Reframing Goals vs Quitting
In my coaching sessions with clients, I often encounter folks who are struggling with following through on goals they’ve set for themselves. They’ve done the work of identifying meaningful goals and creating a plan, but for whatever reasons they haven’t been able to move forward with achieving what they’ve set out to do. This is usually accompanied by feelings of frustration and disappointment, and thoughts that they have “failed” somehow because they haven’t made progress. At this stage in their process, they believe it is easier to just quit.
Here’s the thing about quitting: Not all quitting is negative. When we think in terms of letting go of unhealthy habits or patterns, quitting is actually a good thing. Knowing when to let go of something is a sign that we are in touch with our desires and needs. When it comes to achieving our goals, however, it’s helpful to dig a little deeper and understand whether we really want to quit or if our goals just need to be reframed.
When I talk about reframing in the context of goal-setting, I’m not just speaking of breaking goals down into smaller action steps. Reframing is a process of shifting one’s perspective and taking a different view of something which seems to be stuck. It’s recognizing that maybe there’s another way to look at what we want and find a path toward it.
So often, we get attached to the idea of a goal or achievement. We have all kinds of thoughts about what it would mean to do or have or be something. We have to ask ourselves why we want something and what it is we hope to experience by obtaining it. We need to be clear about where our beliefs around our goals are coming from. Sometimes they come from outside of ourselves - “If I achieve this thing, then I will seem successful, responsible, smart, etc.” Sometimes our goals are shaped by other people’s hopes for us or themselves. And sometimes we’ve held onto a goal for so long that we’ve lost our connection to the meaning and motivation behind it.
Our goal may need to change because we’ve changed.
Is there a goal you have that you’ve been struggling to make progress with? You know the one - it’s been on your to-do lists and plans for a long time, you’ve talked about it with friends and family, you’ve imagined what it would be like to achieve it, but you just can’t seem to move forward? Maybe it’s time to reframe it. Here are some ways to start that process:
Dig deeper. Reflect on the goal and explore your feelings and thoughts about it. When did you first create it? What was it that inspired you to create it? What is it that you want to experience with the goal? A feeling? A certain quality of life? A sense of accomplishment? Are those things still important to you now? Do you believe you can achieve your goal? Be honest with yourself.
Break it down. What are the different elements of the goal and the desired experience? For example, if you want to get your master’s degree, the different elements of that goal might include taking a class and being in an intellectually stimulating environment, reading and writing about a subject that excites and interests you, or finding and working with a mentor. See what the different elements inspire within you - maybe each one is an individual goal in itself. Is there a way to bring the desired experience into your life right now?
Explore the possibilities. If you created a goal based on a desired feeling, what are other ways you can experience that feeling? What are some actions you can take today (or this week or this month) to bring you closer to experiencing that? If your goal is to spend 6 months of the year traveling, what are all the different ways that could look? Could that look like taking a trip to a different place every weekend for 6 months? Or spending a month in a new city? Let go of the specifics for a minute and allow yourself to imagine all the different forms achieving your goal could take.
Re-commit. Choose which aspects of the goal you want to commit your time and energy to. The original goal may have been on your 5-year timeline. Which part of it will you work on for the next year, or 6 months, or 3 months? Which part of the goal lights you up whenever you think about it? Start with that. Let go of the rest for now.
Create a new plan of action. Now that you’ve identified which parts of the goal still inspire and motivate you, create a plan of action around them. Create a process around your plan which includes concrete actions and daily practices that support your goal. Say it, write it down, tell a friend, get support if you need to.
If you need support & tools for reframing your goals and creating a process for moving forward, let's connect over a session.