This article written by Life Coach and Confidence Coach Lisa Phillips was originally featured in Coaching Life Magazine. 

Goal Setting is Outdated.

Attend any Self Help Conference, fitness event   or business course these days and there is a strong likelihood you will be encouraged to start goal setting. The methodology may change but it is a well documented fact that goal setting works – or is it now just a little outdated?

We set goals for everything.  We set them for new years resolutions, losing weight, making money and gaining more coaching clients. However, if goal setting is so successful, why do many Life Coaching practices fail or 85% of people give up on their new year resolutions by February?

Don’t get me wrong, I used to be an avid fan of goal setting both  in my personal life and in my Life coaching practice. However, in recent years, I have studied and practiced a far more successful way of achieving what you want, minus the need for motivation, struggle or action to keep yourself on track.   The new way is about inspiration, not motivation.

First, let me examine why goal setting may not work for some people.

Many of us set goals to achieve something we feel we ‘should’ or ‘need’ to do. We compare ourselves to other Life coaches and decide we need to mirror them or follow their expertise in order to achieve a similar level of success. There are even manuals written about what steps you need to take in order to reach those dizzy heights of success and I have lost count of the amount of courses these days that offer ‘a 100% guaranteed way to be a million-dollar coach’.

In practice, many of us write goals to grow our coaching practice, increase our profits or attract more clients. However, in doing this, we often fail to check in with ourselves that the goal is aligned with who we really are – our authentic self.

Many years ago, my Life Coaching business was going ok, but I wasn’t really bringing in enough business for it to be sustainable. So, after discussions with my peers, I decided I needed to offer both Business and Executive Coaching. I already held qualifications in Workplace Coaching so it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me. Following other experts’ advice, I also designed a new brand, new marketing material and a shiny new Business Coaching website. Using the standard SMART methodology, I then went about setting myself a new goal in order to create the new business that I desired.

Fast forward twelve months and my business didn’t even get off the ground, nor did I attract a single Business Client.

The reason for this was not my lack of motivation, nor my unwillingness to take action. The reason I failed was because this goal was never really me. It never felt that good to me or inspired me, nor was it aligned with who I really am. To be honest, it was more like somebody else’s goal than my own.

In my opinion, this is why goal setting often doesn’t work. It is not that we are unmotivated or fail to take the relevant action. It is simply because the goal did not align to the person setting it in the first place. Unfortunately, time and time again I see goals being written about ‘should do’, based ‘expert’; advice from other people.

There is little wonder why people struggle with motivation or give up on their goals only after a short period of time!

Compare this now to following your own personal desire. A desire which is aligned to your own preferences, uniqueness and talents. A desire that makes you feel frisky just thinking about it and shouts from the roof tops ‘I can’ wait to achieve this because it makes me feel fantastic’. A desire that will always Feel Good to you.

The Stream

In my coaching practice, I use the adage of life being like a stream, with you, sitting firmly in a canoe in the middle of this flowing stream.

Many of us think of achieving a ‘should do’ goal as something that takes effort, motivation and dedication. For me, this is like turning your canoe upstream. All you do is struggle and don’t get very far. You will probably end up pretty exhausted and stressed as well. There is also the likelihood that you give up as it all seems like hard work. Upstream actually represents negative emotion or to put it more generally, anything that doesn’t feel good to you. This includes forcing something to happen, working too hard to achieve a goal, beating yourself up or literally doing or thinking anything that doesn’t feel good!

However, when you choose to follow a desire that feels good and is aligned with who you really are, it is just like turning your canoe downstream. As a result, achieving your heart’s desire becomes more of an effortless and exhilarating experience. You literally flow downstream, with minimal effort while experiencing positive emotions.

The cynics out there will probably say this all sounds too easy. I agree, it is easy. However, the problem is that we are led to believe that in order to achieve anything, you need to work hard and struggle. We even give awards to people who struggle upstream!

The message is simple really. If you really want to achieve your real desire, then it must feel good to you. Your body is your best Emotional GPS. It tells you through your feelings, whether you are on the right track to achieving what you want. It also tells you when you have set a goal that aligns with your true desires or if it is misaligned. You, and only you, will know if it is your true desire as you will feel it in your body. When I use this methodology with my clients, I literally see their faces light up as their body gets excited even at the thought of it!

It is important to note that there is no action if it doesn’t feel good. In fact, I often ask my clients to stop taking any action at all towards the fulfilment of their desire. The secret is to only take action that inspires you. You know, that little nudge you get to send that email or attend an event? There is a huge difference between inspired action and plain old action. Just check back into your stream and only do the action that sends your canoe downstream!

Using this method, I have allowed so many wondrous things into my life. I dropped the Business Coach idea and stepped into what really was my true alignment, coaching people to become more confident.

More recently I achieved a publishing contract for my book. Unlike the well-trodden path, I didn’t sit in front of my PC sending out hundreds of letters to publishers or literary agents hoping that they would like my book. I simply let my canoe flow downstream, doing as many things as I could to feel good. This included taking more time out for me, having more fun and always being my own best friend. The result – my book ‘The Confidence Coach‘ was published by Exile Publishing in 2015, as a result of an inspired nudge to contact the publisher of a book I was currently sitting down to read one afternoon. The rest is history.

So check out a few of my tips below for achieving your desires downstream:

1) Make a list of the feelings you want to experience when you achieve your desire. This is important as your true desire or passion will always make you feel good. If it doesn’t feel good, it is probably a ‘should do’ goal.

2) Make it your main intention to feel good each day. Do things that are fun. Make your own emotional wellbeing a priority. Chill out and stop working so hard.

3) Don’t keep struggling to make something happen. If it doesn’t feel good, stop doing it or find a way to make it feel good.

4) When inevitable fears or beliefs put the anchor on your canoe, just accept it. Instead of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone or doing anything that would send you upstream, use soothing and encouraging words to gently turn your canoe downstream again.

5) Ignore the experts. This is your stream and your desire, so don’t expect anyone else to understand how it feels.

In December 2015 I tuned into my desire to combine two of my favourite pastimes, cruising around the world and speaking about my work. Most people told me it couldn’t happen or it would be difficult to achieve. Needless to say, I am just back from a 2-week trip around the Pacific speaking about my work. So trust your own emotional GPS and ignore everyone else’s fears and past experiences. In a nutshell, ask them to stay off your stream!

Lisa Phillips is an award winning Confidence Coach and Life Coach .   She is also the author of The Confidence Coach’    To find out more about Lisa’s work, please see  For her UK speaker site please see