5 Types of Goals for the Recovering Perfectionist: How to Overcome Goal Planning Anxiety
What is it about goal planning that paralyzes us?
We go into the new year bright eyed and bushy tailed, but when it comes to writing down what we want to achieve--crickets. How can we ask the perfectionist within us to take the back seat and chasing what we want most out of our lives, especially at the risk of being imperfect?
The Passion Roadmap goal setting exercise is one of my favorite ways to start anew. The activity allows us to deep dive into goals centered around your dreams and desires. Within the first few pages of the Passion Planner, we are posed with two questions:
“If I could be anything, do anything, or have anything, what would it be?”
“What goal is going to make the most positive impact on your life right now?”
These are not easy questions to answer. While they do require some thought, we can put more pressure on ourselves than we need to. In this article, we’ll break down how to set goals (minus the stress) and the different types of goals you can create.
What are Goals
Let’s get back to basics for a moment. What are goals? I won't waste your time with a Merriam Webster definition--I think on the surface we all know what a goal is: an end result we're working towards.
Though dictionary definitions tell us what something is, they don't tell us how we make meaning of the word in our own lives. This is why we Google words like “relationships,” “productivity,” or “antiracism.” It’s why we’ve read countless goal setting articles but never turned to the dictionary. We don’t just want to know what something is—we also want to know why it matters. Or rather, how we make it matter.
Simply knowing what a goal is won’t help us achieve it.
So here’s a more important question to ask yourself: what are goals to you? What do your goals mean to you?
How to Create Goals that Matter
In Atomic Habits, James Clear states that the most effective habits are identity driven habits. For example, if a person identifies as an artist, one of their habits may be drawing every morning. Our habits are a manifestation of our beliefs about ourselves. They're an investment in the person we’d like to become.
No amount of productivity hacks can motivate us to build habits we are emotionally disconnected from.
Defining goals is the same way. If we are setting a goal from a place of shame or fear, we have centered our ambitions around what another person thinks of us, not who we truly are. We are, as the saying goes, “shoulding” ourselves. I’ve participated in the should-storm more times than I can count. An offhand remark at Thanksgiving propels me into a week of salads and miserable HIIT workouts. A week later, my efforts fizzle out. (Surprise, surprise.)
Before you define goals in your Passion Roadmap, ask yourself the following questions.
- Who would I like to be? Who am I becoming?
- Who am I proud to be?
- What aspects of my life excite me the most?
- In which part(s) of my identity do I want to invest my time and effort?
Going into this new year, I am exploring my identity as a creative writer. It is a lifelong passion of mine and a part of myself that I cherish. You may be different. Maybe you’re an organizing maven. A supportive and present parent. An assertive community leader. A die-hard knitter. Focus your goals around parts of yourself that give you meaning and joy. You may find the pressure of setting a goal transforming into excitement to get started!
5 Types of Goals for the Recovering Perfectionist
So you've identified the goals that light you up, but maybe are still feel the anxiety of committing to them. Even for a structure-lover like me, goals (especially the SMART kind) can feel like trapping myself in a box. If the last few years have taught us recovering perfectionists anything, it's that plans don’t always work out the way we mean them to. That’s why we’re reframing the specific, measurable, time-bound goals we’re used to into a more flexible goal plan.
Here are 5 types of goal setting to make your plans more adaptable from the get-go.
1. Ballpark Goals: Range Over Result
One way we can escape the claustrophobic nature of setting goals is to be a little less specific. Instead of choosing one deadline or metric, identify a range instead. I call these Ballpark Goals because we won’t hit all our goals out of the park every time (if you'll forgive the pun). But we almost always will hit it within.
Choose a range beginning from what you consider more than achievable and ending at a high expectation of your abilities. This way, your goal is easy to attain but leaves you enough flexibility to build on your existing efforts.
Goal Setting Examples for Ballpark Goals
- Make a home cooked meal 2-4 times a week.
- Finish holiday shopping between September 30th to November 30th.
- Walk/run 3-8 miles per week.
2. Microgoals: Turn Small Steps Into Leaps
When we make goals, we often go straight for the big guns: Write a book! Double my savings! Start my own business! Of course we can do anything we set our minds to with the right resources, but when the year goes by and we haven’t done that big thing, we can feel like a failure.
This happened to me when I set the goal of reading 4 books a month. I strayed away from longer reads because I wouldn’t hit my goal, even if it was a book I've always wanted to read. I kicked myself whenever I gave up on reading a boring book because it was time I could’ve spent reading a book I’d finish. That’s when I realized I was tracking the wrong metric.
Instead of books completed, I started to track pages read, even for books I didn’t finish. Reframe small steps into milestones and make them their own standalone goals, or as I call them, microgoals. Break down books to pages. Miles to steps. Meditation sessions to deep breaths. Adjusting what we measure may be what makes all the difference.
Goal Setting Examples for Microgoals
- Read 7K book pages by the end of the year. (Equivalent to about 26 novels.)
- Walk 100K steps this month. (Equivalent to about 50 miles.)
- Take 3 deep breaths at the beginning of each day.
3. GameChanger Goals: Focus On One
At Passion Planner, we define your GameChanger goal as the goal that would have the most positive impact on your life right now. The reason why goals can be overwhelming is because we make too many. We want to be everything to everyone, including ourselves. We want to eat right, workout, be a devoted partner, parent, or both, and then some.
The point of the GameChanger is to give us the power to name the one goal that’s going to make all the difference. Choose one identity-driven goal to which you’ll devote all your energy. Not only will you find clarity, you’ll have a defined outcome of where to direct your efforts.
4. Detour Goals: Reframe “Mistakes” Into Metrics
When we make goals, we usually track what goes right. The trouble I’ve found with this is that when I go to look at my goals, what I track does not capture the amount of effort I put towards it. For example, if my goal is to “land a counseling job,” and I don’t get one, I’ve disregarded the 43 job applications I filled out that year.
Detour goals are a reframing of our “failures.” In his hilarious TED Talk, Jia Jiang explains how he transformed his biggest curse, rejection, into a gift. He even made it into a measurable metric with 100 Days of Rejection. He made failing fun and we can too. Track your detours and challenges as if they were a natural part of your plan. When we befriend our mistakes, we propel ourselves to the success we are searching for.
Goal Setting Examples for Detour Goals
- Receive 14 job rejection letters.
- Create your own version of a “Never Again” folder.
- Fall into a pillow 7 times per week while practicing crow pose.
5. Mood Goals: Embrace Your Feels
One of my favorite life coach entrepreneurs Kayley Robsham bases her business around the phrase, “feelings as outcomes.” As someone who had SMART goals drilled into me my entire adult life, I found this concept eye opening. It never occurred to me that I can create a goal around my emotions.
The premise of a mood goal is asking yourself, “How do you want to feel?” vs. “What do you want to accomplish?” When you identify the mood you’re striving for, you can then find habits and goals that work towards that feeling. If your mood goal is to feel relaxed, you can then list all of the activities that make you feel at peace and schedule them into your day. Use our free Year in Pixels PDF download and track your mood goals.
Be Your Own Version of #Goals
When it comes to goals, it isn’t a battle between structure and flexibility. It’s a combination of both. Passion Planner isn’t about working ourselves to the bone, nor is it letting ourselves rest on our laurels. It’s a journey over which we have the power to choose our pace and destination. Writing our goals down may be daunting, but we can recognize that writing on a piece of paper does not define us.
What’s one goal you’re setting for the new year? Let us know in the comments!
Paula Palomar is a copywriter with Passion Planner. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing and watching British period dramas on the couch.