When most of us set goals we write down all those things we think we should achieve or should already have achieved but haven't! For example, if your body is no longer looking as trim as it was a decade ago, one of your goals might be to lose weight and begin an exercise programme. If you are financially not happy, then one of your goals might be to increase your wealth/income/investments/financial education. If you are a salesperson, one of your goals might be to meet higher sales targets than you already meet. If you are single, one of your goals might be to meet someone to start a relationship with.

Notice the word 'should' in the previous paragraph. That word is the key to why most people find it difficult to achieve goals they have set for themselves.

The word 'should' is a word used by your primary self, which is that part of your whole self which you identify with, and which has particular rules and ideas about what kind of person you should be.

If your primary self is achievement oriented in the world of business, then one of its values would be to have you achieve whatever it is that is required of someone in your line of business. So your 'shoulds' would involve things like meeting certain sales targets, growing your business/department, increasing your company's share value, and so on.

So when you set goals for yourself, they are probably business-related. And the part of you that has set those goals is your business self.

In contrast, some of your goals are probably set by your disowned self, which includes the inner aspects of yourself which you repress and don't allow into your life. If you have the work-focused self above as your primary self, then you might also have a goal on your list to take more time out for yourself to do nothing, to rest, to go on a holiday. At the time of setting the goal, you become excited, enthusiastic and have a burst of newfound energy. You cut out advertisements from newspapers and magazines about various holiday destinations, you daydream about how your holiday will make you feel, and you set out to book it.

But then your work oriented primary self returns the following Monday morning and says, "Holiday? You're kidding! You can't afford a holiday, you're not going anywhere until you do better at work."

So off you go to work and after a few weeks all thoughts about that time off have vanished. Before you know it, you're celebrating New Year again and it occurs to you that you need to take a break the following year.

But to make matters worse, you also might not have achieved the goals your primary self set for you! You started out fully motivated to improve your sales targets, but as you set out on that path, distractions got in the way. You found yourself suffering more headaches than usual or just plain tiredness. You'd sit at your phone, intending to make a certain number of calls but suddenly calling your mother, sister and cousin seemed more important and you told yourself that you'd make up for it the next day.

Again, at your New Year's Eve party, you look back and realise that not that much changed over the last year. You achieved what was necessary but there aren't many ticks on your goals list.

These scenarios are common. They occur because it is not us that decides what we want for ourselves. One self sets a particular goal, and another self fights it. We get stuck in the middle and find all sorts of excuses for not doing the things one self has determined we 'should' do, yet we also cannot do the opposite with full enjoyment.

The solution:

The trick is to try to set your goals more consciously. Rather than accepting without discrimination an idea that you have about what you 'should' do, try to get in touch with the opposite way of thinking or feeling first. Question the rule that feels so certain. Spend some time sitting with an idea before acting on it. Allow time for other parts of you to make their way to your awareness and to have their say.

Listen to what other people around you are saying - if you feel completely certain about something, chances are someone will come into your life who will express a totally opposite viewpoint. Take what this person says or does seriously, particularly if you react to it strongly, for this indicates you are currently identified strongly with a self and its viewpoint, and have no awareness of the opposite functioning within yourself.

Contrary to what many motivational gurus say, which is to act quickly on an idea, I would suggest to not act. We all know or have heard of someone who bought a house on a whim because it felt 100% right at the time but then later discovered that it didn't suit them or was riddled with expensive-to-fix problems. We've all been shopping and found an outfit that we felt was so perfect for us, only to bring it home and realise we will never wear it.

You will save far more time, money and energy in the long run if, before you decide to act, you take the time to consider, to ponder what you are drawn to acting on.

It may even mean that one of your goals is to NOT set any goals but to explore some options, to allow yourself to be in a state of not-working-to-reach-any-particular-goal, but to listen inside to the different parts of yourself. You can do this with a small issue you are considering making a decision on or a large one.

By allowing yourself to not act, you might even find that more options become open to you, ones which could take your life in a direction that satisfies you far more than the original goal you wanted to achieve would have allowed.


Write down all the goals you would like to achieve for yourself. Write each one on a separate piece of paper or on a new page on your word processor. Then after each goal write the reactions you have about it. Give yourself time to allow the reactions to come to your awareness. Some might be supportive of your goal and some might be against it.

Then review what you have written and you will have a fuller awareness of how the various parts of you feel about each goal. Now make a decision about each goal if you want to, but remember to hold onto the opposite viewpoints. Don't push these away, but take them on the journey with you, just as you would take a toddler to a supermarket even though she would prefer to go to the park!

If you are not sure about what to do, then wait. Just sit with the problem. Maybe you need more information, maybe you just need more time to become aware of what feels best for you. Enjoy the process.

For plenty of inspirational articles on topics which affect us all - from relationships, parenting, business, creativity to spirituality - see http://www.voicedialogue.com/blog/

Author's Bio: 

Astra Niedra is a teacher of Voice Dialogue and the Psychology of Selves. She publishes and writes the Voice Dialogue and You! website and blog, which offers insights and practical tips for using Voice Dialogue in relationships, parenting and personal growth. http://www.voicedialogue.com. Astra is author of The Perfect Relationship, Enlightenment Through Motherhood, and Which Self are You?.