How to Handle Your Conflicting Goals

As a Health Coach, I am always talking about goals with my clients. Clients have 1-2 specific goals we base our session discussions around, and often what comes up, is a struggle with goals that appear to conflict.

They want to get 7 hours of sleep, but also want to get up early to make a morning strength training class. They want to cook meals at home, but want to spend more time with their kids, and meal planning and grocery shopping take up precious time. They want to cut out alcohol but don’t want to alienate friends.

These are routine choices that aren’t easy, and often leave you frustrating feeling like you can’t win.

It is frustrating! There isn’t suddenly going to be more time, and your goals won’t suddenly separate into neat little time blocks. So, what’s one to do? Here are two strategies to employ to avoid being paralyzed when your goals butt heads:

Find Clarity

While this is easier said than done, finding clarity in your goals can make these tug-of-war decisions much easier. Finding clarity happens when you discover your why. It’s your big picture goal. Your want that overrides other concerns.

For example, your family is going on a hiking trip next spring, but walking more than an hour leaves you winded with achy knees. Your ideal picture is keeping up with everyone on this hike and actually enjoying it rather than huffing through in pain.

Reaching this goal could mean working on leg strengthening exercises, dropping some weight, and increasing your cardio endurance. 

When the choice to go out for happy hour after work or go to the gym to strength train, instead of debating pros and cons of each, your choice is already made; enjoying your upcoming hike matters above all else, and going to the gym will get you there, not a drink or two.

The hard part is when you aren’t exactly sure what you want, or why you want it. You likely have a lot of “should’s”; things that sound like good goals, things that others are working towards. But if you pick an arbitrary goal that doesn’t deeply mean something to you, it can be hard to navigate tough choices.

Let’s look at the example of getting adequate sleep versus a morning workout – both healthy and positive goals. If your big goal is to beat your best time in a 10K next month, exercise is probably going to override sleep, at least while you’re training.

There will be many nights you can get both, but when life seems to work against you and you’re forced to choose, it’s the 6:30am speed workout that is going to help you run faster. 

On the other hand, if your big picture goal is days where you aren’t falling asleep at your desk come 3 o’clock, hitting that magic 7-9 hours each night is more important to you.

hit your goals

Combine and Conquer 

Often we fool ourselves into thinking it’s one or the other; that you have two extreme options when a conflict of goals arise. Many times this simply isn’t the case, and you can find middle ground. Look for ways to compromise or, better yet, combine your two options.

Back to our earlier examples; you want to spend more time with your kid, but also want to get a homemade dinner on the table and you can’t find time for both. Making a grocery trip and cooking the thing you do with your kid is a way to combine these things. I can hear you groaning, “my child hates being dragged to the store!”

What about when you’re choosing a recipe together? You’re now both working on a project together, deciding what to make, what you’ll need to buy, and they get a hands-on cooking lesson as you work together in the kitchen. 

Letting a 5-year-old prepare quinoa isn’t exactly feasible, but selecting a simpler recipe or having them be in charge of mixing ingredients together, certainly is.


Search for that middle ground. If you want to cut out alcohol, but fear you won’t see your friends as much, you’re looking at this as either/or, when there are plenty of ways to do both.

Instead of going to happy hour, suggest a movie or manicure. Back to the sleep vs. morning workout, see if there’s a class right after work or on your lunch break. Don’t write off a goal because your plan A conflicts with another goal; get creative and your options can open up.

If you’d like guidance finding clarity in your goals, or could use some accountability in reaching them, Health Coaching  is for you! Email me at and let’s make a plan!

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