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Lifecycle of a Goal

Aug 31, 2023
strong motivated woman celebrating goals towards the sun

This episode was recorded on the eve of my swimrun race, and this race has gotten me thinking a lot about goals. I think every goal has a lifecycle, and if you really understand the lifecycle of a goal you have a better chance of reaching it and accomplishing what you want in your life.

I’ve experienced all the stages of the lifecycle of my goal throughout the training process (and with many other goals and experiences in my life). 

And with the fall feeling like a time of new beginnings for many of us (think of the new school year, new routines and other fresh starts), it’s the perfect time for you to put some attention on your own goals.


What Is A Goal?

I think the word “goal” gets kind of a bad rap. It might come with feelings of struggle, hustle or desperation. And, traditionally, goals are about going from a place of undesirability to a place we like better.

Trying to escape where you are in life is the most painful way to pursue your goals. 

Instead, I like to think about goals as a focused effort toward my desires. 

A goal is a way to get what you want (not just to get away from what you don’t want). Goals can give us direction, momentum and purpose. Knowing that you can choose anything else you want in your life is the best starting point for any goal. 

So when you set a goal, ask yourself why you are setting that particular goal. What is it that you desire to move toward?


The Lifecycle Of A Goal

Every goal goes through 5 stages (I call them the 5 Ds): Determination, Disillusion, Doubt, Decision and Done.


Stage 1: Determination

We choose a goal, feel excited about the result we’re going to create and are totally determined to get there. It’s that feeling that you’re ready, and things are going to be different! There is a lot of positive emotion in this stage, like excitement, motivation and hope.

We start to make plans and visualize ourselves after the goal has been reached. We're sure that we want it. We can't wait to get there. So we get started. 


Stage 2: Disillusion (Dang!) 

This is the part where we realize (oh, dang it!) this goal is going to be harder to achieve than we thought. We feel disillusioned or disappointed, alarmed or shocked and how hard it is as we face the real, uncomfortable daily work that is involved with stepping outside our comfort zones.


Stage 3: Doubt

Our brain starts to think, “Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe I don’t actually want this thing after all.” Lots of thoughts and doubts start to pop up. We question why we even set this goal in the first place. 

This is the moment when a lot of goals die.

We let ourselves believe that these doubts are the truth when, really, it’s just time for us to make a decision. 


Stage 4: Decision

Doubt and decision come for every one of us, regardless of the goal. You’ll have to decide whether you want to continue moving forward and what you need to do to move toward your goal. 

If we let our brain’s doubts get in the way, and we believe we can’t do it or it’s not worth it, we decide to stop and our goal dies.

But, if we decide to keep going we inevitably get to…


Stage 5: Done

Moving beyond doubt (over and over again) requires daily decisions. But if you continue making the decision to do whatever you can and take action toward the goal, you’ll always get to done.

The only way your goal doesn't get done, is if you stop deciding to do it. I find this SO empowering, because it puts us in control of our own success. 


The Secret To Your Goals

The big secret about achieving your goals is…

It’s really not that complicated!

Maybe you’ve thought that it takes a special formula or you have to be a special kind of goal-oriented person to reach your goals. 

But in truth, it just comes down to the ability to decide to keep going when your brain is giving you doubts.

You’ll go through the middle steps of this lifecycle many, many times on the way to your goal. You’ll answer the same question over and over: Do I keep going?

Disillusion, doubts and dread are NORMAL. It doesn't mean you can’t. It doesn't mean you don’t really want it. It doesn't mean that you aren’t the kind of person who reaches goals. It means you are in a normal phase of every goal.

It’s why I always say that the real work we do is the work to manage our brain - to hear the doubts form and decide for ourselves what we want…and then keep deciding it. It sounds simple, but it’s the hardest thing we do. 

YOU decide what you want. And if you keep deciding to take action towards your goal, every goal is inevitable. Your life is created by your decisions. And no matter what you think, and no matter what you feel, you get to decide to keep going. 


You’ll Learn:

  • The 5 Ds of every goal’s lifecycle
  • Why goals are simpler than you think (but not easy!)
  • What I like to say to my brain when it offers up doubts

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