Step one in any successful fitness journey is to create a goal and map out the steps needed to get you there, but what if that approach is wrong? Here’s why the goal posts are shifting.

We live in a world where acquisition and achievement have become all important. This has been supported by an innate desire to have more and be more in life.


How can goal setting be bad for us?

A whole movement, which studied the psychology of success over the past 40 years, has taught us that the only way to acquisition and to achieve, another way of saying: to gain so-called success, is to set clearly defined goals.

Having established these goals, they are realized by focusing unwaveringly on their achievement and taking action, often daily, to attain those chosen outcomes.

However, the truth is, not only is the outcome never guaranteed, but the very process could well be ruining your life.

There is no doubt that the human mind is incredibly powerful and if you consistently focus your thoughts on a chosen result, there is a very real possibility you will achieve your desired outcome.

This may take some time, but with patience and a sense of determination, you might well get there.

For some people, this approach has brought success and gain, but for most it has too often led to disappointment, frustration and misery when goal after goal has not materialized.


The sad numbers behind goal setting


goal setting success failure statistics


Why is goal setting able to ruin your life?

Well, goals are most often created in the hope that your life will be so much better with the attainment of a certain target.

They are shaped with the idea that with this achievement or acquisition, there will be greater happiness and fulfilment.

For many people wanting to improve their lives, goals offer them a way of trying to make their lives more rewarding and under their control.

Sadly, the realization soon comes that even with the attainment of their chosen acquisition or achievement, they feel no happier or more fulfilled than they were beforehand.

How many times have we cracked that fitness goal, bought the bigger house, got that dream car and the improved career situation, only to find that you are still no better off?

From here, the solution seems to be to craft another goal, and a way bigger one at that, in the often desperate hope that this will bring that elusive happiness you crave.


The illusions that goal setting can bring to you personally

In time, goal setting creates an almost never-ending cycle of desire, all in the search for a seemingly elusive thing.

Another problem with identifying goals to try to make us feel better on the inside, is that we often create or lust after things that are not really right for us as an individual and that are not really in alignment with who we inherently are as a person.


goal setting


This means it can actually become a burden on you rather than a pleasure, and impose some considerable strain on you.

In addition to this, many people set goals that are the result of what they think they should want or should have. They forge goals based on what their peers have or what their peers are doing, or even based on what they’ve been encouraged to do by others.

It takes quite a lot of singularity of mind not to get caught up in this subtle peer pressure. What often happens when you are intent on creating a specific outcome is you miss that very thing that really would make you happy.

With the strength of your focus, you might even fail to see the opportunity that is right in front of you because it is not what you have chosen to look for.


What goal setting does for creativity and inituition

The reticular activating system (the portal of your brain that regulates almost all of the incoming information) of your mind helps you to notice those things that lead you to your chosen focus and prevent you from noticing other signs and coincidences from the universe along our way.

These are signs that really are trying to help and guide you. So many people miss out on what is inherently for them by having this narrow focus that life should be a certain way.

Furthermore, the logical and rational approach to your goals leaves no room for intuition, inspiration and creativity as you forge ahead on your supposedly “chosen route.”

And this is the very crux of the problem because you should question: is it your chosen route?

It is about what you think you want, and that is very often at odds with the chosen route that the universe has mapped out for you.


goal setting ruining your life?


Forcing your goals

For many people, goals are sought after with much pushing and striving. You have probably been taught that to achieve things you must “take massive action”, “make life happen” and “take the bull by the horns” so you try to do this, often to no avail.

This approach, based on what appears to be the logical steps to take to achieve something, can lead us to be very driven and often unaware of the effect you are having on those around us.

With this self-focused approach, at no time do you stop and ask what are the consequences for your family, your marriage or relationships, your friendships and also the consequences for your health.

It often adds to your stress levels as you chase and push to achieve your outcomes.

The traditional view taught to you is that you are here to “live to work”. Sadly, this only fuels your passion as you push ever forwards in the hope of achievement.

There is just a relentless pushing to “make life happen”.

However, the biggest problem with goal setting is what happens to the many people who, despite doing all the right things, do not achieve their goals.

They do not get to where they want to be or have what they feel they deserve and want.

This is particularly true when it comes to athletic endeavours. The six-pack they’ve dreamed of, the race time they’ve aspired toward or the sporting glory they’ve been promised if you do a particular training routine aren’t realized.

The disappointment this causes is hugely detrimental in the long term and can lead you to become self-denigrating, self-critical and self-undermining.


Comparing your goals and achievements with others kills joy

The self-talk that you do about the way you are and the way your life is, can significantly lower your levels of self-esteem and self-worth.

It makes you see yourself and life through a very negative lens that effectively states “life is not fair”.

You may see things working out for others and wonder what it is that they are doing that you are failing to do.

This endless comparison can erode your levels of self-appreciation so that you too often feel like a failure.

And the difficulty is that from that place it can be really hard to lift yourself out of the depression and low feelings that invade your brain.

Stress and depression are moving towards epidemic proportions these days and, for many people, goal setting and the failure to always achieve them is at the root of these troubles.


goal setting bad for you


Doing goal setting right – it’s not all doom and gloom

So, what is the solution to all of this? Should you just to give up on your goals and abandon all hope? The good news: there is an alternative approach to reaching your potential and achieving.

Fortunately, within everyone is a deep sense of inner wisdom that can be used to guide you in every aspect of your life.

It can guide you to achieve all that is for us to achieve, inspire you with new ideas and options that you had perhaps not considered, and be used to guide you in the creation of your dreams, ideas and often-random synchronicities, that come to you and inspire you to act on them.

They are not goals that you set, but are ideas that well up inside you – they feel right because they are in alignment with who you are at your core.

This innate knowledge really can help you see the bigger picture of your life, your talents and skills, and it gives you these gifts of creative insight at just the right time.

Often all you have to do is ask, “What is the universe offering me right now?”, “What things are happening naturally and easily for me at this moment?”

It may be that right now there is no action to take, no dream to act on and if you can accept that everything is perfect for you, then you really are acting in alignment with universal flow.

That doesn’t mean feeling comfortable with doing no exercise and scoffing rubbish food, but the direction and focus thereof may be in alignment with your personality or may need changing.

What gets in our way of following this natural course of events is your desire to control your life and what happens within it.

Rather than accepting what is, you may try to fight against it and it is that very fight against life and your circumstances that can lead to much stress and negative thinking.

Your body and mind really does have a subconscious intelligence of its own and if you can join that universal intelligence, which, for some, is their innate spiritual intelligence, then life takes on a sense of ease.

You’ll come to recognize that every situation is perfect for you, perfect for your growth and perfect for the universal plan as a whole.

So, my advice is to stop setting goals and stop striving to achieve those goals and let your instincts guide you in the right direction. You will feel happier, less stressed, and certainly more fulfilled.


Exercise alternatives to the typical fitness modes

You may have set your goals around a method of fitness that everybody is doing, but secretly want to admit to yourself that you hate.

Avoid paying to improve yourself and have more fun if this is the case. Instead, enhance your environment while bettering yourself and consider how much energy you’ll burn in one short hour of these activities…


exercise calories burned per hour


Can tech motivate you?

It would be a beautiful thing to imagine throwing a little cash at a problem in order to just see it magically erased.

Such is the sales premise of just about every fitness tracker: you need 10,000 steps a day and our product will tell you if you achieve it.

Hit that magical number though and you’re on the right path to health and vitality. But before you hand over your credit card details, maybe it’s time we considered the validity behind that figure.

Tracking your steps doesn’t actually improve your ability to lose weight, found a two-year study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That 10,000 step number was calculated by a 50-year-old Japanese study, so don’t peg all your hopes and dreams on reaching this number.

Equally, however, that’s not to say we shouldn’t discount it completely because there was a 46 percent reduction in your risk of an early death when you increased your daily steps from 1,000 to 10,000, according to research in PLOS ONE.

However, this is down to the overwhelming power of exercise in general. Do more of it and you’ll be noticeably healthier and happier.

Just don’t get too caught up in the numbers game or you could bankrupt your long- term exercise motivation.


The 6 steps and traits you need to achieve your goals

These are the traits you need to have and get where you want to be:


1 Practicing good time management

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2 Self-monitoring your behavior

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

3 Recruiting the support of other people

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

4 Doing exercise that’s enjoyable, not punishing

Source: Iowa State University

5 Performing exercise that reduces stress

Source: Iowa State University

6 Train with someone else

Source: University of Aberdeen


For more content about goal setting, nutrition, and workouts, get TRAIN magazine direct to your inbox every month for free by signing up to our newsletter