Traditional Goal Setting Doesn’t Work for Me

Written by Laurie Hillis

Hi, I’m Laurie Hillis, I love what I do: the learning, the process, and above all, seeing how my clients grow as leaders.


January 12, 2023

Image © by Cup of Couple via

My annual goal list consists of ONE BIG INTENTION

I’ve been thinking about the year ahead, as is the tradition for many when one year ends and another begins. While some people find value and calm in setting detailed goals for the year, strict goal setting isn’t for me (if this approach works for you, all the power to you, keep it up!). I do have a mental list of the things I want to learn, explore, and accomplish (some of them I even write down), but I find it more helpful to imagine myself at the end of the year, looking back at the previous 365 days, at what will tell me that I’ve lived my life the way I intended.

Intention is the key for me. It’s so easy to get swept up in the countless number of “things” that happen to and around us, and to be in a constant state of reacting. I find it exhausting and it doesn’t allow me to accomplish anything meaningful. So my measure of success this year is  just one: BE INTENTIONAL.

I recently re-read Atomic Habits by James Clear. I am a voracious reader and return to my favourites once in a while. The strategies Clear offers help me be intentional about changing my behaviours to get what I want out of life. It’s not a book about goal setting, it is a book about breaking habits that aren’t serving us, and creating new ones that do. Seems simple, right? The concept might be, but the practice, not so much. Clear provides strategies to do things like overcome a lack of motivation, develop a stronger identity and belief in oneself, design your environment to make success easier, and find ways to get back on track when you get off course. For me, the goal is to pay more attention to how I’m going to get things done rather than what

Another thought leader I keep coming back to is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He defines the meaning of flow, as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Can you think of times when you’ve found yourself lost in a state of flow, enjoying what you were doing so much that you lost track of time, and came out of it simultaneously exhausted and energized? It’s not likely to happen every day, and it’s almost magical when it does. I am on the hunt for the things I find flow in, both personally and professionally. 

The other practice I want to remain focused on this year is being present in the moments that matter. Too often, we bounce between mini crises or seemingly urgent tasks and countless meetings that “have to get done,” half-heartedly doing one thing with our mind wandering to the next thing. It results in not being fully focused or present in either thing. So much in my life deserves more of my undivided attention. 

So, as I think about what I want to accomplish over the next 12 months, my ONE BIG INTENTION is a 3-parter: 

  • Be intentional about my actions and decisions
  • Find what puts me in a state of flow and build more of it into my life
  • Remain present in each moment

What is your ONE BIG GOAL (and/or INTENTION) for 2023?

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