The Magic of Systemic Goals

Most of us have been taught that life is a slog with very little reward and that to get somewhere we must work hard and keep our noses to the grindstone. Which is not very encouraging! We long for the day when we can move beyond life “as usual.” But sometimes we find we’ve bought into patterns of limitation to the degree that it’s difficult to imagine something better.

The first place we pick up these patterns is from our family—ways of thinking and acting, or not acting, that often keep us “in our place.” We love our family, but we end up feeling stuck with a sinking sense of inevitability, doing things the way they’ve always been done.

If you find yourself feeling small and wanting to break out of a patten that’s got you stuck, the easiest way to break loose is by setting a specific goal—maybe something small at first—but something that will grab your attention and develop sufficient excitement to break the pattern and set you on your path. Make sure this goal is one that stimulates a lot of enthusiasm, because it’s enthusiasm and joy that will help you rise to a whole new level and accomplish what you want.

For example, Mela was from a family that, fleeing a brutal, decade-long civil war in Algeria, had emigrated to a small town in the American Midwest. A protected youngest child and talented designer, her dream was to move to New York City and travel the world finding fashion ideas to incorporate in her own designs. But her parents didn’t want her to leave the safety of a small town. And the idea of her traveling abroad frightened them. Mela too had her own fears.

“I’m scared to go for it,” she confessed. “My parents keep saying ‘The world is a dangerous place. This town and this country are enough for us and should be for you too.’” Once Mela realized that family fears—while appropriate back in a war-torn country—were part of a limiting family pattern that was now stifing her, she determined that freedom to come and go as she pleased was a deep desire for her. We explored how she could start with a small goal that might work for her family while setting Mela on the path to her dream—a stretch goal for both her and the family. “I have grandparents in Morocco,” she said, “And I’ve always wanted to check out designs and fabrics there!”

Her excitement carried her past her own fears and the fears of her family. She booked the trip and sharing her experiences upon her return began a series of steps forward for the entire family. Once her parents realized that she had been quite safe, they too began to venture further afield. Mela created a list of goals that thrilled her and kept her moving towards her dream. The family is now well traveled and Mela has a small exotic clothing line in New York.

What does your family think and feel about big goals and dreams?  Are they enthusiastic or is there a limiting belief that locks them—and you—into doing less than is possible? What event in your family may have shut down thoughts of adventure, excitement and doing well in life?

Once you’ve identified the event, pick a doable goal that is exciting enough to drive you beyond the excuses and reasons not to achieve it. In other words, pick something that carries more weight than the limiting pattern(s) in your family system and any loyalties you might have to those old patterns. 

The magic happens when we begin to want something more. It may take a while, but when we give ourselves permission to explore new ideas and desires and invest in them, we start creating lives that are delightfully interesting.  Just remember to listen to the dreams inside you and let them pull you forward. 


  • Clear goals pull you beyond excuses, family patterns and limiting thoughts and feelings and into adventure.
  • Set a series of doable yet exciting goals that will take you to your future.
  • Check for limiting family patterns that stand in the way of your goals. See what new positive patterns are trying to emerge.
  • Add gratitude and excitement to your goals to fuel your success.
  • Remember: Goals are simply the everyday name for miracles and magic.

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