Have you set yourself toxic goals?

Do you have dreams? Desires? Goals? Of course you do. We all do and I am sure we all know how important they are, right? How is your motivation going towards achieving them? If you are smashing every goal you set yourself, you should stop reading now and comment instead on how you set your goals!

If however, like many of us, you feel like it’s not going so well, that reaching the goal is hard work or a struggle then it might be a toxic goal. The phrase ‘toxic goal‘ was coined by one of my mentors, Jamie Smart. He uses it to describe those goals that have demotivation and failure written into them the moment you set them. You may not even notice you’ve done it.

How do you know if your goals are toxic?

When talking (or thinking) about your goal, do you ever say:

  • I will do [x] when…
  • I will be happy when…
  • I need [x] to get started on…

You get the idea.

I was speaking with one of my clients recently who is setting up a photography business, she said to me “I will feel more confident when I have the ‘right’ camera”…a few weeks later she said to me “I will feel ready when I have done a course”.

When I was starting out on my entrepreneur journey I did it too – I kept saying…when I get the website ready I will launch my business. The trouble was, it was taking ages to get the website ready and time was ticking by; my goal felt so far away.

It’s not just in our businesses either, we do it in our personal lives too….”I’ll be happy when I lose that weight/find the one/have a plan….”

Toxic goals have an additional problem to not being attainable…they can bring a source of stress and feelings of failure, demotivation, unworthiness, lack of confidence in what you are doing. All of this isn’t great for your general well-being.

Where do toxic goals come from?

All our goals, toxic or otherwise, come from ourselves, our thoughts. When we set a goal based on future happiness or requirement, rather than because we want to or it excites us, it becomes a toxic goal. The truth is, many of these thoughts stem from insecurity and fear of what will happen if you reach the goal..or on the journey to reaching it. In my case, I was using the website to delay the launch because I was afraid. I didn’t mean to of course; I thought it was a good goal.

If we were happy when [x] happened then most of us would be happy, wouldn’t we? So often it’s not the case.  Sometimes we set our goals for things we think we should want, rather than what we really want or need. We ignore our intuition and set goals that are entirely wrong for us or that aren’t congruent with our own values and belief systems.

What’s the solution?

In order to set wholesome, fulfilling and achievable goals they need to be something we want to do. We need to give ourselves space to listen to our intuition and pay attention to any uncomfortable feelings. To reset or to avoid toxic goals in the future there are 3 easy steps to take:

  1. Make time to think about what you want (and need)
  2. Take action even if you are scared/want perfection/need [x] – take action anyway
  3. Reflect and notice any uncomfortable feelings

In doing this, my client realised that she didn’t need the most expensive camera and she didn’t have to attend a course in order to learn her craft. I realised I could launch the business even if the website wasn’t perfect (FYI I discovered that you don’t even need a website for your business). Our feelings were coming from our own preconceptions.

How being present can help you

You don’t need to wait to be happy; you can be happy right now. I promise. All those thoughts that are telling you to wait until [x] happens and then you can be happy…they don’t exist except in your head. No-one can predict the future and as it stands, the future isn’t real. We have only now. So in this moment choose to live in the now, be happy, choose to take action and reach those goals and start the journey towards your goal.

You can use mindfulness to stay present or anything else that works for you. As I reflected this morning I wrote down the words “more does not equal better;  I must do well with what I have.” Sometimes we say we will stop when we have enough, but there is never enough. It was a good reminder to check in with my own goals.



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