We’ve all been told about the importance of goal-setting. I’ve written about it before as well and the importance of setting SMART goals. There is, however, a less talked about aspect of goal-setting that might stir up some ugly emotions.
Goal-Setting Is Not Enough
There is a problem with the way most people look at achieving their goals, and their entire mindset on setting goals to begin with.
It is NOT enough to be satisfied with achieving goals. You have to be satisfied with the JOURNEY.
Even when you set a realistic goal it is how you go about achieving it and what that means for your daily life that determines how you feel. Achieving a goal can feel really good but what about all the time between when you set a goal and when you achieved it? What about when you never achieve it? If you have a goal of a glorious retirement at 65 when you are 18… what was your life like between 18 and 65? Did you enjoy the journey to retirement? HOW you go about achieving your goals is more important than actually achieving them or not because achieving a goal is only a short moment of elation before you set the next one. You spend the vast majority of your time striving to achieve – if you are miserable during this time, what is the point?
People That Forget To Live
I’m sure you’ve met someone like this. They put 100% of their energy into a goal. It’s all they think about, it’s all they talk about, and it totally defines them as a person. They are often praised for being “highly disciplined”, “focused”, “hard working”, etc. We attach a great value to this type of behavior in our society yet we overlook the dark side of this mentality. Should we though? Yes, this type of person is very effective at reaching a goal but are they happy?
We can easily see this as a harmful lifestyle when we see it in children but not so much how we treat ourselves. A kid that is put on a path of becoming a “star” or a renowned musician from a very young age that is has their childhood filled to the brim with practice after practice and strict conditioning and control over their every moment can often become VERY good at what they are training to do. They aren’t usually happy though, and some even consider this abuse. It denies them of their childhood.
Yet we sometimes do this to ourselves. We become so obsessed with a goal we have in mind that we fill every space in our life with what we need to do to achieve that goal. It displaces everything else. It displaces our social interactions – e.g. the person who takes their physical training so far that we refuse all social activities they are invited to because they’d rather spend it in the gym. It displaces our thoughts – when it is all we think about it leaves little room for discovery, little room for mental space, and little room for creativity and it leaves us mentally fatigued, fighting boredom, and lacking of ever delving deeper into who we are and what we really want in life. It also displaces our finances – if we dump all of our money into our obsession it leaves little left over for security, for leisure, or for charity.
A Look In The Mirror
“I don’t do that. I see other people who are like that but no, not me!”
That may be true. Or it may be simply not being able to confront our own issues. It is much more difficult to expose this phenomenon in ourselves than others. It takes some serious stepping back and self-analysis.
The most important question to ask yourself:
Am I happy?
Not “will I be happy?” not “I will be happy when…” just ARE YOU HAPPY?
If the answer is NO… then you must ask: WHY?
If you don’t feel you will be happy until that goal is met then you’ve uncovered a problem.
Goal-Setting IS a good thing when it compliments your happiness. When it feels good to reach a goal because it’s like icing on the cake is when goal-setting is healthy. Reaching for your goals should be a process that is still enjoyable. That isn’t to say it isn’t completely without sacrifice or won’t be difficult or challenging but it should make you miserable doing it. It shouldn’t compromise your well-being.
A successful marathon runner enjoys running marathons. The running is what they live for – not the finish line.
Wanting to “win” is not enough. Of course winning feels good but if you hated running would you really want to run a marathon to try to get that “win”? Of course not. You’d hate every moment training for it for years, you’d hate the day of the race, and you’d only get any satisfaction from the short bit of time after crossing the finish line.
Winning is short lived. It is never “over”, and eventually we just die. I know that sounds grim but it’s true! One day you will die having a goal on the horizon that you never achieved. When we achieve a goal we mentally set another one (even if we don’t outright proclaim it to the world). We are wired to never be satisfied – so we constantly strive for more. One day you will fail. It’s how you live up to that point that determines whether you are happy or not.
So Now What?
Keep setting goals but don’t become obsessed with goals. You still have a life to live in between all the goalposts, and there never really is a finish line – only a collapse into defeat at some point. We have to live in a way that we enjoy that still gets us closer to the goals we set. If that doesn’t seem possible then we may need to reevaluate what our goal should be and choose a goal we will actually enjoy working toward if we want to enjoy life. If the journey alone isn’t worthwhile, then the goal may not be worth pursuing.