Hold Your Goals Loosely

by Stephen Mills on June 10, 2009

Hold Goals Loosely

Goal setting gives your life and actions directions so rather than wandering aimlessly, you are moving in a particular direction.  You are spiraling up instead of spiraling down.  Goal setting is extremely important in my opinion.  At least it is for me at this stage of my life.  I believe I have read that studies show that people who set goals are more successful than those who don’t.

I’m sure there are some people who are at a point in their lives or have a particular personality where goal setting is not as important as it is to others.  Further, I think like anything else you can take it too far.  Rigid and single-minded goal setting can actually be limiting and constricting.  Too much emphasis on goals can lead to a loss of freedom and feelings of failure.

The world we inhabit is now very complicated.  There are too many variables and we cannot predict exactly what will happen.  There are many unintended consequences that come along with almost everything we do.  There is too much chaos.

Delight in the process

We must be able to enjoy the process, because in fact life is about the process and growth and not about the end-point.  When you achieve your goal, when you get to the end-point, you will not be satisfied except for very briefly.  It wasn’t the goal that was important, but he journey you took to get there.

For all of these reasons, I think it is important to hold your goals loosely.  You need a general direction, but you don’t need to be rigid.  Allow for flexibility and discovery along the way.  Allow yourself to change your mind as you gain new information. Delight in the process and not in the result.

I visualize my goals in great detail.  I think that makes them real.  But I change that detail regularly as I go along.  If I visualized a particular outcome six months ago and started reaching for it, I almost certainly will not have achieved it exactly.  I almost always change it along the way as I learn new things.  To me, that is what makes life interesting.  I no longer hold my goals with jaw-clenching tightness.  This blog is not at all what I imagined it would be when I started it almost six months ago.  It has grown into something different.  That’s OK.

Don’t allow rigid goal setting to rob you of the joy of living.  Work vigorously toward your goals while at the same time being aware of and responsive to opportunities.  Allow yourself to change direction with flexibility based upon what is called for in any particular moment.  Anat Baniel says that pursuing goals in this way “is a great boost to our sense of power and vitality”.  I couldn’t agree more.

Rigidly focusing on a goal with blinders in place will prevent you from being able to respond to your experiences, feeling, and new opportunities.  It will make your life a bore and and burden instead of a joy and an experience.

Ways to Hold Your Goals Loosely

Allow for Flexibility

Many discoveries have been made in the pursuit of something else and quite by accident.  Allow yourself the flexibility to adjust your goal or even completely change it along the way.

Don’t Try to Control The Outcome

When you try to hard to control the outcome, you are assuming you know something before you have given yourself the chance to experience and learn.  This is the best way to guarantee you will get stuck and fail.

Focus On the Process

This goes along with the previous suggestion of not trying too hard to control the outcome.  Instead, pay attention to the process.  Give yourself the flexibility to choose what to do at any given moment in time.

Go Slow

Going too fast too early will create problems.  You might learn limitations that way.  Give yourself a chance to learn to grow along the way.  Enjoy the journey.  If you rush through the journey you might very well miss it.  The journey is the point.  Slow down and experience it.

Be Curious

Be like a child.  Be curious and allow your imagination to roam free.  Were you happy as a young child?  Probably, because you didn’t pursue goals with rigid blindness.  In fact you probably didn’t always know where you were going at all.  You just moved and experienced life.  You were intensely curious and you let your amazing life unfold in an explosion of exploration and learning.  Grab back that feeling of intense curiosity you had as a young child, and let it guide you along the way.

Live Free

Humans are not robots.  You are an amazingly adaptable creature and that adaptability is to a great extent what distinguishes you from other living things.  Embrace that nature and allow your life to unfold.  Pick a direction and move in that direction but don’t allow a previously chosen rigid path to rob you of your vitality and freedom.  To some extent you need to just experience life and make it up as you go along.

When I was younger and travelled on vacation, I planned everything out day by day.  I made sure I went to all the best places and did all the best things.  I didn’t want to miss out on anything.  I sure saw a lot and hit all the high points at my various destinations.  However, looking back on it, I’m not sure I really enjoyed those vacations like I could have.

Now I’m just the opposite.  I just make it up as I go along.  I recently visited the Rocky mountains in Colorado and people kept asking me what I was going to do.  I had no idea, I just knew I was going to enjoy myself and I did.  I just let the experiences unfold by themselves.


Get Free Updates to The Rat Race Trap by Email here or via a reader in the top left sidebar.  I would love to have you on board.

What do you think?  Leave a comment below.

{ 1 trackback }

Three Quick Tips for Getting Ahead in Life | My Super-Charged Life
June 12, 2009 at 4:02 am

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Bud Hennekes June 10, 2009 at 6:56 am

Setting goals are essential. I just wrote a post on the importance of goals today as well! Weird timing!

Too often people choose disempowering goals instead of empowering ones. Often times people chase goals they THINK they SHOULD instead of following their passions.

Goals are meant to create a shift within ourself.

I like your idea of keeping your goals loose! Flexibility is super important.

Bud Hennekes´s last blog post..Saying Goodbye


Writer Dad June 10, 2009 at 8:48 am

My goals are both constant and constantly in flux.

Writer Dad´s last blog post..Children Write the Future Writing Contest


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills June 10, 2009 at 10:26 am

Stephen, you struck a really nice balance here. Goals give us direction but shouldn’t be confining, as you pointed out so nicely. Every journey requires that we adjust our course along the way as we learn and experience. “Hold them loosely” is a great analogy.

Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog post..Personal Development – Is Your Ego Getting In the Way?


Nelia June 10, 2009 at 11:21 am

My current goal setting debate revolves around the balance between urgency and detachment and I think your post just answered my question.

Perhaps urgency is an integral part of the process. And detachment is relinquishing perceived control of the outcome.

What are your thoughts?

Nelia´s last blog post..The Hit Man : What Makes a Woman Approachable


Jeff@MySuperChargedLife June 10, 2009 at 11:47 am

I think flexibility in goal setting and pursuit is very important. You have to be able to roll with the punches. When situations change and yet you continue pursuing something that just isn’t going to happen, it can leave you in a deep hole. You have offered some great strategies here to avoid this mistake.

Jeff@MySuperChargedLife´s last blog post..The Science of Happiness: Intentional Activities To Be Happier


Deb Owen June 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I love this! Too often, we think if we don’t reach the goal that we originally set, we’ve failed. We forget that circumstances may have changed or we may have been led in a different (better?) direction than we originally anticipated.

Keeping our goals flexible gives us room to grow even more.

Thanks for the great post!
All the best!

Deb Owen´s last blog post..perfectionism (killing creativity & possibility)


Dan June 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Great article.

If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:


You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to yor goals) is available too.
Works also on mobile.


Lori June 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm

I really enjoyed this post. My goals are actually always in flux–and for me, this can be a bad thing. In the past, I’ve given up when I’ve encountered resistance, lied to myself to avoid discomfort, and generally felt anxiety when it came to staying the course. I’m now working to find a happy balance between flexibility and rigidity. My new plan is to hold onto my vision for the future, but let go of my attachment to the outcome. I feel pretty good about this approach–like I am simultaneously pushing myself and staying open to what I don’t know.

Lori´s last blog post..5 Ways to Push Through Discomfort to Reach Your Goals


Robin Easton June 10, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Yes, conscious goals and conscious flexibility, and it WORKS!!! 😀 I like this very much. You have covered all the bases nicely. Often it’s approached from one extreme or the other exclusively. Good job Stephen.

Robin Easton´s last blog post..What Forced You into Awareness?


Stephen Mills June 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm

@Bud, I guess great minds think alike 🙂 Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts.

@Writer Dad, Love it!

@Jonathan, thanks. That flexibility and willingness to adjust are so important.

@Nelia, I like it. I think you might have got it right with the detachment idea. Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts. 🙂

@Jeff, thanks for the comment and thanks for the tweet!

@Deb, I agree. Life is too complicated and changes much too rapidly to be able always know from the very beginning what the end is going to look like. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

@Dan, thanks for the link.

@Lori, hello! I think you have described it exactly right. Well done 🙂

@Robin, thanks for your support as always :-)))


Vin | NaturalBias.com June 10, 2009 at 8:44 pm

I like what you said about the process, I feel the same way.

I think our goals change because as we pursue them, we learn more about ourselves and develop a better understanding of our passions and our purpose. I consider this to be growth, and without the flexibility for change, it won’t happen.
[rq=1235,0,blog][/rq]The Meatrix: The Revolting Reality of Factory Farming


Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching June 11, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Cause if you cling too tight-leh, you’re gonna lose controoool! Sorry, but someone had to say it. I’ve always seen that song as a source of valuable wisdom and here we see a specific context where that’s true.


Evelyn Lim June 11, 2009 at 7:12 pm

I enjoyed your tip about holding goals loosely and allowing some flexibility to come in. Far too often, goal setting is taught as something to be adhered to in the most rigid manner. I have often felt rather pressurized when I had to constantly measure my performance against tightly held goals. Having a sense of detachment helps to ease the pressure somewhat!
[rq=3969,0,blog][/rq]No Such Thing as Failure; Only Feedback


Matt | Small Biz Bee June 11, 2009 at 9:20 pm

I think an interesting point here is that your goals can change overtime. Many people think goals are rigid and they shouldn’t. You have to adapt your goals as you go, the end result should have you better off, but don’t be afraid to assess the validity of the goal itself as part of the process.

[rq=4217,0,blog][/rq]Series Recap: Small Business Questions Answered


Dragos Roua June 12, 2009 at 2:48 am


I’ve been there so many times, setting goals in stone and then working like a slave to break that stone. Setting goals is so much better when is organic, when is part of something and not set alone, in a different circles than your own.

Refreshing reading, Stephen, thank you 🙂


Alex - unleash reality June 12, 2009 at 9:20 am

completely agree. the most successful person i know (millionaire and retired in his early 20s) is super big on goal setting. also eft and sedona method to release on goals.

defeinitely agree with not letting rigid goal setting rob you of the joy of living. i used to fall into the trap of spending so much time setting goals that i never got anything done 🙂

really liked the ways you suggest to hold goals loosely. specially being flexible. and curious.

inspiring stuff
all the best
alex – unleash reality


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge