Spring Cleaning: Which Goals to Trash

I know…it’s a click-baitey title. I’m not talking about throwing all of your goals away, but there might be one that needs to go. In this post, we'll cover which goals you should not touch, and when it's OK to reconsider the others.


First things first: Know your non-negotiable goals

Throughout my life, there have been a few goals of mine which stayed static and benefitted from my stubbornness to complete them even if I was not enjoying myself. These were usually goals which I’d already invested a lot of time and effort into that would give me more options in the future.

Graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering was one of those goals for me. You can ask any one of my friends in college – I hated it. I had to sacrifice sleep, my social life, and extra-curricular interests to get through it, which was honestly draining for years on end. I was not one of those people who was sad to leave my alma mater. I could not wait to walk across that stage and GTFO with that degree! I did not enjoy landing people on the moon in eight page hand-written homework assignments, so I was not your typical Mechanical Engineer. I was doing it because I knew if I could use my abilities in math and science to get a technical degree, I’d be more valuable as a leader later. So I forced myself through.

I always had a chilling awareness that the main takeaways from undergrad would not be those circuit diagrams and hand-written physics problems. The takeaways would be a set of new friends/colleagues, independence, a notorious stamp of approval on my resume, and – admittedly – refined analytical thinking and work ethic. Even though at times it seemed silly to sacrifice so much of my happiness and well-being for those things, I did think those things were valuable (and still do), so I made it happen. I knew there would be more options for me once this goal was behind me. That said, I’m glad I only had to go through Mechanical Engineering at Purdue once.


My point is not to say that one should stick with the same college major they started with even if they hate it. But for me this goal was essential and I decided early on that it would be non-negotiable. I would not have been happy with myself if I had given up, because I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I was stubborn. It was a conquest. 

Some other examples of non-negotiable goals you may relate with are:

  • Kicking a substance addiction (sugar included!)
  • Stopping overeating
  • Paying student loans

These objectives are typically not fun and require a lot of hard work. But they reward you and take you to the next level. There are some goals that just can’t change and you know what they are for you. Identify your non-negotiable goal(s) and prepare for a long and steadfast journey! 


Revisit all other (negotiable) goals at some frequency

Putting my non-negotiables aside, other goals are kept very fresh and fluid in my mind. I am constantly evaluating whether my long-term goal still aligns with who I want to be as a person, and whether my short and medium-term goals are still supporting that long-term goal.

Another way to put this: your ultimate self is a person who your current self would look to for advice or counsel on anything and everything from wellness to relationships to career. Continually ask yourself if your goals are still progressing you toward your ultimate self, or if you’re just blindly following them because they once made sense.

I like to take strategic risks and pick paths which will open multiple doors for me in the future. Being open to changing my goals goes hand in hand with this. If a door opens and I’m not able to entertain the idea of resetting my vision, I might not be able to give that new venture the full consideration it deserves.


Adapt or remove goals that no longer fit within your lifestyle or long-term ambitions

If you hold on to goals that no longer make sense within your lifestyle, you’re just going to end up disappointed in yourself. But if you clear them out you are making space for new goals which make more sense.

The following is an example of a goal which had to adapt as my life shifted from one extreme to the other in three phases. With each new phase I had to choose whether to reject new opportunities or modify my goal to fit inside of the lifestyles they came along with.

Setting the stage

As you may know through reading other posts of mine, wellness is a huge part of my life. My mind is more alert, I have more energy, and I feel comfortable in my clothing when I’m making positive choices in the fitness and nutrition arenas. I have tried many different nutrition regimens and one thing I’ve found to be extremely helpful in my wellness journey is to eat at home and cook from scratch. My body feels 1000% better when I make food at home because I can control every ingredient I put inside of it. Not to mention I truly enjoy improv cooking, farmer’s market exploration, and grocery shopping. That is total leisure time for me (except on Sunday nights when Whole Foods is a literal zoo). In an ideal nutritional world I'd eat all meals at home. But "nutritional" is not the only way I'd describe my ideal world. My ideal world is made up of wellness, personal, social, and professional goals. Sometimes those goals conflict with one another so it's all about finding the right balance. So, trying to be reasonable, I set a goal a couple of years ago to cook every meal on weekdays and save the weekends for eating out. Little did I know at that time, my life would change several times in the next two years, and that goal would go from completely achievable to impossible.

Take 1: living with a friend and roommate

Two years ago when I created this goal, I lived in San Francisco with my roommate Shaina. My work schedule was crazy but predictable and my boyfriend was across the US in grad school. I was basically a machine. I used Sundays to prep my lunches for the week. During the week I’d wake up at 5 AM, work out, come home, make breakfast, then head on a 2-hour bus ride to work at Apple in Cupertino. I would then arrive home after work between 7 and 8 PM and FaceTime Brian, which was the highlight of my day. After that, I would start whipping up some dinner while on endless conference calls. Once the calls died down, it was time for bed. So I was spending most of my time outside of work cooking, and had control over every ingredient going into my body unless I was traveling in China (different story). 

Take 2: living with a partner

Once Brian moved back to San Francisco, I realized he wasn’t as psyched about spending every waking hour either grocery shopping, scouting new farmers markets, prepping, cooking, or cleaning up the catastrophic mess after a good dinner. This is a man who could live for months off of greek yogurt, bananas, almond butter, and (regrettably) Soylent. He does want to contribute in the kitchen and make healthy decisions, but he isn’t dying to wake up at 5 AM to start this crazy routine with me. So after 1-2 weeks of him being an amazing sport trying his absolute best to enjoy these things with me, I could sense he was tired (lol) and I realized there were now two people to take into account who could use leisure time after work. I wanted to continue the exercise but needed to cut back on the cooking to find more common ground. Cooking together is great quality time once in a while, but let’s be honest, I’m usually in the zone and it shouldn’t be the only thing we are doing together when we’re home on a daily basis unless we are both fanatics.

After realizing this, I still made my own breakfasts but I would buy a make-your-own salad at work for lunch and made dinner only once a week. It was totally new and not ideal for me to order delivery several nights a week, but luckily Brian is equally committed to finding the healthiest options when I’m around, and we have tons of options in SF. 

Take 3: constantly on the go

Now, I am in Venice (LA) during the week, and again the means by which I strive for good health have changed. I have been eating mostly paleo/Whole30 for a few years now, and the food I have access to at work happens to be mostly paleo. I listen to my body, and I feel equally as good when I eat food at work as I do when I make food at home. This doesn’t even happen for me at most gourmet restaurants, so I know the ingredient list must be top notch. My time is very limited and it doesn’t make sense for me to buy a bunch of groceries either in SF for the weekend or LA for 4-5 weekdays when I have good, affordable, and easy options close to work. So I eat 3 meals a day at work and buy 0 groceries now. I feel great, I'm actually spending less, and I have more time! Someday I will get back into cooking for fun, but with my current lifestyle it would just be a waste of money, time, and even food.

When your lifestyle or environment changes, take some time to consider whether your goals make sense as they were. Determine which goals need to stay as is and which need to be modified.

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xo -- Amber

Amber Illig6 Comments