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  • rebecca lian

Who-Based Goals

What if we shifted our goals from what we want to do to who we want to become? From where we want to be in five years to who we want to be? What if we let go of tangible outcomes as the goal, and instead saw them as a side effect of being the person we've set out to become?

After 2020, I feel like it’s important to take goal-setting in a different direction. I know many of us have probably already made our goals for 2021 and written down some New Year’s resolutions, but hear me out… 2020 taught us a lot about recognizing what we can and can't control. When it comes to goals, the whole point is for us to reach them. We can only ensure that if we’re in control which can be tricky sometimes depending on how we set our goals.

We’re usually taught that goals must be actionable and measurable – I think that’s important, but I think it’s even more important to get creative about the way we measure these goals and the outcomes we’re focused on. Because if we don’t reach these goals by a certain time, then we may become overwhelmed with disappointment and just throw out the goal altogether. And we don't want that.

I'm not trying to diss any goals you've set for yourself, or tell you that you can't reach them. I'm just encouraging you to consider shifting your mindset when it comes to goals.

Example 1: Traveling

One of my favorite examples of this mindset shift is traveling. Maybe you set a goal to visit a certain number of cities, states, or countries in 2020 – then the world basically shut down and told you that you couldn’t travel. Pre-COVID many of us probably thought money was the main factor that could affect our ability to travel. Most likely, none of us thought there would be a pandemic causing nationwide lockdowns and travel bans around the world. That’s a pretty big factor in our ability to travel, and completely out of our control. I know it seriously bummed a lot of us out including myself.

So, what if we shifted the goal a bit? What do you get out of traveling? For me, the first thing that comes to mind is adventure. Maybe that’s what you really want. What if the goal became focused on adventure and we looked for other ways to achieve that? What if we became a tourist in our own town and changed our perspective a bit? I think you might be surprised by your ability to be adventurous.

During quarantine and furlough last year, I went on so many walks and runs outside. When the park by my house opened back up, I was always exploring there on foot or even on my bike. I also drove up and down A1A with my dog, Frankie, riding shotgun. I genuinely enjoyed myself and considered each walk, run, bike ride, and drive an adventure of their own. Believe me when I say I absolutely cannot wait to travel again and see the world – but that's not going to stop me from seeking adventure in my everyday life.

Some of us feel comfortable traveling during these times, while others don't just yet. It's okay if you're hesitant to travel but still crave adventure – we have the ability to create our own adventures no matter where we are. So maybe consider shifting your goal from seeing x number of countries to being more adventurous. Remember: Adventure is an attitude.

Example 2: Weight Loss

Weight loss is another popular goal. "I want to lose x pounds by this date." But why do you want to lose weight? Most likely it’s to improve your health, your confidence, or both. Focusing on the number can take such a toll though and be discouraging if you’re not hitting certain checkpoints on your timeline. What if you focused instead on making healthy choices along with exploring different ways to build confidence?

If you're eating a salad for lunch when you’d rather be eating a burger, don’t think about the number on the scale. You’ll just resent the salad more and more with each bite. Instead, think about the version of yourself you’re doing it for. It doesn’t even have to be a future version. Why not make it the present version of yourself? It’s not for your future “skinny” self. It’s for your current healthy self. It's because you love yourself and you want to care for your body with nutritious food.

On the flip side though, don't think that if you order a brownie a la mode for dessert that you're failing or setting yourself back. You're allowed to enjoy yourself! I think maybe that's where confidence comes into play. Maybe even the health focus too. You can treat yourself without feeling like you're cheating on your diet. I really do believe in making lifestyle changes rather than going on diets though. A diet is short-term and can be really difficult to stay on track with because you're so focused on the number as the outcome. A lifestyle change is focused on the bigger picture; you're focused on the type of person you want to be as the outcome. Your motivation is more intrinsic – the numbers will follow by default. Your weight loss becomes a side effect of being healthy. I'm no dietitian or professional in this field by any means. That's just my two cents.

Anyhoo, I hope you see what I'm trying to get at here with these two examples!

That's the cool thing about this way of goal setting – the goals are based more on who you want to identify as rather than what you want to do. You let this identity determine your actions. By working on becoming the type of person you want to be, those things you want to do will follow more naturally as a side effect of who you're becoming.

This mindset actually made me think a lot about Disney Pixar's new movie, "Soul." The main character, Joe Gardner, is so focused on reaching his life’s biggest goal of playing music professionally. *Spoiler Alert* – When he finally accomplishes that, he’s so happy and asks the leader of the band “what’s next,” to which she replies, “we come back tomorrow and do it again.” It was clear that was not the answer he was expecting, and he seemed very underwhelmed, maybe even a little confused why he didn't feel the way he expected to feel. He spent his whole life believing playing music on that stage was his purpose. In his eyes, that was the meaning of his life. So why didn't it feel that way anymore?

Joe Gardner ends up learning a lot about life from a new soul, Twenty-Two, who originally had no interest in going to Earth. Twenty-Two didn't understand what was so great about the human experience and was very skeptical when it came to figuring out what their purpose would be on Earth. This new soul accidentally ends up on Earth though and experiences smell, taste, human connection, and nature. All of a sudden, Twenty-Two understood. I don't want to spoil any more than I already have, so I'll stop there. I highly recommend watching it if you haven't already though – don't forget the tissues.

The main point I want to make is that Joe Gardner was so focused on his one goal of playing at The Half Note that when he caught a glimpse of his life, he felt like there was nothing to celebrate. He loves music, and he's so passionate about it which is wonderful. Don't get me wrong, passion is so important! But our passion isn't the only thing that makes us who we are. It doesn't define us, and it's not the meaning of our life. The meaning of our is to give our life meaning. And there is no one purpose for our lives – we have the ability to create purpose for ourselves each day we're lucky enough to wake up.

So, consider this when you’re setting goals and working towards making your dreams come true. Don't get bogged down by tangible outcomes; it's all about the process – who you are and who you're becoming. You could end up in the hall of fame for whatever it is you want, but that's not necessarily what will define your life. What defines your life are moments – what you make of them and the meaning you give them.

When you look back on your life, what do you want to see? Do you want to remember the year you traveled to 5 different countries or the year you had 1,000 different adventures both thousands of miles away and right down the street, all because you decided adventure is who you are not what you do? Do you want to remember the year you lost 20 pounds or the year you picked up healthy habits and became more confident than you had ever been before? The decision is yours.


*In addition to Disney Pixar's"Soul," which was mentioned, I also found a great deal of inspiration from the book "Atomic Habits" which I'm only a couple of chapters into so far.


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