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5 Types of Goals for Going with the Flow: How to Overcome Goal Planning Anxiety

5 Types of Goals for Going with the Flow: How to Overcome Goal Planning Anxiety

My friends and I had a Passion Planning party the other night. We were bright-eyed and bushy tailed as we mused about the possibilities of the New Year. Inspired, we shuffled through the pages of our freshly-opened Passion Planners. The prospect of stickers and color coding resembled the warmth of Christmas decorating. As we turned to the Passion Roadmap, the glow of promise on my friends’ faces fizzled to gray. With an exasperated sigh, my friend lamented, “The Passion RoadMap stresses me out.” Stunned by the shift in atmosphere, I asked myself, “What is it about goal planning that paralyzes us?”  

The Passion Roadmap is one of the many signature features of the Passion Planner. It allows us to deep dive into goals centered around your dreams and desires. Within the first few pages of the Passion Planner, we answer 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 them 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? This is how the Merriam Webster dictionary defines it: the end toward which effort is directed. Seems easy enough. 

Dictionary definitions tell us what something is, but not 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 ourselves: what are goals to us? What do our goals mean to us?

Making Goals that Matter

In Atomic Habits, James Clear states that the most effective habits are identity driven habits. 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 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 HIIT workouts. A week later, my efforts fizzle out.

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 to Overcome Goal-Setting Anxiety

We’ve found the goals that light us up, but maybe we 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 2020 has taught us 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 goal range instead. I call these ballpark goals because we won’t hit our goals out of the park every time so to speak. 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. 

Ballpark Goal Setting Examples

  • 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. 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. 

Microgoal Setting Examples

  • 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.  

Detour Goal Setting Examples

  • 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.

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!

Author Bio

Paula Votendahl is a copywriter with Passion Planner. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing and watching British period dramas on the couch.

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