Why Goals Make Me Itch

Conwy Harbour, ©Sarah Marie Lacy. 10x12 acrylic on canvas, framed. $250

Conwy Harbour, ©Sarah Marie Lacy. 10x12 acrylic on canvas, framed. $250

I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve finally figured out why the word “goal” makes me itch and why attempting to set goals makes me want to crawl back under the covers.

First, a bit of background.

Me and goals have been struggling for a while. I’d set goals half heartedly, and then watch myself fail to reach them. The “halfheartedly” thing should have been a big clue.

After awhile I just stopped setting goals, but then had a ton of guilt around not having them, so even though technically I didn’t have any goals to make me anxious, I was still anxious. Not good. Not what I was looking for.

Back to the present

I read a post the other day by Ken Roberts, over at Mildly Creative. It was called “Are you a goal setter or a goal shedder?” and it talked about two different ways to approach life – by setting concrete goals, or by following a direction. That’s when it hit me – I much prefer to follow a direction than to set goals. I talked about this a bit yesterday in my conversation with Bob, but this is such a huge shift for me that I just had to expand on it.

Part of the problem is that I’m one of those people who doesn’t know what they want, not in any kind of specific terms, and certainly not for the long term. I sure as hell don’t have a life plan or any such thing. (Please, no one tell my father, it’ll give him a nervous breakdown. His advice was to always have a plan or “you’d just end up in someone else’s.”)

I don’t know what I want. I have vague ideas – I love art, I’d like to make lots of it, I love to travel, and I’m sure I’ll end up with a cat & alpaca farm at some point in the future, but I don’t really know what I want my life to look like. All of those “Plan your ideal day in your ideal life” exercises just make my head hurt. I can never think of anything. You know, maybe my apartment would be bigger, or I’d get my hair highlighted more often, or I’d get massages to help with the fibromyalgia, but those are pretty minor things. I’m not totally obsessed by them, or passionate about them. Sure, I would adore more money to travel, but that’s pretty freaking vague – how much more money? Where would you travel to? Those damned exercises always want details. I don’t have details! I don’t know where I want to go!

But I started reading a book the other day called “The Soul of Money” by Lynn Twist (non-affiliate link). She talks about the lie of scarcity and instead how if we come from the place of “enough”, we come to rely on our own self sufficiency and can wisely steward our money, whether it’s a lot or a little. It was the concept of “enough” that struck me.

And now we come to the crux of the problem – why goals make me itch. Whenever I went to set goals, it was from a place of scarcity,  a place of “I don’t have enough so I need to set these goals to get more!” But because it came from such an inauthentic place, I just couldn’t get behind them. I just didn’t care, not really, not in my heart.

For me, I’d much rather set values, and directions than goals. What do I value? What’s important to me? How can I use what I have to invest in those things? Do I want to spend more time making art? Do I want to share my art? Who do I want to share my art with? How do I want to share my art? Where do I want to live? How do I want to live? How can I use what I have now to head in that direction? Am I already heading in that direction?

For me, it’s totally not about the destination. Destinations annoy me. Life isn’t about arriving somewhere. You shouldn’t arrive anywhere until you’re pulling up to the funeral home in a hearse. I want to go places, see things, follow a path with no end. Whenever I have goals, I inevitably end up with a hollow sense of “Well, now what?”

Just to clarify, I don’t mean “Don’t have dreams.” I’m just not into goal setting for the sake of goal setting (okay, I’m just not into goal setting at all, but I’m weird.) I like dreams. Dreams are good. But sometimes there’s a beauty in what you have now too.


How do you feel about goals? Do you love them, hate them? Do they work for you, or do they make you itch?

I understand that this can be kind of a tough topic. We’ve all got our stuff, our hang ups, and we’re all working on them. So if we could just leave our judgments at the door, I’d really appreciate that. :)

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  1. says

    I was so with you and smiling until paragraph 6. ‘All of a sudden’ I was overcome by all the question marks,.. but I read on…
    I had a sigh of relief in the last sentence. – Don’t ever lose sight of the present and the beauty of it that you might only see with hindsight.

    This was lovely (and thought provoking) to read. Thankyou x

  2. says

    “Whenever I went to set goals, it was from a place of scarcity, a place of “I don’t have enough so I need to set these goals to get more!””

    Ooh, that’s so interesting. Reading this I realised that I’m actually really scared of thinking I have enough. (Why? Because that might mean I ended up just staying where I am, with what I have, for ever.) Useful information.

  3. says

    i love this post!!! really made me think about that four letter word that makes you itch “g-o-a-l” and i love how you reframed that into what direction you want to be heading and also what you really value.

    i’ve noticed in the past couple days how much i value connection with other people and how blessed i feel by so many really sincere honest people in all areas of my life.

    you being one of them of course. i love your art – and i think that your willingness to look at your itch around goals is courageous and inspiring.


    .-= Char´s last blog ..The Sleep Saga Continues Part 1: No Wonder!! =-.

  4. says

    Hi Sarah,

    What a great revelation you’ve had. Congrats! I come from a structured goal-based background or should I say expectation. You know; big goals always gotta be forward looking.

    But that just started to cause overwhelm and a F-it attitude as I got older. Not good. I, too, have gone through the “I don’t know what I want” situation. It is stronger at some points in my life than at other times. Even now, with my art business, I still confront it.

    I’ve learned I need structure in some form and I need to set goals or to-do’s or tasks or intentions or whatever one might want to call them. What has changed is making them smaller; baby steps that result in accomplishment and a feeling of success.

    I once said to my husband that I didn’t think I was goal-oriented or that I knew what I wanted, what direction to go in. He told me that he believed I did but I just didn’t call them by that name.

    My sense is you do know what you want and where you’re going…by being present and taking life as it comes. And that is a huge achievement!

    .-= Amy Crawley´s last blog ..A Minor Disappearing Act =-.