Wayne Ergle
September 5, 2023

Setting Personal Goals: Ditching the Playbook for Real Results

Hey there, fellow traveler on the path of personal growth!

If you’ve ever sat down with a cup of tea (or coffee) and typed “goal setting” into a search engine, you know what comes up: a barrage of articles, infographics, and videos, each claiming to have cracked the code on achieving your dreams. It feels like everyone’s got a tried-and-tested method, a step-by-step guide. And sure, many of these methods have merit. But let’s have a candid chat.

Setting personal goals isn’t just about following a formula or ticking boxes. If it were that simple, we’d all be fluent in five languages, playing concert-level piano, or maybe even mastering that tricky yoga pose that looks more like a human pretzel. Reality check: Goal setting isn’t just about the goal. It’s deeply personal. It’s about who you are, what truly drives you, and, more importantly, why some goals resonate with your core while others feel… meh.

In this article, we’re going to challenge some conventional wisdom. We’re taking a detour from the well-trodden path and exploring the deeper, often unspoken, layers of personal goal setting. Buckle up; it’s going to be an enlightening ride.

Key Takeaways: Achieving Personal Goals

An artistic portrayal of a person surrounded by a swirling cosmos of vivid colors, representing the act of setting life goals. The person stands on a floating platform amidst celestial clouds and stars, with their outstretched hands touching the vibrant nebulae that embody their aspirations.

TL;DR: Drawing insights from neuroscience and life stories, we challenge traditional goal-setting norms, underscore the transformative journey of genuine aspirations, and offer practical strategies to craft goals that truly align with one’s core. Whether aiming for professional development, financial milestones, or personal growth, it’s time to rethink, realign, and reignite your goal-setting journey.

  1. The Essence of True Goals: Authentic personal goals are not mere checklist items. They resonate deeply with our core values and desires, often leading to profound transformations.
  2. SMART Goal Framework: While the SMART goal approach (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) is popular and effective, it’s crucial that the foundation of any goal, whether SMART or not, is genuine passion and personal resonance.
  3. Long-Term vs. Short-Term Goals: Both long-term and short-term goals have their place. While long-term goals provide direction and vision, short-term goals offer actionable steps to make that vision a reality. Remember Jamie’s journey of writing a book? That’s a perfect blend of long-term vision and short-term milestones.
  4. Measurability Matters: Making goals measurable helps track progress and keeps motivation high. It’s not just about quantifying but also about ensuring the goal aligns with your true self.
  5. Diverse Goal Categories: Personal goals span various domains, from career goals focusing on professional development to financial goals aiming for monetary stability. Yet, no matter the category, authenticity remains critical.
  6. Time-Bound Targets: Setting a timeframe can add urgency and focus. A deadline can propel action, whether a five-year career trajectory or a monthly financial saving target.
  7. Beyond Professional Goals: While career and professional development goals are vital, remember to nurture goals in other areas of life. This holistic approach ensures growth in all dimensions.
  8. Leveraging SMART: While the article challenges traditional goal-setting approaches, there’s value in using the SMART framework as a tool, especially when rooted in genuine intent.
  9. Communication Skills: As you set and pursue goals, effective communication skills become crucial. Whether expressing your aspirations, seeking support, or collaborating on shared objectives, honing your communication is vital.

The True Essence of Personal Goals

“Goals that resonate are not just pursued; they’re lived.”

All Aboard the Goal Train

An abstract representation of a train on tracks, depicted as a dynamic fusion of geometric shapes and bold colors.

Picture yourself at a bustling train station, with tracks stretching out to countless destinations. There’s a train bound for “Weight Loss Ville,” another chugging toward “Learn Guitar Town,” and one more all set for “Write a Novel City.” The air is thick with anticipation, with everyone eager to board their chosen train. But have you ever paused to wonder why?

More Than Just a Destination

At their core, goals aren’t merely about achievements or tangible outcomes. They reflect our values, desires, and the narratives we wish to weave. They transcend fleeting whims or external pressures, representing destinations that resonate deeply.

Gym Goals: A Deep Dive

Consider the classic goal of hitting the gym four times a week. On the surface, it’s commendable. But delve a bit deeper. Its foundation might wobble if driven by societal expectations or a passing trend. Contrast that with the same goal, rooted in a personal recovery journey or the invigorating feeling of strength. The difference? Pure, authentic connection.

From Streams to Oceans

Think of it as the difference between a shallow stream and a vast ocean. Both are bodies of water, but the depth and richness of the ocean are unparalleled. When we truly connect with our goals, they transform from tasks to be ticked off into adventures that infuse life with purpose.

Charting a Personal Course

And that’s where the magic lies. It’s not about following the herd or ticking boxes. It’s about crafting achievable goals that align with your internal compass with the narrative you’re eager to live out.

Unpacking the ‘Why’ Behind Personal Development Goals

“Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

Beyond the Surface

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Start with why.” It’s not just a trendy catchphrase; it’s the backbone of every genuine aspiration. Let’s face it: it’s easy to list goals. Anyone can jot down dreams on a piece of paper. But the real magic? It’s hidden in the reasons behind those dreams.

The Power of Motivation

Think about it. Two individuals could have the same goal: let’s say, running a marathon. But if one person does it to tick off a bucket list item and the other is running in memory of a loved one, their journeys will feel worlds apart. The depth of motivation, the fire fueling the pursuit, differentiates a fleeting whim from a burning passion.

Digging Deeper

High resolution, close up image of a construction worker at job site working on the foundation of a building. Represents digging deep to set personal goals.

As you set achievable personal goals, challenge yourself to dig deeper. Instead of asking, “What do I want to achieve?” ponder, Why do I want to achieve it?” In those quiet moments of reflection, the true essence of your goals comes to light.

Aligning with Your Core

Your goals should be extensions of your values, desires, and the larger narrative of your life. If you’re striving for something that doesn’t align with who you are or aspire to be, the journey might feel like a constant uphill battle. But when there’s alignment? Every challenge becomes an opportunity, every setback a lesson.

Your Personal Compass

Remember, the goals you set aren’t just about reaching a destination. They ensure the journey aligns with your compass, guiding you toward a path that leads to success, fulfillment, and growth.

Neuroscience of Goal Setting

 “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins.

The Brain’s Blueprint

A photorealistic portrayal of a digital representation of the human brain, displayed on a high-resolution screen representing the role of the brain in setting and achieving goals.

You might wonder, why bring science into a conversation about personal aspirations? Because, believe it or not, our brains are intricately wired to set and pursue goals. Understanding this can offer invaluable insights into our journeys.

Not Just Mind Over Matter

It’s a common adage: “It’s all in the mind.” And while there’s truth to it, it’s not just about willpower or determination. Our brains possess specific structures and circuits that are pivotal in goal-setting.

The Goal-Setting Hubs

Based on insights from the Huberman Lab podcast on setting goals and broader neuroscience research, several critical areas in our brain are central to our goal-oriented behaviors:

  • The Amygdala controls our emotional responses, driving both our fears and passions.
  • The Basal Ganglia, with its “Go” and “No-Go” pathways, helps us decide when to act and pause.
  • The Lateral Prefrontal Cortex aids in planning, allowing us to map our journey towards our goals.
  • Lastly, the Orbital Frontal Cortex evaluates our emotional states about our goal pursuits, acting as a feedback mechanism.

Why This Matters

You might think, “Interesting, but how does this help me?” Recognizing that our brains are naturally equipped for goal-setting can be empowering. It means that with the right strategies and understanding, we can align with our brain’s natural inclinations, making the journey toward our goals smoother and more intuitive.

Tapping into Our Inner Wiring

As we explore further, we’ll dive into practical, actionable strategies that resonate with our brain’s innate goal-setting mechanisms. It’s not about fighting against our nature but harmonizing with it.

Moving from Intention to Action

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo.

The Gap Most Miss

We’ve all been there: inspired by a late-night documentary, a conversation with a friend, or maybe even a dream, we jot down a goal with genuine enthusiasm. Fast forward a few weeks, and that goal is gathering dust somewhere. It’s a tale as old as time, but why does it keep repeating?

The Power of Intention

Intention is potent. It’s the spark, the initial catalyst. But as any science enthusiast will tell you, a spark alone doesn’t keep the fire burning. For that, you need fuel; in goal-setting, that fuel is taking action.

The Hurdles Along the Way

It’s not that we don’t want to act. Often, the path from intention to action is littered with obstacles—doubts, external pressures, or even the sheer weight of daily routines. Recognizing these barriers is the first step to overcoming them.

Small Steps, Big Leaps

While it’s tempting to envision a grand transformation overnight, reality often has other plans. And that’s okay. Sometimes, the smallest actions can lead to the most profound changes. It’s about consistency, about showing up for yourself, day in and day out.

The Mind’s Tricks

As brilliant as they are, our minds have a peculiar quirk: they often overestimate what can be done in a day and underestimate what can be achieved in a year. Recognizing this can help recalibrate our approach, allowing us to set realistic daily objectives while keeping our eyes on the grander prize.

Taking the Plunge

Moving from intention to action is a leap of faith—faith in oneself. It’s about trusting your journey, embracing the uncertainties, and celebrating every step, no matter how small. Because as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Single Goal Focus

 “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Les Brown.

The Allure of Multitasking

In our hyper-connected, fast-paced world, multitasking is often hailed as the ultimate skill. The ability to juggle multiple tasks, switch between projects, and keep several balls in the air is celebrated. But this approach might be doing more harm than good regarding personal goals.

The Myth of Spreading Thin

Think of your energy and focus as a beam of light. When scattered in multiple directions, its intensity diminishes. But when concentrated on a single point? It can ignite fires, power lasers, and illuminate the darkest corners. Similarly, when we spread our energies across numerous goals, the intensity and effectiveness of our efforts can wane.

The Neuroscience Nudge

Remember our earlier dive into the brain’s goal-setting mechanisms? Our minds are optimized for focus. By honing in on one primary goal, we align with our brain’s natural inclination, making the journey smoother and the destination more attainable.

The Power of One

It might sound counterintuitive, but we can often achieve more by zeroing in on one primary goal. It’s not about limiting ourselves but about prioritizing, about understanding what truly matters at a given moment in our journey.

Embracing Depth over Breadth

Diving deep can be a radical act in a world that often values breadth. By dedicating ourselves to a singular goal, we allow ourselves the luxury of depth, truly understanding, and immersing ourselves in our pursuit. And often, it’s in these depths that genuine transformation occurs.

Questioning the Quo: Your Personal Odyssey

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman.

The Comfort of Familiarity

We humans are creatures of habit. We find solace in the familiar, often sticking to safe patterns and routines. And while there’s comfort in predictability, personal growth often demands that we venture beyond.

Holding Up the Mirror

The reflection of a mannequin in a large, ornate mirror representing hold up the mirror in personal goal setting.

This isn’t just another article you’ll read, nod in agreement, and then move on. It’s a call to action, a gentle nudge (or perhaps a more forceful push) to hold up a mirror and truly examine the reflection staring back. Are your goals truly yours or borrowed from societal expectations, peer pressures, or fleeting trends?

The Litmus Test

Here’s a challenge: Think of a personal goal you’ve set for yourself. Now, ask yourself, “Why?” If your answer is a surface-level response like “because everyone’s doing it” or “it sounds good,” dig deeper. Keep asking “why” until you reach the core, the raw and unfiltered reason that genuinely resonates with your being.

Breaking Free from the Mold

It’s easy to follow a template, to walk the path that’s been trodden countless times. But remember, just because it’s a well-worn path doesn’t mean it’s your path. Breaking free from the mold and daring to carve your journey requires courage. It’s about listening to that inner voice, even when it whispers amidst the cacophony of external voices.

Your Authentic Journey

At Be Your Own Invention, we believe in the unique brilliance within each individual. So, as you stand at the crossroads of intention and action, dreams and reality, ask yourself: Are you ready to embark on an authentic journey, one that’s genuinely yours? Because that’s where the magic lies.

Set Personal Goals: Fictional Case Study – Jamie’s Journey from Trend-Chasing to True Passion

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” – Bill Copeland.

An artistic, minimalistic portrayal of Jamie in the fictional author case study.

The Quest for Intellectual Validation

An ardent reader, Jamie had always been enamored by the idea of becoming an author. Drawn to the intellectual allure and the promise of social recognition, he decided to write a book on a currently trending topic: AI’s role in modern society. It seemed like a lucrative niche, and Jamie imagined the praise and admiration they’d receive once the book was out.

However, as the weeks turned into months, the manuscript remained stagnant. The initial chapters felt forced, and the narrative was disjointed. Jamie realized they were writing not out of genuine interest but a desire for external validation. The book project soon fizzled out, leaving behind a trail of disappointment.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A year later, Jamie visited their childhood home during a summer break. He stumbled upon an old, dusty trunk filled with books of mysteries, adventures, and tales of suspense. Memories flooded back. Jamie remembered the countless hours spent buried in these books, living the experiences, feeling the suspense, and solving mysteries.

It was a stark contrast to the AI book attempt. Jamie’s true passion lay in this trunk—a love for mystery and suspense that adult aspirations and societal expectations had overshadowed.

Crafting with Authenticity

A young child expressing childlike wonder in a fantasy world. Used in the fictional case study of Jamie the author.

Inspired, Jamie decided to pen a mystery novel. Drawing from rekindling childlike wonder, personal experiences, memories, and the essence of the mysteries from their childhood, he began crafting a story. Each chapter flowed seamlessly, and the narrative was compelling. Writing was no longer a chore but a journey they looked forward to each day.

The end product was a book and a piece of Jamie’s soul. “Echoes from the Past,” a gripping mystery novel intertwining modern challenges with nostalgia, was born.

The Unexpected Outcome

The book was not just completed; it resonated with his personal goals. Readers appreciated Jamie’s authenticity, genuine passion, and unique voice. Moreover, it was evident that the story wasn’t written for validation but from a place of true love and passion for the genre.

“Echoes from the Past” established Jamie as a promising new author in the mystery genre and served as a testament to the magic that happens when one aligns with one’s true passions.

7 Purposeful Examples of Personal Goals

We all have dreams and aspirations. But there’s something special about personal life goals that truly resonate with us. They’re not just tasks to tick off but deep reflections of who we are as we work toward what we genuinely desire. And while any goal can get us moving, the ones that come from our heart and soul? Those personal goals are the game-changers. As we dive deeper into personal goals and goal-setting, let’s explore some personal goal examples that perfectly capture this heartfelt connection between intention and action.

  1. Reconnecting with Roots:
    • Goal: Dedicate one evening a week to learn about my family’s heritage, traditions, and stories, aiming to create a family tree or memoir by the end of the year.
    • Deep Intention: To understand where I come from, celebrate my ancestry, and preserve our stories for future generations.
  2. Mindful Consumption:
    • Goal: Reduce the use of single-use plastics in daily life by 80% over the next six months.
    • Deep Intention: To live in harmony with the planet, reduce my ecological footprint, and set an example for my community.
  3. Holistic Health:
    • Goal: Incorporate meditation and mindfulness practices into my daily routine, aiming for at least 15 minutes daily.
    • Deep Intention: To cultivate mental peace, enhance emotional resilience, and lead a more balanced life.
  4. Passion Projects:
    • Goal: Dedicate two hours every weekend to my love for painting to curate a personal exhibition by year’s end.
    • Deep Intention: To express my emotions, experiences, and perspectives through art and share my vision with the world.
  5. Lifelong Learning:
    • Goal: Enroll in a local or online course to learn a new language or skill I’ve always been fascinated by, aiming for proficiency in a year.
    • Deep Intention: To challenge my brain, immerse in a new culture or discipline, and expand my horizons.
  6. Purposeful Relationships:
    • Goal: Set aside quality time for my loved ones through weekly family dinners or monthly get-togethers, ensuring I’m fully present.
    • Deep Intention: To strengthen bonds, create lasting memories, and nurture the relationships that truly matter.
  7. Authentic Expression:
    • Goal: Start a personal blog or journal, writing at least once a week, to reflect on my experiences, thoughts, and journey.
    • Deep Intention: To find my voice, process my experiences, and connect with others on a deeper level.

The Paradox of Goal Achievement

 “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Les Brown.

The Surface-Level Assumption

It’s a common belief: Set personal goals, work hard, and you’ll achieve them. But anyone who’s set foot on the path of personal growth knows it’s rarely that straightforward. The journey is dotted with twists, turns, and surprising revelations. And sometimes, the most profound lessons emerge from the most unexpected quarters.

More than Just the Destination

We’ve all heard it: “It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.” But what does it really mean? Setting personal goals underscores the idea that while achieving a goal is rewarding, the insights, experiences, and personal growth that come along the way are equally, if not more, valuable.

The Hidden Layers

Take Jamie’s journey, for instance. On the surface, his goal was to write a book. But in the process, he reconnected with his childhood passions, learned about his true motivations, and discovered his authentic voice. The completed book was just one layer of achievement; the more profound layers were the self-discoveries and personal evolution.

The Real Success

Success isn’t just about ticking off boxes or reaching milestones when setting personal goals. It’s about the resilience built along the way, the adaptability developed, and the more profound understanding of oneself. It’s about confronting challenges, overcoming them, and emerging stronger. It’s about the stories you can tell, the wisdom you gain, and the person you become.

Embracing the Paradox

So, as you work on setting personal goals, embrace this paradox. Recognize that while achieving your goal will be sweet, the trip will be rich with lessons, insights, and transformative experiences. Often, these treasures stay with you long after the goal has been achieved.

Conclusion: Set Personal Goals to Craft Your Unique Narrative

Every individual, every soul on this planet, carries a unique narrative. Our goals, dreams, and aspirations are the chapters of this ever-evolving story. But as we’ve journeyed through the intricacies of goal setting, one truth stands out: not all chapters are written with the same ink. External pressures, fleeting trends, or the desire for validation drive some. But the most impactful, the most resonant chapters? They stem from a place of authenticity, passion, and genuine desire.

As you stand at the crossroads of intention and action, armed with insights from neuroscience, the wisdom of singular focus, and the understanding of the profound journey that goal-setting is, remember this: Your goals are not just tasks or milestones. They are declarations, promises you make to yourself to achieve success. And when these promises resonate with the core of your being, the journey becomes as transformative as the destination.

So, take a moment. Reflect. Dive deep into the waters of self-awareness and introspection. In these depths, you’ll find the personal goals worth pursuing, the dreams genuinely worth chasing.

At Be Your Own Invention, we believe in the power of the individual narrative, the magic that unfolds when you align with your true self. As you embark on your goal-setting adventure, remember that you’re not just setting goals but crafting chapters of your unique story. And the world is eager to read it.

Wayne Ergle

Wayne firmly believes that each of us possesses extraordinary gifts and talents, just waiting to be unleashed upon the world. But life's hurdles often obstruct our path to greatness. That's why he birthed Be Your Own Invention – to ignite the flames of motivation in everyone's transformation journey. Wayne’s transformation story includes conquering a 20-year battle with severe alcohol addiction, emerging triumphant and sober since 2018.