How to balance goal setting with freedom
For 1.5 years. I struggled to reach my many business goals. I worked very hard, but always seemed to be very far from reaching my goals. The more I made goals, the worse I felt when I didn’t reach them.‘Soon enough, all of my goals started to feel stifling and claustrophobic instead of inspiring and expansive. I felt like I didn’t have any freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted anymore, which was the main reason I started my own business.
When I started learning more about personal development, I learned how feeling stifled and locked down just produced the same old story of not reaching my goals. When you set goals but feel shitty while working towards them, you’re going to get shitty results, which creates overwhelm and burn out and even shittier results.
And if you are like I was, when you eventually peel yourself off the coach, you revisit your vision board and then force yourself to sit in front of a now wall-size calendar and write “better” goals all over again. This time with more highlighter colors and more post-its because maybe before there weren’t enough.
And this, my friend, took me a long time to realize, is a form of self-sabotage.
In this blog post, I’m going to share with you where I started from in terms of goal-setting and how I eventually broke out of this self-sabotage cycle. You’re going to learn how to set goals in an effective and productive way that takes shame and guilt out of the equation and allows you to feel free instead of locked down so you can finally start building the success you want.
Setting business goals using SMART goals sucked
In grad school, we learned about SMART goals - have you ever heard of those? S stands for specific, M stands for measurable, A stands for attainable, R stands for realistic, and T stands for timely.
When I first started out as an occupational therapist and then a coach, I preached this way of goal setting HARD. To my one coaching client, my occupational therapy patients at work, and to myself. But it never worked quite as well as I had hoped.
When you lose motivation or purpose behind the SMART goal, or the purpose of setting that goal is because you think it’s something you’re supposed to do, the motivation to keep working at it peters out. For me, it was another rule that I had to live by, which I hated, so I lost motivation to continue very quickly.
So for some people, SMART goals are quite effective, but if you’re like me and a bit of a rebel, they get old fast.
What about visualizing?
When I learned about visualization practices and how we can use our state of being (thoughts, feelings, and actions) to energetically match it up to the thing we want to experience, I was really excited. Here was another method of achieving goals that didn’t require baby steps and hard work!
So I set about learning all I could about visualization and then sharing it forward with my coaching clients. I taught them how to visualize their perfect life and align themselves with their future selves by going about their daily lives as if all they wanted had already happened.
And this part is a bit vulnerable - 80% of my clients would utilize this method with my guidance and surpass their wildest business dreams. For example, one of them attracted funding for a new software they wanted to create with little to no effort, another one manifested $12,000 from brand-new clients as a first time coach, and another one created $42,000 in our short time together. So what happened with the other 80%, which…included myself!
I realized that there was a huge common thread amongst the 80% who succeeded beyond their dreams - they all LIVED their lives feeling truly FREE. While the rest of us just constantly talked about WANTING more freedom.
We WANTED, above anything else - more than money, fame, appreciation, etc., - to just BE who we truly are and want to be. We wanted to stop hiding our true thoughts and feelings and to stop being afraid of hurting others or of being hurt by others.
So where does freedom fit into the picture of goal-setting?
Around the same time that I started exploring freedom, a friend suggested I read “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsh. This three-part series surprised me with how many questions it answered regarding freedom of self. The freedom to BE. It talked about how GOD is not some otherworldly external thing to be revered and feared - it’s actually what every single one of us, including every single thing, animate and inanimate, is made of!
And our only purpose in the “lifetime” we are currently experiencing is to express ourselves however we would like to!
After I read those books, I decided that my main goal in life was going to about expressing myself however I choose to from present moment to present moment. I decided to make conscious choices about how I wanted to BE, how I wanted to think, feel, and act, so that I can experience whatever it is that I’d like to experience. And experience it all to the fullest.
Without waiting til after I had reached my business goals.
It took some of the pressure off of needing to reach any particular goal
Focusing on just being and expressing myself however I want to was a refreshing perspective because it took the pressure off of needing to be somewhere, of needing to reach a particular goal with my life and my business. Not only did it help me stop comparing myself to my friends (how much money they were making, where they were traveling to, what kind of wedding they were throwing, etc.), but doing that actually stopped making sense.
If I could go through life focusing on expressing myself exactly how I’d like to express myself, I could also allow other people to do the same. Judgement and jealousies and FOMO can scoot on out the window. I could move towards a particular goal if I wanted to, and I could also choose not to from moment to moment.
No longer were my goals about reaching my goals - it was no longer about just fantasizing how free I would feel AFTER reaching my goals. It was all about being free from moment to moment.
Balancing goal setting with freedom
I grew up as a stickler for rules (I’m talking serious Type A, here) because rules kept me safe. Or they were supposed to. So when I had my quarter-life crisis at age 26 and had my first taste of true freedom, I was truly surprised to realize that I didn’t have to live by anyone’s rules, not even my own.
But what came after that was I felt restricted every single time I made a new rule for myself. I became terrified of ever feeling restricted again. This was why goal setting was so hard for me - I interpreted it as hard work and something that restricted my freedom rather than something that could let me experience more of it.
So if you are like me, I would like to share with you how you can apply the freedom of self expression to your goal-setting.
Instead of only visualizing the dream version of yourself and your dream business, try also visualizing the process of getting there. Visualize this process as a string of multiple different experiences and situations in which you get to express yourself exactly the way you want to.
And in expressing yourself exactly the way you want to, you’re also giving yourself the freedom to experiment with your business. Pressure to reach your goal by a certain time goes away because no matter what, you’re always LIVING your goal of feeling freedom while building your business.
For most of us, we think our biggest goal in starting our own business is to live our lives the way we want to. To afford all the things we want - cars, house, family, vacations, etc. But I think the only thing we ever truly want to have is FREEDOM. We just want to be ourselves to the fullest without worrying about how others will judge us.
This is why some rich folks are still very unhappy and become “greedy” - they’re still searching for their inner freedom. Even with all the mansions, boats, and cars, they’re still living by someone else’s rules.
So don’t wait to have what you think you want to have before you allow yourself to experience freedom.
Allow yourself to experience every single moment of your life with freedom.
So yes, set goals, but always reach them by freeing yourself from everyone’s rules, sometimes including your own, and living every single moment of everyday being exactly who you want to be.
And when you live this way, true success is inevitable.
PS. If this is something you’d like to explore further, join my FREE 5-day Challenge: Clarity for Freedom. We start on Monday, 11/12. You’ll learn how to tap into your inner voice and truly live your life moment to moment expressing who you truly are, starting with your business. Go to https://jessicamaytang.lpages.co/clarity-for-freedom-5-day-challenge/ before space runs out!