I am not a goal-setter, but should I be?

Sophie asks Dr Emmanuella whether she’s wrong not to set goals in life.

Should I be a goal-setter?

Sophie is 61 years old and doesn’t have a habit of setting goals in life. She asks psychologist Dr Emmanuella Murray whether that is something that everyone needs to do for motivation.


Q. Sophie
I’m 61, and working part-time. I don’t set goals. Should I? Should everyone, no matter what their age? Is that how most people motivate themselves?

A. The question we always like to pose to ourselves is – should I? Setting goals is not compulsory. Some people set goals daily, weekly, monthly, and some even long-term goals. I think goals can be helpful because they are the steps we take to move towards the things we want. The trick is, if you set them, don’t wait to feel motivated. If we wait to feel motivated, it may not happen; so what we need to do is build momentum, and then we are more likely to feel more motivated to repeat that behaviour again.

Setting goals that are achievable can lift our mood because the act of doing so produces a sense of achievement. So, I’d always say setting goals is a good thing and, yes, it doesn’t matter what age you are. You just need to do it.

Here are a few small tips on how to set goals:

  • Make sure the goals are small and achievable
  • It’s best to change one aspect of behaviour at a time
  • Set meaningful goals – then you are more likely to keep them
  • Share your goals with your loved ones and let them support you
  • Setbacks are inevitable – we all have them, so be kind to yourself and simply recommit.

So, Sophie, go out and set some goals, and see how you feel.

Dr Emmanuella Murray is a clinical psychologist who has been practising for more than 10 years. She works with children, adolescents, adults and couples, and presents to professionals and community groups. Go to her website for more information.

If you have a question for Dr Emmanuella Murray, please send it to newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au



    To make a comment, please register or login
    26th Mar 2019
    If you are satisfied with your life then you shouldn't feel the need to set goals just because some self-proclaimed expert thinks you should. Many people have their own internalized goals which are incorporated into their life and are actioned without conscious thought.
    26th Mar 2019
    Broad goals are good. Save for a house, car. Get a better job etc. However, life always throws curveballs and you can never plan for those.
    East of Toowoomba
    26th Mar 2019
    I have always set goals to achieve what I really want, and it has worked for me. The types of goals I set for myself have been anything from a study goal, which then when achieved opens the door for the next goal, such as a new job. Once the new job has been achieved my next goal would be something achievable like buying a house, or saving up for an overseas holiday or even losing weight. The last major goal I set was to be financially secure enough to retire early, which I achieved at age 58.

    Nowadays my goals are more modest, for example I am trying to get more exercise for the health benefits so my goal is to walk daily and ride my pushbike twice a week. Fairly easy goals to achieve but not very challenging which makes me less likely to stick to them. As I work better when I am challenged, I know I need to set the bar higher to maintain my interest. So yes goal setting works for some people, especially if that is what motivates them.
    Karl Marx
    26th Mar 2019
    Always set goals, short term & long term goals. With the long term goals I always have smaller goals or targets to achieve along the way. Retirement was one such long term goal.
    26th Mar 2019
    Yes good luck with goal-setting Sophie! You probably already have goals & didn't realize it tho! Some goals might be achievable but financial ones only seem to work for me when i am in a position financially able to afford them, if there's not enough money to stretch far enough to scrape thru on paying the basic bills & run a car and still have a little bit left for some food then it can be tough & even seem impossible, i've found, no matter how hard i work! However, since finding a job many years ago that pays a decent wage (shiftwork, unfort which is hard but paying off) it has been easier to feel like i might reach some financial goals while sacrificing health goals at same time however (exercise, diet & other health needs like dentist & non-medicare medical needs all suffer as $ & time & energy just don't stretch far enough to do it all!! I'm 57 & have almost paid out my mortgage (6mnths goal for that now if that job don't kill me first) & next goal is to be out of the shiftwork treadmill before I'm 60 (doubt i can afford to retire then but maybe at least find a better job or live on fresh air or rock n roll payments like so many others that seem to survive ok. Some free time (& or Aussie travel plans) by then is also a major goal of mine.
    29th Mar 2019
    Goal setting at an older age is less important because all the goals of money, achievement and power are out of the way already. The focus is (or should be by now) more on deepening life experiences and gaining more happiness and joy in living. Money and outer achievements contribute little to joy and happiness, it's and inside job. These are non tangible goals and more difficult to set, as they can't be broken down into steps, nor can they be easily measured.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles