Setting Goals to Give You the Life You Want

We're taught to choose a goal and figure out how to get there. But that may not always be the best way. Get-It-Done Guy shows why it makes sense to do it the other way around.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #316

Chris, a mid-career finance executive, had an original life goal of making a small fortune. That goal led to an education in securities and securities law, a life of financial analysis on Wall Street, and a community of financial professionals. Despite the money, Chris feels like life is slipping by in a gray fog. He hates finance, doesn’t like living in New York, and has almost nothing in common with the other people in his line of work.

Use Your Questions to Design a Goal

Any number of goals could send Chris on a different journey. Here are his answers to the above questions:

  • How do I want to spend my time?

    • “Helping people.”

  • What activities make me want to leap out of bed?

    • “Problem solving, using my body, and public speaking.”

  • What do I want to learn?

    • “History, anthropology, and urban design.”

  • Who do I want to hang out with?

    • ”Creative, ambitious, motivated people who expose me to new ways of thinking and challenge my assumptions.”

Many possible goals can bring about this journey for Chris. He could help an immigrant neighborhood plan annual events to preserve its cultural identity; work on designing his city’s response plan for weather emergencies; or champion a real estate development in a historic section of town.

These goals are wildly different from one another, but what they all share is that the journey to reach them will motivate the activities, learning, and community that Chris really wants out of life.

Feel Free to Change Your Goals at Will

As you can see, the goal is really just a way of making sure we take a meaningful journey. Some journeys are so much fun, people stay on them forever. My actor friends often say, “Why would I retire? What I do isn’t work; it’s pure fun!”

But if your job involves staring at a screen and filing TPS reports, you may not share that sentiment. As much press as persistence gets, keep in mind that you can always change your direction. Your goal is there to shape your life in a way that delights you, not enslaves you. If the pursuit of the goal is draining your life, then why keep it?

While you’re pursuing a goal, pursue it 110%. But if the day comes when it’s no longer giving you the life you want, you’re allowed to change your mind, choose a new goal, or abandon goals altogether. It’s entirely up to you.

We adopt goals for one reason and one reason only: to change our lives. Rather than adopting a goal you hope will change your life once you reach it, do it the other way around. Choose the journey that for you would be awesome—the activities, personal growth, and friends. Then choose a goal that acts as a compass to give you that life as part of the journey.

And if you ever feel your direction needs changing, change goals. Because it’s not about where you end up, it’s about the life you live on the way. Your life is too precious to settle for less than extraordinary.

I'm This is Stever Robbins. Find my Living an Extraordinary Life talk at SteverRobbins.com/lel.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!



About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.