We are heading into our sixth year of hosting Declare It Day, and in the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with women about goal-setting, I’ve noticed a few repeating themes as to why women struggle in setting goals for themselves.
I’ve also noticed these themes don’t discriminate – they are universally powerful and pervasive. Women who are perceived to be strong are silently struggling and women who desire to play big don’t know where to start and so many of us just feel like we’re in it all by ourselves.
My hope is to shed light on these reasons and by doing so, empower and encourage women to set goals that feel good and build up other women who are out there doing the same.
Reason #1: If I fail, everyone will know about it
Yes, if you declare a goal, share your journey and the outcome of that experience looks different than what you initially declared, people may notice. And if someone wants to make that their focus, let me be crystal clear: that is much more about them than it is about you. (It’s always easier to sit back and have an opinion than it is to get in the arena and do the work.) That said, I think the vast majority of people are rooting for us.
When we set a goal and it goes differently than expected, it is (… stay with me here …) an opportunity. Resilience is the outcome and silver lining of adversity. Also, we show others that you can be disappointed in an outcome and still survive, be okay, and eventually (and likely) be better for it. The best podcasts and most engaging speakers I’ve ever listened to usually have one thing in common: an authentic tale about how things didn’t go as planned and the lessons gained from that experience. And when asked if they’d wish their pain or path to be any different, they often laugh with a soft wisdom and say, ‘not a chance.’
When we fall short, we show our friends, loved ones and kids what it looks like to take risks and not let the outcome define our journey. We also create the space for more people to attempt brave things. And (this is really cool) we become a beacon for others who want to share their goals with someone who gets it. I’d also say these are the roots for community and connection that so many of us crave.
But, all the above pales in comparison to this truth: We are the ones who are scared to fail. We are the ones who don’t want to risk it. We are the ones who fear falling short. And over and over and over again we project that fear on to everyone ‘out there’ and give our power away. It is almost always about us and once you reckon and embrace the possibility of failure, it doesn’t matter what people think. You feel free to chase whatever goal speaks to you.
Reason #2: My goal isn’t big enough (or looks different or isn’t as bold as someone else’s)
That comparison game is a sneaky lil’ devil, isn’t it? Susie over here is declaring that ‘this is the year to PR her half marathon’ and you’re just like…. um…. trying to drink more water? Or get more rest? Read more fiction? Not hate your job as much? Love the woman staring back at you in the mirror?
But suddenly, the promises you made to yourself seem small and insignificant, especially in comparison to Susie who is ready to freaking GO for it. So yeah, damn Susie for her drive and motivation and fire – damn her for wanting more and having the time to do it. And let’s pile on for the sake of piling on (cuz we’re so good at it): We’ll never be as good or strong or courageous or amazing as Susie so why are we even trying in the first place.
To the heart.
We spiral and spin tales so dang fast ladies. We diminish our effort so quickly because it looks differently than someone else’s. And, deep breath, we place other women on pedestals that they never asked to be on. Let me ask you this: Who is making up the rules as to what a big or worthy or admirable goal is? Who has conditioned us to so quickly give up and give away our power? And why are we so dang focused on what Susie’s doing instead of asking ourselves what feels good to us? And hey, why are we not freaking HAPPY FOR SUSIE?
And here’s the crap shoot on comparison. Wherever you feel weakest or most vulnerable, that’s what you go looking for. We actually seek out the validation that we’re not good enough, strong enough or ready enough. We’re so good at proving ourselves right, aren’t we? There could be a mountain of evidence that says your goal is incredibly brave, but you will seek out the one newsfeed, story or person that proves otherwise.
Damnit. It breaks my heart.
Here’s the deal:
I have known many women for whom simply getting out of bed in the morning was the bravest thing she’d ever done.
And I have known many women who have chased PRs and Boston Qualifiers and Olympic trial times whose drive inspires me to push beyond my physical and mental limits.
And I’m grateful for all of them. They make me a better woman.
What if instead of getting hooked into comparison, we decided to stand in awe of the woman next to us? What if instead of diminishing her effort because it looks different, we decided to cheer her on? What if we deleted the triggers and loudness in our newsfeeds that made us feel less than and inferior? And what if we gave ourselves some credit for enduring the storms and SHOWING UP DESPITE THEM?
Awe over comparison. Give this practice a try. Notice when you feel yourself judging another woman (or yourself) and 1) intentionally pause and take a deep breath and 2) step back in with an awe mindset.
Okay. Sorry. That was long-winded, but I hear it again and again and again from women. I see how quickly women compare their efforts to the world ‘out there’ instead of looking within and asking the truest and most essential questions:
But what do I want?
What feels good to me?
It has never been nor will it ever be about Susie. (But oh, we reeeeeally want it to be, but it’s not.) Susie just represents our own fears, insecurities and unearthed pain. Our judgment and comparison is ours to own.
Reason #3: What if I freaking change my mind? I’ll look so stupid.
Ladies, we walk into Target thinking we’re only going to buy just toilet paper and we come out with three new throw pillows, a straw hat, and a blue Moroccan vase that will go with absolutely NOTHING in our house.
And we’re never sorry about it because now we’re deeply committed to redecorating our entire living room around that damn vase. Also, note that true friends believe in our vision and help us pick out the paint.
AMEN. Seriously. But you get my point.
A goal should feel good, and I think it should reflect who you want to become. I also believe that only you can decide when and if along the way, it doesn’t anymore.
In making a change or shifting focus, you need no one else’s validation except your own. There is a difference between giving up because it is hard and letting go because it truly doesn’t feel good anymore. And if you find yourself there, the bravest thing you can do is get quiet, look within (not out for validation), and give yourself permission to do whatever you need.
The thing about goals is they take us on a journey and throughout the entire process we are evolving. We’re constantly unfolding into new parts of ourselves. With every step forward, we become things and we un-become things.
I remember last year when I decided not to do a 70.3 and instead, opted for the sprint distance. I had the most amazing time and it was one of the most memorable races I’ve ever done. What a tragedy it would have been to do a race my heart had left a long time ago.
And this year, as I take on a goal that feels so physically beyond me right now, I’m realizing that so much of my doubt comes in the hardness of it. I may not reach my goal, but I sure as heck will soak up the journey in getting there. And race day? The victory lap – celebrating whatever transformation awaits.
There is a popular quote out there right now about ‘life happening for you, not to you.’ So remember, your goal isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you.
BOOM. The only person who needs to be happy on this journey is you.
Reason #4: I just need more time to figure it out.
Yes, yes, yes.
The more I dug into this conversation with women, I recognized something profound and nearly universal: a genuine sense of feeling lost. These weren’t women who were trying to be clever or shifty or didn’t believe in the power of goal setting, they just didn’t know where to start.
It’s like sitting in a canoe and paddling your ass of and suddenly looking up and realizing you have no clue where you’re actually going.
Before you declare a goal, you’ve got to know what you’re anchoring it to. If you haven’t asked yourself, ‘why am I doing this? What is driving me?’ you might find yourself lost before you even start.
If you’re feeling this way and without a horizon to focus on, I want you to start with a commitment, not a goal.
A commitment is a promise to yourself and brings intention and attention to how you want to feel and how you want to live your life. If you could envision yourself one year from now, who would that person be? How would you be living your life?
Clear commitments help you live your life on purpose.
To ensure we’re moving ever closer to these commitments, that’s when we establish meaningful goals and plans of action.
A big reason many goals fall short is because we’re not anchoring them into a bigger purpose. If our why is strong and aligned, it makes the journey more fulfilling. It also lets us know that even if we don’t achieve a desired outcome, we have gotten closer to that promise. Hence, we’re never failing, only learning.
The bottom line is this:
The choice is yours.
You get to decide.
And the surest way to never fail is to never attempt.
It’s also the surest way to never truly live either.
Decide on what matters.
Commit to that direction.
Set goals that feel good.
Move forward, one foot in front of the other.
Surround yourself with a crew of women who will cheer you on.
We’ve got this ladies.
P.S. Declare It Day starts this Saturday, Feb 2! Are you joining us? Sign-up here and get your free declaration and downloads!