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The idea of setting goals makes me want to shrivel up. Perhaps that’s because I’m what Gretchen Rubin describes as a “Questioner.” According to her typology, Questioners are motivated by inner expectations but not outer ones. The problem with setting goals is that it’s like translating internal goals into external ones which is just the opposite of what motivates me.

There are four types in Rubin’s system and they fall along the two axises of internal and external commitments. The Rebel, for example, resists both kinds of expectations while the Upholder meets both. The Obliger is the opposite of the Questioner, meeting external commitments while resisting internal ones. I’m thinking that all this goal-setting fixation is really best suited for those who are jazzed by external commitments.

The Annoying Truth About Goals

Yet here’s the conundrum: extensive research (note: sample size of one) shows that I am more likely to get shit done when I have some kind of goal. I want to get shit done and I hate goals. What to do?

I even judge myself over the issue. “I’m a coach, already!” I tell myself. “Drink the Kool-Aid!” In fact, I think I wrote a blog about a year ago professing that I did just that. Didn’t last.

I always thought SMART goals were kind of dumb, and when I say ‘dumb’, I mean uninspired and boring. Dumb because they don’t elicit enthusiasm in me, rather they call up something more akin to rebellion. Kind of like when someone tells you to take out the trash (even when you were going to do it anyway (or maybe my resistance just goes back to me being a Questioner in Rubin’s typology)).

Hoping for Inspiration

What I do find inspiring is being clear on my priorities and envisioning an abundant and thriving future state for myself. I’m hoping that somewhere in the intersection of priorities and envisioning, I will be thunderstruck by a maniacal drive and blazing productivity. It is a hard balance for me to strike because my motivation can be fickle.

In his later years, my grandpa used to plant his feet on the ground while you were trying to push him in his wheelchair. It was like you just smashed into a three-inch curb. Everything came to an abrupt halt. My motivation can be like that. A stubborn horse that has sighted an insurmountable impasse.


If goals are going to work for me, they have to sneak up on me. I have to be aligned with them at a really deep level, and there can’t be any goal type language happening like ‘deadlines’ or even ‘target dates’ (and certainly not the dreaded ‘deliverables’). One inspired coach suggested I create all new language around goals. So, I started thinking in terms of ‘quests’ and ‘dragon slaying’. It had me enthralled. For a day and a half.

I’m wondering if engaging in being intentional might be the answer to my goal-setting conundrum. After years of resistance, I’m finally checking out two profound books by Lynne McTaggart, The Field and The Intentionality Experiment.

It’s True: Your Thoughts Create Reality

In the introduction of The Intention Experiment, McTaggart tantalizes with this earth-shattering tidbit: “Targeting your thoughts [e.g. intentionality] appeared to produce an energy potent enough to change physical reality. A simple thought seemed to have the power to change our world.”

Take a second to ponder that one. She’s saying that science is proving that intentionality affects physical reality. This isn’t about the rather obvious point that by focusing my intention I will tend to take action that improves my world, which all by itself is a pretty good reason to be intentional. It is saying that just holding the thought shapes reality.

I’m just getting started with Lynne McTaggart. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Possibilities of Intentionality

But I like this language, “intentionality.” I’m thinking it’s something that I can get behind. Somehow it feels lighter than “goal-setting.” It is not as stringent as a “commitment.”

So, I’m going to go with setting intentions. McTaggart says that to be good at intention, you have to learn how to do it. I’m down with that.

To do list:

  • Learn to get great at intentionality
  • Set some intentions
  • Watch what happens

That feels doable.

I suspect all those proponents of goal setting tend to be Upholders and Obligers, or the folks who are motivated by external commitments. (If it did nothing else, my post-modern education taught me to question the structures of power.) So, if you’re an Obliger or Upholder, you may be wondering what my dilemma is. But if you’re a Questioner or Rebel, perhaps you’ll find that intentionality is a gateway into the undeniable power of goal-setting.

So, what about it? Are you into goal-setting? What do you think about this intentionality business?



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