We all like to feel like we’re on track to something bigger, better, and more fulfilling. When we don’t, it feels like we’re wandering, disconnected, complacent on a path to nowhere in particular. From a very early age we’ve been taught to set goals especially when it comes to having what we want: a good job, a big house, a car, money in the bank. And for the most part having those goals kept us on track headed in a direction that meant that we were on our way to bigger and better things. Then we attained those things and entered a realm of satisfaction at having been rewarded for sticking to the goal and getting the things we say we want. Sometimes the satisfaction is usually short lived as we become aware of something else we don’t have and quickly enter into setting another goal to obtain the thing we really want. Or worse, we wonder why after achieving our goals are we still left with an unsettling feeling of disconnect and unfulfillment.
This can go on and on as we set goal after goal for ourselves turning us into overachievers and ambitiousness turns into a personal mission to prove something to yourself or to others. We may also find ourselves feeling stuck surrounded by all the things we have accomplished yet not really feeling connected to any of it. We may start questioning ourselves and what we say we want possibly afraid to take a step forward when we’re not sure what we’re taking a step forward towards. Some may fall upon the question of who am I as our identity slips away and gets lost in the degree hanging on the wall or the two cars parked in the drive way. When we tick off all the boxes of our life’s most important goals, what comes next? When do we stop running for the goal and check in with ourselves about what we truly want?
When we set a goal, it’s never about the thing we say we want. It’s about what we believe we’ll get from the thing. This bears repeating: It’s never about the thing we say we want, it’s about what we believe we’ll get from that thing.
When we believe that once we get to the end of the goal we will be smarter, successful, better looking, richer, respected, prestigious, we affirm to ourselves that we are not already these things and cannot be until we have what we’re after. Coming into the goal from this place gives our power away and releases to an external thing that gives us permission to be the thing we say we want to be.
I am not discouraging us from having goals. In fact I think having them keeps us grounded and intentional in the things that we do. Our goals grow with us and become increasingly challenging as we realize it’s not the destination but the journey. However, when we find ourselves immersed in a career, job title, or life in general but cannot clearly answer the question “why does this matter?”, then it may be time to rethink things. If we can connect with the reason why we want the thing we want and why it even matters then we can open ourselves up to who we are and what we value most.
Doing this requires us to take a step back before plunging into a goal and connect with the feeling that having the goal would bring. Is it happiness? Is it Freedom? Fulfillment? Peace of mind? Whatever it is for you, connect with that feeling first. Start being that feeling today in everything you do. Ultimately the goal is just a strategy that lies between you and the feeling you desire so why not have the feeling now and the goal become a result of that feeling instead of the other way around. For example, a goal would look a lot more like this:
- Goal: Change careers.
- What will you get from that goal?: fulfillment, happiness, connection to your sense of purpose and passion.
- By when: January 1, 2014
Try this for yourself using the exercise above. Take out a piece of paper and fill in the following:
#1 fill in your desired goal.
#2 fill in the emotion, feeling that having that goal would bring.
#3 why not now?!!
Now strike a line through #'s 1 & 3. Take a closer look at #2. Your answer shows the feeling that comes from the goal and is what you value most. This is your true goal.
If you could jump straight to being more of #2 today, how much closer to having your goal would you be? Start being the desired emotion today to create the experience of having the goal now. True goals happen whenever you choose, you don't have to wait for an external date to be satisfied. Create that victorious feeling from within by starting today.