the final frontier: how to craft spacious goals

live long & prosper print by unicorn empire prints - click image for more

I’ve heard you’re a little uncomfortable with the g-word.


I love expansive, juicy goals. The kind that make my stomach churn. But it seems not everyone feels the same way.

You’d prefer to tip toe through the daisies, wandering your creative path, creating your art, not worrying about where you’re headed or what you’re accomplishing.

Except that it’s quite clear you’re not accomplishing as much as you’d really like to be. And there’s this strange feeling in your gut that has a twinge of dissatisfaction about it.

Or maybe you’re doing well – but you want even more and have been wondering just how to go about doing that.

You’re afraid that if you set a goal and you don’t reach it, you’re a failure. You’re afraid that if you don’t know what to make your goal, you’ll never reach it. You’re afraid that if you don’t make your goal small enough, you’ll be overwhelmed.

Is that about right?

For all we talk about resolutions, intentions, and dreams, it seems we don’t have a very good relationship with the goal setting.

My goal today is to do nothing less than turn your idea of goal setting on its head. You game?

We set goals to define possibility.

Before you set a goal, you don’t know what you can achieve. The real fear isn’t that you lack the skills or resources, it’s that you’ve been blessed with so many.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
— Marianne Williamson

Goal setting is not a tool in a toolbox. It’s not even a ruler. A goal is not something you create & then stash away until the end of a project.

Your goal is the whole workbench. It’s where you pound away, drill down, build, sand & refine. It supports the project from the bottom up, it provides you a space to work, it allows you to rest.

A goal is not something that you build up to – a goal is something that you build upon.

From here, I will answer three basic questions about goals: why do I need them, how can I create one that works for me instead of against me, and who do I involve in my goal setting. At the bottom of the post, you’ll find a worksheet for expanding the goals you currently have.

Why do I need a goal?

You may already be aware that I take issue with the phrase, “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

It’s not that I don’t think you should enjoy the journey, of course, quite the contrary. My issue is that I find it difficult to believe that you can make a true journey without having an idea of where you’re going.

Without a destination, you’re left to wander. And while wandering may teach you things, expose you to new experiences, even shape who you are, it’s unlikely to bring you the sense of satisfaction that you so crave. You never feel the accomplishment of reaching the destination on your journey.

When you consider a journey of wandering as the measurement of your life, you’re forced to look back. You are constantly looking over your shoulder to see if where you’ve gone has been “worth it.” On the other hand, identifying your destination means that you are always looking forward. You’re choosing the paths you take based on where you think (or know) your destination is located.

You’re using landmarks and identifying the road signs. You may choose different directions, you may choose to improvise a new path, but those decisions are based on your understanding of where you’re headed.

Satisfaction comes in forging a trail with purpose & direction.

How do you create a goal that works for you instead of against you?

If your goal is a framework for your success, a definition of the possibilities you can achieve, it’s important for that framework to have space.

Sometimes life’s journey throws you a detour, a washed out bridge, a fresh new highway to cruise. You need the space to explore those opportunities. You can maintain your sense of direction, you can keep your eye on your destination while allowing yourself the chance to explore.

Maintaining the space of your goal framework also gives you the opportunity to explore whether your original destination is really the thing you want to work for. You may discover that you only desired the results the destination you had in mind delivered but you’ve found an equally viable alternative. You thought you wanted the Hilton but the Marriott will do just fine. You thought you wanted Niagara but nothing less than Victoria Falls will suffice.

That’s not failure – it’s exploration.

Creating space in your goal gives you the opportunity to recognize achievement while it’s happening instead of after-the-fact.

So how do you create space in your goal? You make it bigger. You imagine more, you dig deeper, you reach outward & upward until you have a space that’s full of bright light and easy to navigate.


Leave your goal small, continue your limited thinking, and you’re left with a narrow tunnel that makes discovery impossible and the only viable path forward or backward (and let’s not kid ourselves about how often we choose “forward”).


Big, beautiful goals leave the world at your finger tips. They leave you invigorated, not panic-stricken. Big goals allow for all sorts of successes – not just those you imagined at the get go.

Who do you involve?

Most ideas are born & lost in isolation.
— Scott Belsky

Goals are not solo projects – they’re joint ventures.

First on your list of who to involve has to be yourself. Too often I see goals that are uttered but never committed to.

Without your commitment to reaching the goal, without your promise to dig into the work of achieving your objective, you’re leaving your goal in a ditch by the side of the road.

Commit yourself to your goal.

Next, you need to involve those who provide most of the resources for making your goal happen. That might be your family, your spouse, your sister, or your best friend. These are the people who give your life & work structure and meaning. They create your day-to-day and your year-to-year.

Do you really think you can achieve your goals without including them?


They should be part of the planning process. Let them know what’s in it for them, let them know what’s in it for you. Ask for what you need. Negotiate when necessary. Plan together, work together, succeed together.

Finally, you need to involve your greater community, those who are impacted by the success of your goal. It might be your customers, your local community, your social network, or your coworkers.

If you’re achieving big things, things are going to change – and they need to know about it. They can provide you with support, insight, and information. They can fill in the blanks, offer feedback, and continue to expand your goal framework.


They’re not there to steal your ideas (by the way, people can’t steal an idea they know already belongs to you – only one you keep in hiding). They’re not there to warn you about failure. They’re not there to be smug about your past.

Your community is there to build you up. Use them.

goals: the final frontier

If you’ve been wondering why your actions aren’t taking hold, if you’ve been wondering why you are missing that sense of accomplishment, if you’ve been itching to do bigger but are constantly thinking smaller, your goal setting strategy probably needs a tune up.

Today, take the time to think about your goals in a way that creates a platform for your success, creates space for your accomplishments, and involves those you love & respect. Need help?

Jump start your goal setting with this free goals worksheet.

Have you registered for The Art of Action? Make forward progress (not research or “thinking about”) on your spacious goals. Register now!

16 thoughts on “the final frontier: how to craft spacious goals

  1. You always seem to know exactly what I need at exactly the right time. I set goals in my professional life all the time, but when it comes down to setting goals for turning my hobbies into something more productive, I falter. Fear of inadequacy, of accidentally winding up doing something someone else is already doing, you name it I have the excuse. So…thank you!

  2. Ditto Serena. Just what I needed today. I have been back pedaling and avoiding a lot this year. The end of last year bought some goals into sight and that spurred me into avoidance.
    Toady I jump back in the saddle for real! I need to get that Williamson quote tattooed I think :-)
    Thanks Tara!

  3. I LOVE goals! I may not always achieve them but I truly believe they are crucial. I think goals are what keep us alive… all the endless possibilities.

    My parents-in-law both take medication for depression and anxiety. I asked them once: “Do you have any goals? What do you desire? There must be something that you want?”

    They both looked at me as if I were mad.

    They think they are too old for goals, but I suspect they never had very big goals in the first place. I think there is often a perception that having a wildly ambitious goal is rather arrogant… “who do you think you are?”

    What I fear is not my own inadequacy but that others will let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I have no business having such lofty goals. I fear that the negativity of others will erode my resolve and confidence, and that if I do fail, there will be a smug: “I told you so!” So I keep my HUGE goals hidden as precious secrets from all but the most trusted confidantes, and I keep toiling away covertly.

  4. Oh yes… and I also want to ask, what if the success of your goal is perceived as impacting negatively on those in your circle? I have unswerving support from my husband, son, and best friend, but I know that there are members of my extended family who would regard my ambitions [if I were to reveal them] as interfering with their plans for me. Their desire for the status quo. It won’t stop me, but, I remain tight-lipped because I feel the open disapproval will only hinder my goals further.

  5. #noredshirts I love that :) So, I often feel like I’m be set up for failure by my ‘support’ system. How do we deal with those that mean well, but who are not supportive or are pseudo supportive (Why do that? What good would going back to school do, it’ll just cost lots of money? what would you do with the degree?…), when we love them & aren’t ready to ditch them (i.e. parents, husbands/wives, friends). It’s almost as if they’re assigning me the ‘red shirt’ & sending me out into the world. Where do I find the real support system? Thank you for another thought provoking article!

  6. Thank you, this is something I needed to read right now. I’ve always had a hard time setting goals, and I tend to think of them in concrete terms rather than flexible guides. Looking forward to going through the worksheet!

  7. Serena, you said it!
    I am exceptionally organised and goal-oriented in my work but if I happen to have a spare day the hours seem to be employed doing things in bits and pieces, no concentration whatsoever on specific goals. I also often find myself with several projects on the go which tend to drag on, although I enjoy each of them…
    Emma: your plans and ambitions belong to your life and as long as you do not hurt anyone (which I am quite certain you don’t!), this should not concern anyone but you. Other people (whether relatives or not) should not have plans for you and your life….!
    I suspect fear of change is at the root of all disagreement…
    But as we all know, change is good!!
    Tara, thanks for another enjoyable and useful post, keep them coming, I look forward to finding your emails in my box!!

  8. This is a really useful post, thank you. I’ve just had an attempt at the worksheet and it has just occurred to me that have I already reached my goal which I set a few years ago and for some reason, lost recognition of.

    Time to make some bigger goals!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *