The Art of Choosing a Goal By Carrie Cheadle

One of the major pitfalls of goal setting is setting too many goals. There are so many things you are excited about; so many things you want to do! There are so many things you want to accomplish that you try setting goals for ALL of them and end up accomplishing none of them. When you try to take action on too many goals at once, often times you don’t accomplish any of them because you can’t put 100% of your energy into 100 different goals. To affect real change and take action towards something you really want to accomplish, you need to choose which goals are the most important to you right now and put your energy there.

Goal setting is an amazing tool to help direct your energy and effort, attain new heights, and accomplish your dreams, but not if you’re trying to accomplish all of them at once. I want to share with you an exercise you can do to help you figure out which goal to choose right now.


Supplies: paper, pen, scissors, envelope

  1. Grab a piece of paper and cut the paper into small strips.
  2. On each strip of paper, write out one of the things you would like to accomplish within the next six months to a year. Don’t censor yourself. Write out absolutely everything you want to accomplish. Use as much paper as you need.
  3. Count the total number of goals and then put all of your pieces of paper into an envelope. Write the total number on the back of the envelope.
  4. Over the course of the next 2 weeks, each day you will remove some of the goals from your stack until eventually you get down to your top two goals. To start this process, on the first day, shake a few goals out of your envelope. Pick up one of the strips of paper and as you hold in your hands notice how you feel when you read that goal. As you hold in your hands, you are going to make a decision on whether or not you want to put that goal back into the envelope as a potential candidate, or decide if you are ready to let that one go for now.
  5. You may want to calculate how many goals you need to eliminate per day based on the total number of goals in your envelope. Remember: when you remove a goal you’re not saying “never” – you’re just saying – “not now,” you are only deferring your goal to a later point in time. It becomes a conscious decision to postpone that goal.
  6. As you remove goals, write down the number of goals you have left on the back of the envelope until you get down to your top two goals. Keep the envelope somewhere visible to help you remember to do this, or set a reminder in your phone to do this daily.

Don’t rush this process of choosing. You may find that you come to a point where it starts getting more difficult to choose. This is an important moment. Now when you are contemplating that choice, it makes you identify:

Why this goal right now?

  • What is it about this goal that is meaningful to you?
  • Why is it important to you to accomplish this goal?
  • Does this goal reflect the kind of person you want to be?
  • How is this goal reflective of your greatest life values?
  • Is this goal a 10?

Don’t be impulsive in your choices once you get to this point; really think through why you’re choosing this goal above all others. Doing this will help with your goal commitment. In his book The Illusion of Money, author Kyle Cease talks about aligning your choices with the greatest calling of your soul and describes how your body can let you know the answer to that question. Your body is tapped into your emotions, and your emotions are tapped into your authentic self and your inner intentions. The challenge is that your brain is really good at coming in and overriding this deeper awareness. When you’re holding that strip of paper in your hands and making the decision of whether it stays or goes, notice how your body feels when you make your immediate assessment. This part is important because we have a tendency to grasp tightly to status quo. We hold tight because even when the status quo isn’t that good, it feels safe and because it’s what you know. Your brain can be quick to jump in and start justifying why this is something you don’t want or can’t accomplish, or why this is the one you SHOULD choose. You want to pay attention to that very first feeling in your body and ask yourself: on a scale of 1 to 10 how excited do you feel about this goal? Choosing a 10 can be scary. Choosing a 10 requires taking a leap of faith.

Going through this process help you to choose the right goal for right now. Remember that making a choice doesn’t mean that you don’t want to accomplish the other goals, it just means you understand that working towards a goal takes energy, time, effort, and dedication and you are choosing to put that energy, time, effort, and dedication towards this specific goal because you’ve identified that it is the most important goal for you right now. Believe me – it’s worth it to go through this first step and make sure you are intentional about choosing the goal you pursue and know that goal is in alignment with what you really want.

This article is written by Carrie Cheadle, who has a master’s degree in sport psychology from John F. Kennedy University and works with athletes & teams, of all sports and levels of competition, as a Certified Mental Performance Consultant. Her article first appeared on GoalsOnTrack Blog.

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