Why You Are Struggling with Goal Setting

by Gail Daugherty, LAc, MAcOM, MBA, Dipl of Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM®)

Gail Daugherty graduated from AOMA in 2009. After graduation she worked on cruise ships for three years honing her acupuncture and business skills. She has a successful healing practice in McKinney, Texas (www.PainFreeDallas.com), helps other healers fill their schedule and has a bi-monthly newsletter with resources to help you grow your practice. You can sign up for her email at www.TheGailD.com.

Don’t roll your eyes and skip this step! Yes, goal setting is fundamental and you’ve probably done it hundreds of times. Depending on where you are in building your practice, goal setting can be fun and exciting or it can also be frustrating and difficult. The difficulty comes from not knowing what you want, what to do next or how to do it. Sometimes we really just want someone to tell us what to do. When you are a solo practitioner it is easy to feel lost and lonely. Take the time to set very short, short and mid-range goals. There is science behind why goal setting sets you up for success.

Goal setting isn’t just deciding what you want and then going for it, although it seems that simple sometimes when you watch someone else do it. When you set a goal your brain chemistry gets involved. When we don’t achieve a goal our brain responds chemically like we have lost an important possession. The real change in dopamine levels and other neurotransmitters can be witnessed. When we achieve a goal our brain releases more dopamine making us feel elated. We feel good achieving things we set out to accomplish. It feels like we are walking on air.

This walking on air feeling is why goal setting is so important. As solo practitioners and healers we have to celebrate our successes. We don’t have someone giving us a high five when we give an awesome treatment or help someone recover from an illness. It is important to take time to reward yourself for all the things you are doing right. Give me a call if you want someone to celebrate a success with you. I love hearing healing stories.

It’s hard not to subtly set a goal in our heads. Even a simple thought of wanting to help people, wanting to grow your practice or fill your schedule triggers the desire center of our brain. If you have’t achieved your dreams for your practice it’s no wonder you feel discouraged or unmotivated. It has been chemically created in your brain. It is okay to feel discouraged and down. You are reading this blog which demonstrates a desire for change which is the first step to success.

Creating a goal, no matter how subtle or undefined, triggers your brain’s desire center. Doing nothing or not knowing what to do next makes you feel a sense of loss and discouragement. It is very common for healers not to know how to fulfill a dream of building a business. It is okay that you don’t know what to do next or how you are going to have a successful practice. You are a healer and you’ve trained to heal people and maybe you haven’t been taught proper business skills.

You were probably never taught how to set up your business, how to manage inventory, how to get clients or how and when to pay taxes. I ask you to stop beating yourself up for not knowing things you were never taught. You wouldn’t do that to a friend so stop doing it to yourself.

You would never give up on or ridicule a baby that didn’t walk on their first, second, third, fourth or even fifth try. You would stick with that child, encourage them and help them along because you know it will walk. It just takes time and the right guidance. It is unproductive to beat yourself up for not knowing something you were never taught. You would never talk to someone else the way you are talking to yourself, so stop it right now.

There’s a great Bob Newhart sketch from the 70’s. He plays therapist Dr Switzer working with Katherine, played by Mo Collins, that is struggling with a fear of being buried in a box. His advice is to “Stop it.” which I think accurately sums up how I feel about you beating yourself up. Here’s part of the transcript from the scene. But really, just stop it.

KATHERINE (Mo Collins): Dr. Switzer?

DR. SWITZER (Bob Newhart): Yes, come in. I’m just washing my hands.

KATHERINE: I’m Katherine Bigmans. Janet Carlisle referred me.

DR. SWITZER: Oh, yes. You dream about being buried alive in a box.

KATHERINE: Yes, that’s me. Should I lay down?

DR. SWITZER: No, we don’t do that anymore. Just have a seat and let me tell you a bit about our billing. I charge five dollars for the first five minutes and then absolutely nothing after that. How does that sound?KATHERINE: That sounds great. Too good to be true as a matter of fact.

DR. SWITZER: Well, I can almost guarantee you that our session won’t last the full five minutes. Now, we don’t do any insurance billing, so you would either have to pay in cash or by check.


DR. SWITZER: And I don’t make change.

KATHERINE: All right.



DR. SWITZER: Tell me about the problem that you wish to address.

KATHERINE: Oh, okay. Well, I have this fear of being buried alive in a box. I just start thinking about being buried alive and I begin to panic.

DR. SWITZER: Has anyone ever tried to bury you alive in a box?

KATHERINE: No. No, but truly thinking about it does make my life horrible. I mean, I can’t go through tunnels or be in an elevator or in a house, anything boxy.

DR. SWITZER: So, what you are saying is you are claustrophobic?

KATHERINE: Yes, yes, that’s it.

DR. SWITZER: All right. Well, let’s go,Katherine. I’m going to say two words to you right now. I want you to listen to them very, very carefully. Then I want you to take them out of the office with you and incorporate them into your life.

KATHERINE: Shall I write them down?

DR. SWITZER: No. If it makes you comfortable. It’s just two words. We find most people can remember them.


DR. SWITZER: You ready?


DR. SWITZER: Okay. Here they are. Stop it!

KATHERINE: I’m sorry?

DR. SWITZER: Stop it!


DR. SWITZER: Yes. S-T-O-P, new word, I-T.

Did you know? The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around its non-achievement. Start to replace the word “anxiety or anxious” with “excited or excitement”. Practice being okay dreaming big and understanding the anxiety you feel is really just the excitement around achieving it.

The cool thing about setting goals is that you can’t think of something that doesn’t already exist on some level. If you can think it you can achieve it. I know you’ve heard that before, but it is completely true. I used to roll my eyes when people would tell me this one. I finally reached a point after several months of my practice not growing that I decided to just do it and try something different. I realized I would not get where I wanted to be doing the same thing and being disappointed.

I hired my first business coach, started reading motivational books and attending seminars. All of those things brought temporary excitement and drive. It took my effort and excitement to make sure I kept the ball rolling. Having a good support group and someone to help me define and motivate myself to the next level is what I needed. I watched friends build their practice without all the support I had. I had to stop beating myself up about that one too.

The excitement about your future is what gets you out of bed in the morning. I’ll tell you I have been there when you don’t want to get out of bed because you don’t want to face the day. You don’t want to see the To Do List or the bills pile up. The only way to get yourself out of where you are is to commit to doing something different.

You want to make sure you’ve got the right foundation and you’re heading in the right direction. Build momentum. Do something everyday to move toward your dream. Consistent focus and effort will keep the ball rolling. Goals will keep you moving and staying on course.

Dream. Dream big. Now dream even bigger. Write down those dreams. I know people want what you are offering and they’re probably out looking for you right now. Write down your goals, cut out pictures or make a dream board.

Put your written notes and comments about your dreams in four different places you frequent. You can put a note in your car, your bathroom, your office and your living room. I have my dream board hanging in my bathroom so I see it every day while I’m brushing my teeth. I have a mantra that I read every day and notes around my house reminding me what I will accomplish. I look at the pictures and imagine myself doing and accomplishing those things. It is empowering, exciting and motivating to see those notes everywhere.

Here is the mantra I read out loud every morning:

I am blessed, prosperous, redeemed, forgiven, talented, creative, confident, secure, disciplined, focused, prepared, qualified, motivated, valuable, free, determined, equipped, empowered, anointed, accepted and approved, not average, not mediocre. I am a child of the most high God and I will become all I was created to be.

Let me know if that speaks to you. It’s written out nicely on postcard size photo-paper. I would love to share it will you. Remember that change is going to happen regardless of your input. You are in control of the direction and the progress of that change. Progress only happens with conscious thought coupled with consistent action. Good luck and remember to ask for help when you need it!

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