What Happens if You Set ZERO Goals For a Year?

A year ago I came across the philosophy of NOT setting goals in THIS POST.


But I was intrigued–partly because I have always been a loyal goal setter. The type that delights in January resolutions and even spends a good few days analyzing the previous year successes and failures for better strategy. The kind of goal setter that writes every goal down just to make it real.

This new philosophy was very counter to what I have believed my entire life–but something inside me resonated with his argument.

More than not setting goals, he was saying that we need to learn to live in the present and be flexible enough in our course that we can be open to new directions should we choose to pursue something we otherwise would ignore in a “keep your eye on the prize” mentality.

So I decided to give it a go.

I set NO GOALS for 2012.

So what happened this year?

Some highlights:

*I appeared on T.V. for Studio5 five times (Big surprise. Never would have thought of even setting this as a goal.)

*I was featured in the amazon best selling book, The $100 Startupย (Another surprise. And a great book for your Christmas lists!)

*I chose to quit my local photography business indefinitely. It wasn’t bringing me happiness and didn’t feel right anymore.

*I composed an original hymn and choral arrangement that ended up being performed on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. (I haven’t written music in over four years!)

*I started Cross-Fit in March and am still going! (It’s sort of addicting.)

*I spoke at The Beloved Collective Photography Festival in Palm Springs, CA. (Also not planned.)

*I released my Natural Light: From Start to Finish course (Huge success, but I admit this class was a carry over ‘goal’ from 2011 that still needed to be completed.)

*I did my Self Esteem For Young Girls Photography project. (One of my proudest accomplishments for the year. I had thought about doing something like this for years. I was called to be a Youth Leader in my church in May and everything sort of fell into place.)

*I started working on The Family Life Road Trip project. A total secret I’ve kept until right now.

I’m not going to tell you what it is just yet, but I will say that I spent about four months actively working on it earlier in the year.
Then put it aside.
Then considered not doing it all.
Focused on other things and just barely picked it up again.
The moral of the story here is that had I been goal oriented I would have finished it regardless of my feelings changing mid-way through. Since I didn’t have goals this year, I set it aside, had some life experiences that gave me some new perspective, and now I’ve been able to come back and finish it up as something better than it would have been otherwise.

I took several AMAZING online classes that had nothing to do with photography:

*Sarah Bray’s Tour de Bliss. It’s been ‘blissful’ and amazingly eye opening. A great business class that also encourages flexibility and has been a great support in allowing me to change my direction to what is more fitting to my life right now.

*Dressing Your Truth. Life changing. An absolute highlight of my year! And currently on sale today!

*Front and Center. ย Taught by the lovely actress Monica McCarthy, who helps you get yourself on camera ready to make videos for your business. Monica helped me fine tune my video skills and brainstorm some great ideas that I can’t wait to implement into future projects coming soon!

And even further from what I ever thought I’d be interested in actively studying…

I’ve loved the exciting classes I completed on Natural Nutrition, Chakras, Energy Healing, Emotional Freedom Technic, Manifesting, Affirmations, and The Law of Attraction. These too have changed my life and I very likely would not have even considered them if I had been blocking my options by pursuing “set in stone” goals.

Now here’s the thing. I didn’t set goals, but obviously it didn’t stop me from doing something with my life. Instead…

1. It brought me some freedom to have a 360 degree perspective rather than focus on a straight line from A to B.

2. I had fun picking and choosing what felt best to pursue at the moment, even if it didn’t fit with my current business or interests.

3. It also means that I’m ending the year looking at a list of accomplishments rather than a list of some accomplishments AND some failures.

If there is one big lesson that I learned from this experience, it is that life is an ebb and flow.

What we think is important in January could be irrelevant months down the road. Our life changes, our interests change, our needs change and our environment changes. Whether we choose to set goals or not, I think it’s important to leave open the possibility of being flexible and willing to change course (without feeling like a guilty failure). It’s a test in being able to live with purpose and yet be open to guidance in considering other possibilities.

Would I do it again?

I’ll tell you soon. And the answer may surprise you!

In the meantime, how do you feel about goals? Do you need them? Could you abandon them? What works for you?

15 Responses

  1. Another lovely experience for you!

    I’ve lived somewhere in between for sometime now. Seeing what comes to you in your season of life, and being open to it is imperative. We’d never really live, if we didn’t experience the unplanned, the unexpected.

    Personally though, I couldn’t/wouldn’t give up my goals entirely. Every year I set goals for myself. There are multiple categories, and goals within each. Goals give me something to strive for that otherwise I might not attempt. They keep me accountable and give me a path for the things I really need or want to do. Sometimes my goals fail miserably, but that is almost always a lack of planning on my part, and I learn how to do it better for the next time ๐Ÿ™‚ Most of my goals have more than one part, so rarely is any goal attempt a complete failure ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Beth, I wholeheartedly agree ๐Ÿ™‚ You’ll have to wait for my next post where I detail “the other side” of having no goals! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Brooke!! You composed a hymn that was performed publicallly this year?? I had no idea. Wow! You, dear friend, have done some pretty amazing things. My favorite is that you reached out to me and that we are friends. YOU have been a highlight of my year.

    Your amazing light, clear vision, encouraging way that still says what needs to be said, your kindness, listening ear, and a million and one helpful ideas to others is just the beginning of what makes you absolutely amazing.

    And not setting goals? I love this concept! I was always told to set goals and every year disappointed with my lack of progress on them…barely noticing all of the cool stuff that happened.

    This is awesome! Thank you!

  3. I love the permission to be able to change who you use to be. And whatever your doing your looking Great!! another great post! merry christmas ….miranda

  4. Did you take classes on the other things you listed at the end of the post (natural nutrition etc) I am loving your blog posts so much all of them are making me think hard about my life choices etc. I however love writing goals but was given food for thought when you said at the end of the year you have a list of accomplishments and failures….excited to see what you decide for this year

    1. yes, Maren, all the things I mentioned were other classes that I’ve taken. (I’ve been a little education happy lately!)

  5. You are such an inspiration to me, and I’m so glad to know you online and so hope I get to meet you one day in real life. Being on sabbatical this year from my business has been a huge, eye-opening experience and has me thinking about what I want to do and where I want to go next and I’m so grateful to you! Can’t wait to see what you do next!!

    1. Aw Macy! I hope to meet you in person someday too! I would love to hear about what you’ve learned during your sabbatical!

    1. This year I actually had the same no goal experiment. I’ve learned that setting no goals was actually a goal I set for myself. While I accomplished some good soul searching and information gathering I’ve also found that I do not feel a sense of accomplishment that I had when I set more decisive goals. However, when the goals are to specific, I feel overwhelmed and like I am missing out on other opportunities.(Like permission to relax!) After this year my new philosophy on goals is let them serve you and not you serve them. I think I will have the best success and least guilt in my life when I set basic goals that serve me and leave room for improvement and change. This year I am going to pay more attention to how I feel every step of the way on each decision. I have a broad vision for my life. Enjoying each day and being present in the moment is a big part of succeeding in that goal. New goal, if it heads me in the right direction for my ultimate goal, it doesn’t wear me out and make me happy, if I feel satisfaction in my life and see joy in the life of others, then I am going for it. With permission to adjust and change with out guilt at any time. I can’t wait to hear what you have decided. You always bring a fresh perspective that I value.

      1. What a delight to hear from you again! I hope you are doing well! How interesting to know that you tried the same experiment ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s so interesting to hear another ones perspective! I love your new philosophy on goal setting and giving yourself “permission to adjust and change with out the guilt at any time.” So great. Thanks for sharing your own experience and wisdom!

  6. oh Brooke – what an amazing year you have had!!! so happy to have connected with you ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am still on the fence re goals or no goals, and i haven’t quite worked out my feelings on wither side – but very interested to hear yours!!!

  7. Brooke,
    Oh, how glad I am for the chance to know you better this year! You are such an inspiration. Reading your blog gave me an answer to something I’ve been pondering for a time. I love the line ‘It wasnโ€™t bringing me happiness and didnโ€™t feel right anymore”. I am finding that in my own life I end up committing to things that don’t bring me happiness, even though they may feel right. There are so many positive possibilities, that it is important to remember the good, better, best philosophy. That line helped bring me back to remembering that. Thanks.

    1. Jennnifer! How wonderful to hear! That ‘happiness” factor is pretty darn important ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve learned some great lessons in saying no to things in the past few years simply because I didn’t enjoy them–. It’s made a great difference in how I feel! I too love the good better best test ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re so fabulous! Thanks for your comment!

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