Insights: Letting Go of Goals

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Now that we’re into the New Year, I am taking time to reflect, learn and challenge myself to new goals. It does not have to happen on New Years itself. It is about taking some time to reflect. It can happen today, or next week. The key is that we take the time to reflect. It is sort of like changing the batteries in your smoke detector around daylights savings. It is just about using a certain time as a reminder that we need to do something.

Just to throw a wrench in the machine, once you write out your goals, let them go.

I came up with a saying: ‘Have great expectations, then let them go, now be open to all possibilities.”

What am I talking about here? We need to have goals; we need to get our brain thinking about what we like, what we want, what we are about, and a sense of direction.

Then as we go through life with those goals, do not hold them too tight, as life can change and throw us a curve ball. Rather than hold so tightly that we become blinded to other possibilities, be open to changes. We can often feel cheated or disillusioned if we hold too tightly to our goals and then we freeze and give up.

Let’s look at this differently, with the idea of setting our goals and being open to changing the path if needed.

To clarify: we are going down the road and we see a detour ahead, yet in our mind we want to protest, get mad and feel “why is this happening to me!”

It is not happening to you, this is part of life. It does not always go according to a plan. Life is going to have many twists and turns. We might find some stretches of freeway where the traffic is light, and we can travel at the speed limit with few twists in the roadway.  However, just like any freeway, eventually there will be turns, there will be traffic, and at times there will be road blocks and detours.

When we are able to accept this, life will flow better. It is like when I am driving somewhere I always leave at least 15 minutes earlier as I expect a delay and this enables me to not get stressed.

Now, if there ends up being a sudden detour, I take a breath and regroup. I may start with a “grrr” feeling, but after a minute of doing so I step out of the frustration and bring myself back to the idea of letting go of control and now just creating a new path.

Always be careful of what goals you create. Drop the “I need to lose 10 pounds” concept and look a little deeper. A better goal would be to focus on connecting more with the needs of your body. This is more difficult to define. However, this is more effective for long-term change as you are learning to listen to your body, which truly has all the answers. We just need to pay attention to it.

From here, do not try to accomplish all your goals at once. This will overwhelm the brain and cause us to give in and drop all our goals. That is why so many people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the first month.

Set yourself up for success by choosing goals we know we can accomplish and then add to them as we accomplish them.

Even when I set a goal of hiking up a mountain, I start with breaking it down into segments. When I make it through that first segment, I reset my goal to the next part of the hike. This allows my brain to feel successful which then triggers it to say “I feel pretty good about this, what can I do next?”

Make sure our goals are ours and not what we think we should accomplish.  We need to have an emotional pull towards our goal. We need to feel it, not just want it.

It is never too late to sit down and start thinking about what your goals are for this year, and then let them go and be open to all possibilities.  It is amazing what we can accomplish this way.

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].

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