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Why Setting Goals Doesn't Work (And How to Start Moving Forward With Ease!)

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The thing about most goal-setting processes is... they don't work.

One of my coaching clients recently sent me a list of goals he had created for himself using other books and personal development tools. We were just beginning to work together so it was helpful to see what he was working to create in his life. However, as soon as I opened up the documents (there were several), I knew exactly what the problem in reaching them was.

Too. Many. Goals.

Not only that, but incredibly detailed and broken down goals. Now, much respect to anyone who's done this themselves, because this type of goal setting and goal breakdown/planning is a talent in it's own right... but I'd venture to guess if you've ever set a plethora of goals for "changing your life," you've also experience massive overwhelm and not much progress. Yes? I get it, because I used to do that too.

Let me start by also saying, it's so important to be able to create a clear goal for yourself and understand the process of reverse engineering it into simple, easy to achieve micro goals so that you can move forward. The problem is, you can't do this for every single thing you've ever wanted to achieve, all at once.

You have to choose priorities.

At any given time, you should only have 2-3 priorities in your life.

And before you say anything, yes, you still have to pay the bills and keep life running smoothly... but when it comes to making changes in your life for the better, you have to focus in on 2-3 goals or life areas, max. By doing this, you create a clear focus for your day-to-day activities, to do lists and time. And you're also able to create space for the goals and changes to come to fruition.

If you're trying to lose 15 pounds, meet the love of your life, get out of debt, make awesome new friends, travel more, be closer to your family and volunteer at the local homeless shelter... you're going to lose your mind. So how do you choose priorities and then create a plan that will actually work?

Four steps to creating priorities in your life so you can start moving forward now.

1) Get honest about what's really important in your life, to you, right now.

If you're majorly overwhelmed, depressed and stressed out, then your health and well-being are priorities. Your health should always be your No. 1 priority... think about it. Without our health, we're nothing. Literally. So if you're not in a good place, or don't have a good health/wellness routine, that's your number one. Always.

Then, start to think about what other areas of your life are TRULY important to you, right now. Are you miserable and unhappy if you don't get to paint? Creativity may be a priority for you. Are you so stressed out by your financial situation that you can't sleep at night? Finances are definitely a priority for you. Pick two priority areas (three if you're feeling ambitious and have the time) and write those down.

2) Prioritize what's really important in those areas.

So if you pick health and well-being as a priority, whitening your teeth is probably not nearly as important as making sure you exercise, eat more dark leafy greens or quit smoking, right? Get honest about your goals and narrow down to only one or two focus points within your priority life areas to begin with.

Start by listing out absolutely everything you think you need to gain, change or stop doing in that area in order to be 100 percent happy with it. Then, go back through and highlight items that are really important to you. Don't highlight superficial items, things you think you should do or things that are on your list because of someone else's priorities.

3) Create space to focus.

Take a look at everything you're focusing on in your life and eliminate (or reduce) anything that isn't a priority for you right now. That might mean you put those guitar lessons on hold so that you can start attending yoga class. It might mean spending less time with your friends so that you can get enough sleep each night or start working on that passion project that really lights you up.

What do you need to do to create space to pour all your attention into these new priority areas and goals? Make adjustments as needed, let everyone know your focus and set boundaries where necessary in your life.

4) Constantly assess what's working and what's not.

This is another point where regular goal setting goes wrong. We don't realize that we're allowed to change our minds, adjust the goal or eliminate it all together! After a couple weeks or a month, sit down and really assess what's working and what's not.

Let's say that going to yoga class just doesn't feel right. There's not a good class time and you're feeling stressed trying to make it work each evening you go. Additionally, the expense isn't helping with your financial goals. So how do you adjust? Maybe it's a matter of buying a couple yoga DVDs or finding some lessons online and practicing at home. Maybe it's something you need to do on weekends only. Or maybe, running is a better option for you. It's OKAY to change your goal or adjust, so long as you're truly listening to yourself about what works and doesn't, and not just making excuses.

If everything's going amazingly, awesome! How can you add onto these goals to further move forward in your priority areas... without overwhelming yourself? Just because a month went smoothly, doesn't mean you can now do everything. Add on slowly and with intention... then reassess in another month.

Take action now!

Go through the steps above and get clear on your priority areas, priority goals and what you plan to do to start moving forward in the next month. Share your goals below if you'd like support on whether or not they're too much or if you just want some public accountability.

Stephenie Zamora is the founder of www.stepheniezamora.com, a full-service, life-purpose development, design and branding boutique. Here she merges the worlds of personal development and branding to help young women build passion-based businesses. Click here to download her free guide, "The Unexpected Trick to Transforming Your Life With ONE Single Question."

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