Try Abandoning Traditional Goal Setting For A Gut-Based Approach

Set your goals. Hustle. Grind. Track results. Repeat. Welcome to the standard template of accomplishment.

The concept of goal setting as it’s commonly practiced today has room for improvement. Goals are created to lead to achievements in order to elicit a specific feeling (accomplishment, success, abundance, etc.). In other words, the feeling created by your accomplishment is actually the end goal. People wouldn’t aim to do things if they were not rewarded with good feelings in some way.

We’re often told that big achievements are composed of many small steps, and goal setting is a map of the path to get there. But this isn’t the only route. In fact, being too focused on goals can sometimes be dangerous and can even put companies out of business. For example, when company goals are set to appease investors, you make decisions on the basis of showing that you’re hitting specific numbers in order to make the next round of funding appealing. For someone in the food and beverage industry, that might mean skipping out on using quality ingredients. For manufacturing, it might mean using low-quality materials to get higher profit margins. For a service provider, they may hire employees for less money that are not as qualified. The commonality between all these is that if the goal set happens to be out of alignment for the company’s best interests, it can end up doing more harm than good.

This is what happens when the path you believe to be correct steers you off course, instead. It’s impossible to account for everything that can affect hitting a goal. That’s why pivoting the company direction, marketing campaign, business plan, etc., is a common occurrence. The plan mapped out on your goal chart could be the hardest road there — and you wouldn’t know it until it’s too late.

Consider flipping the idea of goal setting around. Rather than making it about what you want to achieve, take a moment and ask yourself how you want to feel when the goal is finally achieved. By focusing on the internal sensations of your body to guide your decision making, you access a bigger well of intelligence than your mind alone can conceive. In the book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell states, “We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that — sometimes — we’re better off that way.”

If your external actions are in alignment with how you’re feeling internally, things tend to feel like they’re flowing (even if the occasional hiccup occurs) and, chances are, you’re heading in a successful direction. If the opposite is true, then you’re making decisions out of stern dedication to hit your goal, but everything may feel like a struggle. The latter has a higher likelihood of burnout, lower quality of work output or failure.

This new type of goal setting is an intuition-guided approach. For example, if the desire is to live a life of financial freedom and travel the world, then focus on the feeling of “freedom” when making decisions rather than attaching to specific metrics or accomplishments you believe will get you there. This sensation shift allows you to perceive more opportunities than if you were focusing on traditional goals alone. The narrow focus of a single outlined goal is removed and infinite possibilities now become available. Each decision made from this perspective has more clarity because it first has to pass through your inner guidance system. If an opportunity is presented that might lead you astray, your gut will speak loud and clear to let you know you’re off the mark. This often feels like a tight constriction in a specific part of your body: stomach, heart and throat are the most common places to feel this.

Experiment with letting go of traditional goal setting to see what transpires. Consider that a route more fluid and enjoyable is available to attain the results you want. Since there is no one single way to produce an outcome, you may as well take a path that’s more pleasurable in getting you there.