harder and/or unpleasant to complete.
If you’re struggling or you decide to deviate from or abandon the original plan, look back at all of the lessons you’ve learned and all of the ways you’ve benefited from the process. There are very few experiences we have that don’t teach us something or benefit us in some way. Personally, I hardly believe in “wasted time.”
Look back at all that you’ve learned and celebrate — whether you completed the goal or not, you’ve grown, and that’s the bomb diggity.
Check in again…c’mon, you know you want to!
After some time has passed and you get some distance and perspective, revisit the goal. Check out who you were when you started it and all of the things that you learned along the way. Why had you started that goal in the first place? How did you think it would serve you? Is that reasoning still true? Why or why not?
Through goal-setting, we not only learn new skills, but also, we learn how to adjust our patterns for the future. Maybe you were working toward something that didn’t align with who you are as a person. Maybe you were chasing a want without realizing that it went against a need. Maybe you needed to break up the goal into even smaller tasks.
Maybe you were exactly right, and achieved your goal — sweet! Your process is perfect and you can use it for future goals, too!
I will forever rage against our hustle culture that insists that we always have goals and are constantly seeking to improve ourselves. But just because I don’t think it’s necessary to always have a goal, that doesn’t mean that goal-setting is inherently bad. Doing anything mindlessly isn’t ideal; learning to set and achieve goals mindfully would help us create more goals that we intend to finish and that make us happy.
So let’s all just do everything mindfully and be endlessly happy! Easy enough, right…?