Goals 101: how to know what you want (what you really, really want)

Posted by | February 22, 2018 | Career changers, Find your mission, How to be awesome at your job, Work tips

For some, setting goals is a piece of (organic, vegan) cake. But what if you don’t know what you want? If you’re having problems identifying your goals, Liz has five tried-and-true techniques for you:

Outwardly, 2013 looked like a solid year. I was working for an awesome social enterprise, I was in a relationship with a lovely person, I lived in a sprawling flat with talented passionate people. I was just about to have my first small art exhibition at Deluxe Cafe.

My goals?  I was killin’ them. But inside? I was absolutely, utterly, 100% miserable.

I ended up quitting my job, ended my relationship, shifted out of my flat and moved overseas. My goals? They were in tatters. But, I didn’t care at all. Because goals mean nothing if they’re not what you really, really want. I promised myself that, moving forward, I would find out what I really wanted and set goals accordingly.

Here are five tools I used to work out what I really, really wanted. If you’re not sure what you want, try them for yourself.


#1. Notice who you envy

It’s time to get cosy with your green-eyed monster! Your feelings of envy can be a powerful signpost to what you secretly want to achieve. For instance:

  • Were you mysteriously annoyed at Dave when he won that writing competition? Perhaps you want recognition for your creative pursuits.
  • Were you seriously jelly when cousin Maeva went back to uni and became a clinical psychologist?  Perhaps you want a job that directly helps people.
  • Do your eyes shoot daggers every time Milla takes a long lunch and goes to CrossFit? Perhaps you want to prioritise your health and wellbeing.


#2. Cut out what you DON’T want

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight? It’s all about cutting out what you DON’T want to say ‘yes’ to. 

In my experience, I often can’t tell what I actually want until I’ve created space and time for my desires to emerge. Lose the busy and unearth what’s underneath. You may have a true stillness and sense of surety under all the confusion.


#3. Feel it in your body

Often, our minds can’t tell the difference between what we THINK we want and what we really, really want. It’s like they’ve had one too many glasses of inspiration. “Sit down mind!” we shout, “you’re drunk!”

But, even when we’re mentally intoxicated, our bodies may still know what we want*. Bypass the mind, and ‘google’ your body wisdom by visualising yourself achieving a potential goal. Then check in with your physical sensations:

  • Does your body feel heavy, murky, tight or trapped? This goal is probably not for you right now.
  • Does your body feel light, open, spacious or free? Ding ding ding ding! We have a winner!

*Thanks to Silvia Zuur (Enspiral Foundation)who introduced me to this concept back in 2013


#4. Think small 

Sometimes, ‘dream goals’ don’t motivate us, they paralyze us.

For example: say  I want to write a post-apocalyptic young adult novel with a citrus golem dictator. It could be the new Hunger Games, right? Right.

But then imagine that every time I begin writing I think “I can’t do this, it’s just too big”. I start hyperventilating and crawl under my desk, clutching a half-eaten doughnut.

What do I do?  I trick myself into action by thinking small. I focus ONLY on manageable short-term ‘small goals’, like:

  • applying for an online writing course; OR
  • writing a rough short story based on the premise; OR
  • writing 20 minutes a day for 30 days.


#5. Call in the professionals

Planning to ask your Mum, your significant other, or your boss for help on setting goals? Don’t do it!

However well-meaning, these people have a serious investment in whatever you decide to pursue. Objectivity just isn’t possible. If you’re seriously confused over where you’re heading, enlist the help of a professional career coach or a therapist of some variety. My psychotherapist really helped me figure things out👌


There we have it: five ways I’ve tested to help figure out what you really, REALLY want. Have you ever had an issue with figuring out what you want? Help others in the Do Good Jobs community by sharing your tips in a comment below.

Header photo by Joshua Earle, via Unsplash.

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