How to set goals and achieve them, with a life coach

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No matter what month it is, it’s always great to take a moment to reflect on how to set goals and achieve them. We chatted with life coach Valerie Friedlander, who works with women who want to make an impact. She explains what can get in the way of reaching our goals and how to overcome that with a major mindset shift.

As a life coach, what kind of mistakes do you see in goal-setting? And what are the solutions?

Even if we theoretically know how to set goals and achieve them, we run into challenges for how to get there. That can mean prioritizing “me time,” people-pleasing others over ourselves, or just not knowing how to get where we want to be.

Mistake 1: Selling yourself short

A lot of times, we make goals of off what we think we can have versus what we actually want. Instead of wondering what’s possible, we immediately start with what’s wrong that I can fix? We think that setting goals like this will help us be happier or more fulfilled. Or that it’s all we have room for because we’re super stressed. But when we do this, we’re not really finding our purpose or what excites us.

A question I ask my clients is: If you weren’t so stressed, what would you be? So many women say: I don’t know. But even though the answer is hard, that’s the real question. Because the goals that matter most to us aren’t really about a destination. Ultimately, we want our goals to enrich our experience of life. That’s what it’s really about. And for most of us, that’s the first mindset piece. You have to know what you want. Less of who do you want to be and more of what do you want your life to look like and how do you want to feel? Then, you can build action steps to get there.

Mistake 2: Making goals that please everyone but you

Women are conditioned to be self-sacrificing, and it’s hard to get out of that habit. We’re wired and conditioned to think we’re supposed to be responsible for everyone else. We think, “If I please all the people and make everyone okay, then I will be okay, too.” And we end up trying to set our New Year’s goals or resolutions to reflect that mindset. They become about trying to fix everything and everyone’s problems. But those aren’t really goals. You end up in a cycle of working hard to make others happy. It doesn’t work. Because there’s no way to be responsible for someone else’s feelings. It’s not possible. We don’t have control over what others feel.

Trying to control things we cannot control gets you stuck in a “this, then” mindset. And that’s basically saying that my “okay-ness” is based in other people’s okay-ness. People-pleasing can feel highly motivating because of our brain’s chemical response to making others feel happy.

Or, another thing is we’ll set goals around making other people happy because of what it means about us if we don’t. So, we put ourselves in a box so we don’t ruffle any feathers. We decide to stick with what we think we can have but necessarily what we really want. We may dream big but we don’t take action because we prioritize safety. We don’t ever get further than that. But I always ask: And if you did manage to make everyone happy, how would you feel? What would be true about you? And that puts us in a place where we can start to find our purpose or what is important to us and let go of the need to please everyone else.

Mistake 3: Not setting expectations before you set your goals

After “what do I want?” comes “what do I need to do to get it?” I get it. I’s hard to even find a minute of “me” time. Time for how to set goals and achieve them can sound overwhelming. Your kid is banging on the door, and there’s a meltdown. Or maybe your job is crazy right now. But we’re setting an expectation that this is dedicated time for you and your needs. Maybe you order takeout to make that happen. Maybe mom isn’t available for an hour. Daddy is available for that time. Or grandma. Or the babysitter. These expectations are hard to set, but you have to give yourself permission to do it.

Mistake 4: Putting your goals aside because you don’t know what to do to reach them

We’ve all been here: I want to do this thing, but I can’t make myself actually do it. A lot of times, procrastination can be about fear. When we’re unsure about something, the most comfortable thing to do is avoid it. But this also happens because your brain only sees the end goal. It’s jumped eight steps ahead instead of one.

You think, well I’m not superhuman. I can’t get there. But you can. We forget: there are always stairs. You just have to find the staircase you want to take and what’s the next actionable step. When we look at the very next step, you’re able to put your energy where it needs to. You can only do exactly what’s necessary and no more. That way, you have space to stretch in this new direction.

Mistake 5: Worrying too much about what other people think

“What assumptions am I making?” “What about what they think matters to me?” What other people think is about them and how you experience it is about you. You can’t control them or what they think about you. All you can do is your part to show up in integrity and aligned with the person you want to be. Not everyone will get you and that’s okay. It doesn’t make either of you bad, it just means they may not be your people. This is especially hard with family but just as true.

Are there any other patterns women should be aware of to learn how to set goals and achieve them?

Figuring out what is really important to you means getting curious about who you are and what you want. When learning how to set goals, judgment and curiosity cannot exist in the same space. It doesn’t work. When we label situations or thoughts with phrases like this is wrong or this is bad, our brains shut down our ability to inquire and see options. You activate your fight-or-flight response. But as soon as you start asking yourself questions and getting curious, you activate parts of your brain that think outside of the survival-mode box you can get stuck in.

Another thing is that many women feel like they need to be everything to everyone in their lives. But that’s not realistic. Setting boundaries can help us create room for what matters most. Are you a bad wife and mother if you set the expectation that an hour a day is set aside for your goals? Absolutely not. You wouldn’t say that to a friend, so don’t accept it from yourself either.

Also, goals can be simple and don’t have to be tangible. Remember: goals are about what you want your life experience to be. I work with women who want to make a difference in their lives. For some, that’s a specific career move. Others want to be more present with their families. And some want to find more flow in all areas of their lives. All of these are valid, have an impact, and most importantly, can make us feel good–and that’s really what setting goals is about.

With Valerie Friedlander CPC, ELMP
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