The Idea of Goal Setting

Many, MANY years ago, in high school and college, I had the unpleasant experience of being in classes where the teacher wanted to teach us about goals.

Invariably, I listened to the same information…setting short term goals, setting long term goals, setting SMART goals. Then, as homework or an activity, we’d have to fill out a worksheet with our own short or long or SMART goals. Yuk.

My mind would go blank with anything past a short term goal and I never understood why. I always thought there was something wrong with my brain or how I was going about my life.

Just the mention of the word ‘goals’ still, at 60 years old, makes me want to run for cover.

I’m no better at setting them now than I was then, or at any time in between, and there’s been a LOT of time in between.

The Many Faces of Goal Setting

two facesMost of us have been taught, at some point, that goal setting is essential if we ever want to accomplish anything. We’re made to feel like a loser or unmotivated or even lazy if we don’t set goals and work towards them.

But, what we’re not taught, related to this idea of goal setting, is that there are primarily two types of people in the world, and yes, there IS a continuum as usual. 

Those two types of people are goal-oriented and process-oriented and yes, you can be one type for one aspect of your life and the other type for a different aspect for you life. 

For example, you could be highly goal-oriented when it comes to your health and completely process-oriented when it comes to raising children or working for money. 

Let’s explore the two.

Goal Oriented

Goal oriented people are the peeps who can’t seem to function until they are working toward some goal…and usually it’s a fairly big goal. Small goals generally don’t excite them. But in truth, it could be a long term goal or a short term goal or several of each. Really just depends on the person.

These people strive every day to make progress towards their goals. They focus, they practice, they constantly read and refine their goals, make to-do lists to ensure they get things done to reach those goals. They are so

Process Oriented People

No, I didn’t forget to finish that last sentence. I used it as an illustration of how a process oriented person often functions.

I actually stopped writing completely when I realized it was snowing big yummy flakes outside. I sat, completely mesmerized for a minute or two, watching the flakes, thinking about my friend, Jan, who would love a video of those tender sweet flakes of white falling to the ground. 

I then got up from my writing, took said video and texted it to her. THEN I sat back down to write some more.

You see, process oriented people, yours truly included, have trouble setting goals and we often have a tough time staying focused. 

It’s not that we don’t get things done. It’s not that we don’t have the intention of doing a bunch of things on our to-do lists. It’s not even that we don’t have to-do lists…we often do. It’s that other things come up and we kinda live like a river flows. We just let ourselves be moved in the direction that’s happening currently.

And it’s not that we have an a disorder. It’s just how we function. 

And, it’s not that we don’t have things we want to accomplish, create or be involved with, etc. 

It’s just that the process of life itself and all it entails, seems so much more interesting than anything on the list, that we tend to lose ourselves in what we’re doing…especially is we really enjoy the ‘process’ of what we’re doing.

And the goals we do set have to involve a process that we can enjoy which will keep us going until we reach the goal…otherwise, it will never happen because we just can’t get into the process of accomplishing our idea.

We are truly ‘always stop and smell the roses’ people. No one has to remind us to do this. We do it naturally.

The Good, the Bad and the Rest of it

As you might imagine, there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of people and their processes. And we must remember that even the ACT of looking or talking about an advantage or a disadvantage will be different, depending on which side of the goal fence you’re on.

To a goal-oriented person, a process-oriented person can’t focus, they don’t accomplish much and what they do accomplish, takes way too long in their book. 

A goal person often thinks that the process person has no drive, no inner motivation to ‘accomplish’ anything but what they don’t know is that accomplishing things isn’t what motivates us. 

What motivates us is experiencing things…from the simple, seemingly mundane task of making a food that a lover enjoys to an adventure of moving to a new community, process-oriented people just love living in the here and now. They have a difficult time thinking into the future. They can sometimes imagine how they’d like things in the future but it generally doesn’t drive them unless the ‘process’ of getting to that place is enjoyable and satisfying in some way.

What drives them is what’s happening right now. What needs to be done right now. What they’re trying to do right now.

To a process-oriented person, a goal-oriented person is way too driven…driven to the point of missing out on so much of the yummy stuff life offers us up as experiences.

To a process person, a goal person functions to intensely, it can be hard to live in the same house as a highly goal driven person. Process people don’t understand what the big deal it about accomplishing so much stuff if have you have to do so many things that you either don’t enjoy or take you away from what really matters (to them). 

It mostly comes down to the meaning and purpose we have individually decided on in regard to life itself. 

Is it for making a difference? 

Is it for serving others?

Is it for enjoying to the fullest?

Is it for loving to the fullest?

Is it for getting all of the goodies (whatever those are for you)?

Is it for accomplishing lots of things?

Was I born with a purpose I have to discover and live (this is a big one…best left for another day:).

What Drives Us Thrives Us

I think most of us can agree on what the word ‘thrive’ means. And while there are sure to be variations on the theme, for the most part, to thrive means to function well, be healthy, happy, purposeful, energetic, etc. 

My experience with people is that when they are doing what they love, they appear to be thriving. I don’t have to ask them how they’re doing…I can SEE and FEEL it about them. I’m sure you’ve experienced, either with yourself or with others.

Resolving the Goal Dilemma

So, what DO you do if you’re a process-oriented person in a seemingly goal-oriented world.

And what DO you do if you’re a goal-oriented person and you’re starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, there is another way to do life that might be a little more enjoyable, a little less stressful, a little slower perhaps?

Well, the first thing you do is realize there is NOTHING wrong with you, regardless of which way you’re oriented. It’s just the way you’re wired massaged with the way you were raised and frosted with lots of examples that were set for you. 

If you’re a process-oriented person and you’d like to experience a little more of the drive or motivation that you see in your goal-oriented friends, get yourself a coach. And if you can’t afford a coach, get yourself a goal buddy or an accountability partner. 

Find someone you trust who will help you stay on task, practice setting a goal or two and help you work on the to-dos to get your where you said you wanted to be. 

And if you’re a goal-oriented person who can see the advantage of discovering a little bit of your process side, please go to Amazon and order the book, Goal Free Living. 

You can read it and learn that there are all sorts of positives to being a process-oriented person. 

By the way, if you’re a process person, this book will help assure you that there truly is nothing wrong with you and that being driven by processes is a good thing in so many ways. 

New Year’s Reflections

New Year's ReflectionLet’s start a new tradition. Let’s start spending time at the beginning of each year (if the process speaks to you) reflecting on the past year.

As yourself questions like.

  • Where did you come from?
  • Where did you end up?
  • How much time did you spend really enjoying the heck out of life?
  • Did you make a difference and do things for others and the planet?
  • Where you creative, did you dance, smell the actual and proverbial roses?

Then ask yourself if you want more of what you just experienced or less? However you answer yourself, you’ll have a good idea of what you may want to work on the coming year. 

And if a year is too long of a time to consider, let yourself consider the next month. 

You can journal this if you’re a journaler or you can just sit and meditate on this idea and reflect in your mind. 

Either way, you’ll find intuitive answers to how and why you want to live into your future and that’s a very good thing.

Happy New Year!

Elisabeth Donati


Elisabeth Donati