Our latest article on questions to ask yourself to help refocus your goals.
Setting goals is a great way to keep life in focus. We set personal and professional goals to hold ourselves accountable, to help us reach our next milestone.
Sometimes we find that we aren’t motivated to reach our goals or they may seem out of reach. Taking a step back and asking ourselves a few questions can help us to refocus and get us back on the right path to reaching our goals.
Questions to ask yourself to help refocus your goals
1. Ask yourself how you want to feel.
The cycle of setting goals, if we are diligent, includes reaching them, and for many of us, what is then a short-term feeling of accomplishment. The end of the race is never as satisfying as we had hoped it would be. This leaves us with a deflated feeling of “now what?” The feeling of exuberant joy, of “I finally made it” never seems to come.
I remember when I defended my doctoral dissertation and the committee said that I passed. I was very excited as I shook everyone’s hand. As I walked out of the room and got on an elevator full of people, I wanted to tell them I had just successfully defended my dissertation.
I’m not that extroverted, so I didn’t, and I soon realized to the rest of the world, my personal accomplishment didn’t mean much. I was still happy, but it was a jolt of reality that something I had spent a big portion of my life working to achieve only mattered to a few people.
I think this is true of most things in life. The end result doesn’t always have the payout that we expect it to. I think this is why people share so much on social media. They want some type of recognition or an extension of the feeling they had hoped to feel.
When setting goals, think about how you want to feel when you reach your goal. This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself. If you are working on your finances, maybe one of the feelings you are looking for is actually security. If you start with that in mind, you are more likely to work toward your goal and be more satisfied once you accomplish it.
For my dissertation, I wasn’t looking for recognition, thankfully. I was looking for security. Passing through that hurdle meant that I had finished all the requirements for my education and could now focus on my career. Focusing on the feeling you hope to feel, helps clarify your goals.
2. What are your core values?
If you had to pick your top five values in life, what would they be? This is one of the most powerful questions to ask yourself. If you are unsure, download a list (do a search for “values list” to get some ideas) and choose five that resonate with you. Once you have your top five values, circle your top two.
These two values are your core values. My top two values are health and connection. The decisions I make in life are centered around them, as well as my goals. Make sure your goals are aligned as closely as possible with your core values.
Goals don’t have to center around your core values, but they shouldn’t contrast with them. If your goals are misaligned with your core values, you are likely to struggle. For example, I work with graduate students who put a lot of value on their families.
I know that they struggle while in school because they have a limited amount of time with their families since they are also balancing work. If you are in a time of struggle because your goals aren’t aligned with your values, consider whether it is a temporary situation for a greater good. If it is a temporary situation, recognize that your goals aren’t in alignment with your values, which is why you are struggling, but give yourself grace.
3. If you had one wish, what would it be?
What? Why are you asking me about a wish? What does this have to do with my goals? Oftentimes our thinking is very limited in scope. Our goals are based on what has happened in our lives, what others have told us about ourselves, and what our limited mind thinks we can do.
We think about what has happened and shape our goals based on this limited approach. Asking ourselves to believe in dreams, without any limitations, forces our brains to break through those barriers. It frees our mind to be creative and expand our possibilities.
Sometimes it is helpful to do this over a period of a few days. Brainstorm your wish, what would you like to have happen? Then walk away from it. Come back to it a few days later and see if you can go even bigger. You will tend to see that you were limiting yourself.
Use the information you gathered from your wish to help you formulate your goals. Have you been limiting yourself based on prior beliefs you held about yourself? Based on the work that I have done with my coaching clients, my guess would be that you have. This is actually a difficult exercise for some coaching clients.
They don’t like to do it at first. They will respond with, “Why are we doing this,” “This will never happen,” “I could never afford to do this.” These limiting thoughts keep us stuck in “what is” instead of “what could be.” Allow yourself to dream big, expand your goals to fit who you can be, instead of limiting them to who you have been. When we allow expansive thinking, we allow expansive possibilities.
When working toward goals, we can lose motivation and lose traction toward our progress. Taking time to ask ourselves some key questions about our values, what we hope to feel, and what our ultimate dreams are, helps us to reformulate our goals and set us on a road to success.
These are great questions to ask yourself. However, sometimes we may still feel stuck because of our mindset. It is okay to ask for help, whether from our friends, our colleagues, or a professional coach or counselor. Sometimes getting an outside perspective allows us to see ourselves in a new light and sheds new light on our goals.