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Why you can't have goals

Why Can't I Have Goals?

Julie Nguyen
Julie Nguyen
Since goals have been fairly thought of as the ultimate way to success, the frustration of being unable to have any goals could be harsh. Feeling of emptiness, confusion and anxiety about our life and our future grows day after day. What is happening to us?
Table of Contents

1. Why can’t you find goals?

Goals start from desires. In order for something to become your desire, it needs to either excite you or matter to you. How does it excite or matter? Obviously, YOU decide. 

So another way to put “I don't have goals” is “I can’t decide what I want.”

Goals or desires are actually a kind of decision. How this one differs from others is that it requires a lot of “ingredients” based on your inner self: your beliefs, your values, your interests, rather than the outer world. 

Though it’s true that external factors might start the spark, it’s you and your internal values that decide the final attitude towards it. 

Therefore, if you’re not making the decision, it’s likely that you don’t have enough ingredients. You do not have a sufficient understanding of yourself to create your goals. 

Goals are only the result of knowing yourself well. Goals reflect who you are. So if you do not see clear goals in the mirror, it’s probably because there was no clear “self” standing in front of the mirror. 

You cannot find your goals in life because you have yet to find YOU. 

RELATED: Why Goal Setting Is So Hard?

Finding yourself, self awareness
Find yourself before finding your goals | Image

2. Why can’t you find YOU?

2.1 You are distracted by others’ expectations

We are under tremendous pressure from our society. Since we were born we have constantly been forced to meet expectations from others: being a good kid for our parents, a good student for our teachers, and a good citizen for our society. 

As small kids, we follow what others tell us to do because our awareness of the world is limited. As we grew up, we went on doing so because we just simply got used to not having to think for ourselves. 

That is why once we reach an age, say 20, when our life is at our own decision, we freak out because we do not know what we like or do not like anymore. 

Our parents might tell us it’s good, our peers on Facebook might show us it’s good. But do we think it’s good? How is it actually good for us, exactly? We do not know, because we never asked.

Years after years pleasing others’ expectations passively left us at the loss of our own. We simply got used to being told what to do and stopped asking ourselves what we really want to do.

anxiety, others' expectation
Others think it’s good, but do you really want this? | Image source

You are simply distracted from seeing yourself, once your vision is clouded well by others’ expectations.

How to fix: learn to be mindful in what you do, notice your feelings and if possible, write them down

Observe yourself by being mindful in everything you do. Whenever you do something, say, watch a movie, go to work, have dinner, talk to people, notice how you feel, how you like or dislike anything. Gradually, you will be able to decide what you want or do not want, hence form your own expectations and goals.

Practice mindfulness in daily life | Image source

Some of the best ways to practice mindfulness and enhance self-awareness:

  • Journal to face your thoughts and feelings, allowing better self-reflection
  • Practice meditation to be calm against negative influences
  • Travel to gain new perspectives and broaden your knowledge

RELATED: How to Start Journaling in 2020

2.2 You are distracted by rejection from others

It’s been an ongoing battle for everyone, especially people in their 20s, to figure out who they are and how to develop their identity. In other words, we have to fight to find out our core values, our abilities and what we want to do in life.

On our way, it’s likely that we encounter several rejections from others: “This is just temporary, you’ll get bored soon.”, or “You’re not cut out for this. You won’t be able to do this.”, or “It’s not that good for you, how are you going to make money from that? You’d better focus on what matters.”,... 

The problem is, with a low level of self-esteem, it’s only a matter of time before we come round to these opinions. 

Not believing in ourselves, our values and abilities leaves us unable to cope with rejections. It becomes a toxic catalyst that fuels the fear of not being able to achieve any goals, so we even come to believe opposers more and more.

Once we listen to others too much, and stop trusting our own inner voice, through time, it stops speaking to us.

others' expectation, expectations
You listen to everyone but yourself | Image source

How to fix: try again, this time push yourself harder with what you like and find believers to support you.

Start doing something for yourself, a hobby you find interesting, a project for your long lost passion since high school, a habit that you think it’s good to have,... And this time do it till the end, against any rejection.

Tips on how to build resistance to rejection: 

  • Use them as your motivation: these rejections give you a chance to prove your abilities to others and even yourself
  • Find those who believe in your choice and let these believers boost your self-trust and push you to do what you need to do
  • Treat yourself with compassion, speak to yourself as your trusted friend and your believers would
partners, believers, friends, same boat
Stop listening to opposers and start finding believers | Image source

Opposers might be strong enough to have bent your way, but believers are stronger. Here’s how: Refusing to Settle: The Quarter-Life crisis | Adam Smiley Poswolsky

RELATED: 5 Journaling Ideas for Self-Improvements for 2020, 7 Meaningful Goals in Life

2.3 You are distracted by your own past

We are probably getting nowhere because we are stuck in our past and resist change.

Someone who used to be a top student when in school and university, now thrown into the school of life, might stop wanting to set new goals, because he reminisces the past too much.

A professional athlete who used to master an entire field, now retired, might refrain from trying a new sector because he thought he reached his peak of career already.

Like these people, we might also be clinging too much on the past version of ourselves that we subconsciously resist to evolve. 

stuck, resist change
You are stuck because you have chosen not to change | Mary Long/Adobe Stock

The thing is, different actions yield different outcomes. The situation you’re in now is the result of all your past experiences. If you want to create a new situation, you need to supply yourself with new experiences.

You are capable of changing, but first you need to believe that you can.

Check out this great video to affirm your belief: The power of believing you can improve | Carol Dweck

How to fix: shift your focus from the “old you” to the “new you” you can be and the actions you can take NOW to be that “new you”.

Start a new life to create a new you. Some suggestions on how:

  • Start new habits you have never tried before: a new routine is the fastest way to become a new person
  • Learn new things that you have never thought you would care about so it has nothing to do with your past
  • Practice meditating to stay calm and not indulge yourself in old memories whenever they visit

RELATED: 2-Minute Habit Trick That Can Transform Your Life

keep moving, growth mindset, try new things
Keep moving, take new actions to yield new outcomes | Image source

When trying out your new self, you might find yourself in fear of whether you’re doing the right new thing, whether it’s going to lead you anywhere or just leave you in confusion again. 

If so, stop worrying about doing it and start doing it first. Otherwise, you’re always stuck. A great video on why should you just do it anyway: Stop searching for your passion | Terri Trespicio


You don’t have goals because you don’t have a good understanding of yourself, which was the result of being under constant distractions coming from not only other people but also your own past. 

It’s time you put those distractions aside and learn to focus on yourself, starting with being self-aware in very small, daily acts to understand yourself better. Build your self-esteem, be open to change. Eventually, you can make decisions on what you really want to do.

A great way to start living a more fulfilling life is to build positive habits that support your physical and mental health, boost your productivity and enhance joy in your life.