January goal paralysis

I saw a meme about the month of January — about how seemingly long it is — and it cracked me up for the rest of the week.

So funny, so true… so January!

Another one that had me rolling… 10 reasons why January is the armpit of the year. [insert cry/laugh emoji here because I’m doing both — in the name of January]

One of the MOST frustrating aspects of January is the fact that we’re so pressured to create massive annual goals for ourselves at work and in life. We’re expected to outdo last year’s accomplishments, to set our sights on something BIG this year. That pressure is multiplied by 1,000,000 when we’ve turned to a new decade (ahem, looking at you, 2020) — all of a sudden, we’re supposed to become superhuman?

YES, there’s a reason why January has become rife with pressure to create goals. The research is clear — people who set goals are more successful at work and in life. There is a vast amount of collective knowledge already written about how to create goals that best set you up for success. Some of my favorite articles with goal-setting tips are on Forbes and HuffPost.

This blog post is not meant to regurgitate all of those well-founded tips, though. Rather, it’s aimed at examining this question: why is goal-setting such a gruesome process — and why do we avoid it each year?

The answer is simpler than you might think. You might be suffering from goal paralysis.

You want to be part of that group of people who sets clear goals, goes after them with gusto, and achieves them with a big celebration at the end of each year. Sometimes you manage to set goals, but the rest tends to fall flat. Your path meanders a lot more than you expected. You keep hitting a wall each time you try to do a goals exercise. It just never feels quite as satisfying, or helpful, for you.

If you’ve ever felt “goal paralysis,” you’re not alone. There are three big reasons folks end up feeling paralyzed by the goal-setting process:

  1. You don’t know which goals to choose. You may have been so focused on the here-and-now that you can’t think much past next week, let alone next year.

  2. The goals you choose don’t call to you deeply. You tend to create goals based on others’ ideas of success or progress. They don’t feel heartfelt, so it’s hard to get yourself jazzed up about going after them.

  3. You have no idea how to get started — so you quickly feel overwhelmed. You may be creating goals that are too big, too far in the future, too nebulous, or a combination of all three.

Do any (or all three) of these reasons resonate with you?

They resonated with a client of mine, Eva, who is an Amazon executive of over 10 years. I want to tell you Eva’s story.

Eva recently found herself at a crossroads, unclear on what her career goals should be. She had held a number of roles at Amazon, but it was time for her to rotate to a new one. She needed help deciding where to head, but she wasn’t looking inward – she was focused externally on leveling, scope, complexity, what path her peers were taking, etc. She was focused on others’ ideas of success.

Eva also has two highly engaged and active children, and a not-so-small-business owner husband, which left little time for self-reflection and soul-searching after a long day at work. Ultimately, Eva found herself depleted, exhausted and not completely convinced that loving her work was even something she needed or deserved – in essence, “work is work, suck it up.”

She kept setting goals for herself that were external, so they weren’t heartfelt. This made her feel stuck. She had massive goal paralysis.

I began working with Eva last year, and the tips I gave her are the same I want to share with you on how to overcome goal paralysis and achieve your most heartfelt dreams.

  • Begin by defining your core values. These are the characteristics in life that make you feel most fulfilled, and that are most important to you. For Eva, these were family, travel and connecting people with one another.

  • Next, get really clear on what lights a fire under you, and make that your long-term goal. Know what you’re passionate about? Great! If not, spend some time on this step. Eva’s dream — her passion — was to own her own business someday.

  • Make sure your core values are represented in your long-term goal. Looking back at her core values, Eva could see that long-term, the type of business she’d like to own is a travel company that connects travelers with property owners. This would allow Eva and her family to travel around the globe, making deep and wide connections. Though she won’t make this move for another 5+ years, her eyes lit up when she created this goal for herself because it was deeply connected to her core values.

  • Build a bridge from today to your ultimate dream in increments. For Eva, starting her own business is 5+ years away; she was then able to create a step-ladder between now and then by listing out all of the things she’d want to accomplish, topics she’d need to learn, and money she’d need to save in each interim timeframe. This took the paralysis out of the big dream, and also helped her view current opportunities in the lens of getting toward her larger goals.

After working together, Eva not only found the perfect near-term role (one that gave her exposure to skills she’ll need as a new business owner in the future), but she also was able to define longer-term goals that gave her renewed energy and motivation. Eva also was able to shift the constant questioning she had in her head and put that energy toward her long-held dreams. She is well on her way toward her goals!

This realization about the long-term, about her core values, and about what fulfills Eva, also helped her be more present today. It helped her get away from the external and open herself up to what will fulfill her today.

If you’re feeling goal paralysis, give these steps a try. Download my free goals worksheet to help you along the way.

Let me know how you do in the comments section!

P.S. a vision board is a fantastic supplement to setting authentic goals and envisioning a life for yourself that will fulfill you. Haven Coaching has teamed up with Crystal Wellness Company to host a Vision Board Workshop on 1/31 in Snoqualmie, WA and we’re providing everything you need to create a gorgeous vision board for 2020! Grab tickets here to reserve your spot — but hurry, there’s only one spot left!

P.P.S. need a little more one-on-one support? Head here to schedule a free 20-minute consultation with me — I’d love to help you unblock your goals paralysis and get you on your way to your boldest, most authentic dreams.

Haven Coaching