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3 Reasons Why You Can Stop Setting Goals

By Marcia Smalley July 13, 2023 Mindset

I rarely set goals anymore. Not that there’s anything wrong with them. If you want to learn Italian or climb Mt. Everest, you can certainly set goals to do those things.

It’s just that the concept of a “goal” feels limiting. What if, by focusing on a specific thing, I eliminate other possible outcomes that would serve me better? Things I never considered? An even bigger dream?

God can dream a bigger dream for me, for you, than you could ever dream for yourself.

—Oprah Winfrey

So now I set fewer goals, and I live with more intention. Here’s how I split that hair.

Intention Statements Reflect Our Soul’s Longing

I intend to have more peace in my life.

I want to open up to more joy. 

I welcome abundance.

These statements describe a feeling state. They’re different from I will meditate every day for an hour. I will find new hobbies. I will save $1,000 by the end of the year.

Intention statements describe the essence of what we truly hope for but stop short of stating how we will get there.

Yes, the “how” is left to our choices. But it’s also left to life’s magic. And often to a Wisdom greater than ourselves.

We can breathe life into our intentions in large ways or small. Actually, it’s easier to achieve a desired feeling state if we take small steps.

If we crave more peace, we carve out a few minutes of solitude each day. 

If we long for more love, we take the time to reach out to the people we care about.

We can begin bringing our intentions into form in simple ways:

  • Finding an object or physical representation of it,
  • By listening for it through music,
  • In journaling about how we see it manifesting,
  • By creating a vision board or collage of images that reflect it.

We don’t always have to take big leaps to make big dreams come true.

Intentions Allow Us to Dream Bigger

Goal-setting is defined as “a process that starts with careful consideration of exactly what you want to achieve and ends with a lot of hard work to achieve it.”

But setting an intention means we open up to all possibilities, not just one. We move into “expansion mode” because we’re not limited to one particular result. 

Setting intentions allows us to both clarify what we want and allow for that to come to us in a myriad of ways, many of them unexpected. It doesn’t always take a lot of hard work to realize our intentions.

The outcomes can often amaze us.

We Create Intentions from the Deep Within

Goals are designed to be measured. They are, by definition, easy to quantify. They might come with a checklist or a rating scale… some method to determine whether they’re met.

Goals have their place. And when something needs to be counted or completed according to specific guidelines, I can go with that.

But we create our intentions by looking within. There isn’t a graph or a chart that calibrates success. Their impact on us is a personal reflection.

And as I move through this season of life, I hope to eliminate as many mandates from the outside world as I can. I hope to live more from the inside, out. 

And I’ve learned that when we lean into setting intentions rather than just setting goals, we tune into our heart’s true desires. We open up to being led, inspired, and surprised.

I’ll choose that kind of hair-splitting any day.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you feel about setting goals? What does it mean to set an intention? Have you experienced both in this life stage? Join the conversation!

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A very interesting read.

I was always a great list maker, it was something I did at work that I carried over into my personal life. I’d write a list each Monday of things I had to complete by Friday in order of priority. Any minor things not done would be added to the list for the following week. It just became something I automatically did.
Work wise it came about because I worked as secretary to a number of committees and would have committee members coming at me from all sides with differing agendas. It seemed to make sense to use the same technique for personal stuff.

During a break in the pandemic lockdowns, I took a mindfulness meditation course as I’d had quite major surgery a few months before and with the issues around mask wearing I felt I was becoming invisible and losing my confidence.

During one of the group discussions I mentioned my list making (thinking I was giving others a helpful life tip) but the course leader told me to stop doing it for the next 2 weeks as she felt it was in some ways blocking me.

It was so difficult to step away from as it had because such a routine thing, but now I’ve learned to live with handling things as they arise and not be pre empting them. I realised that list making in my personal life was actually causing anxiety, but I didn’t see it at the time.

Now I only make a list if it’s absolutely necessary, usually it’s mundane things like what to pack for holidays!


I think different strokes for different folks. Some people I know use goal setting to set a structure for their lives for a defined period, which helps them accomplish things they might not otherwise. For me, goals have never worked; they just don’t excite or motivate me. I’m more of a ‘set my intention for the day’ kind of gal, especially when I just can’t get motivated to do anything.

Peggy Brodland

Just Wow! This article is mind bending good. I’m feeling blessed to read this morning. 🥰

Marcia Smalley

Wonder to hear, Peggy! And thanks for reading.

The Author

Marcia Smalley is a certified retirement coach and life coach, a writer and a teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act and design a joyous, expanded life. Marcia provides coaching support to women who are navigating retirement or other life transitions and writes a monthly e-newsletter to her entire online community. Please visit her website at

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