Why Achieving Goals is not Enough to Make us Happy
Lifetime goals, short-, medium- and long-term ones, SMART goals, provisional, foundational, health, fitness, family goals… the list goes on, and on, and on… They are present in the lives of most people around the world and, I guess, in terms of them we could put the society into three categories:
1) those who have a clear vision of what they want to achieve, they strive and fight for it and, with some luck, maybe achieve it;
2) those who never bother to learn the very concept of a goal and goal setting and don’t give a damn about it;
3) the majority – we set some goals, we fail, we change our mind, we succeed, we change our mind again… and most of the time when we fail or fall of the wagon we feel like failure. And even when we succeed, how long does the joy last? When it lasts for a short period of time we wonder if it was really worth it. Is it worth it? No if you set them only to achieve them. Because:
THEY WILL LAST A FRACTION OF A SECOND
You’ve been waiting for days, weeks, months, years maybe… and here it is, the moment of glory. You pass the exam, get the job, put on your dream-dress… And then the moment ends and shock dawns upon you – “What now…?”. Retirement is a good analogy in this case. You work hard for all of your most productive and fertile years just to finally get a lot of free time and say with a smile “I did it!”. After a few days boredom becomes your companion and you go nuts. Does the exchange of a few decades for a moment of relieve really seem like a fair trade?
THE STRUGGLE RARELY STOPS THERE
If only I had more money, dated a nice guy, got more time for myself, were slimmer… life would become easy, yes?
No. When you have more money, you have more expenditures. Instead of “me time” you might end up with lovers quarrels. The list is endless. We live with this misconception that if we changed X (or get X, since it’s about achieving goals) all the struggle would stop. But you know what? After squeezing yourself into that dreamy dress you’ll have to keep working out and after getting a pay rise you’ll have pay more taxes. Goal achievement doesn’t stop the struggle.
THEY MIGHT BE OUT-OF-DATE BY THE TIME YOU’VE REACHED THEM
You changed your mind or/and your priorities. You found out that designing clothes isn’t really something you want to do for the rest of your life or that instead of beating crap out of people during your karate trainings you’d feel so much better participating in yoga classes.
You have a baby boy who needs you more than you need your PhD. Or maybe you care about your strong joints and walking by yourself in your 80s more than you care about marathons? Allow yourself to change your mind, your life, needs and priorities. Nothing ever stays the same. Give yourself permission so you can change as well.
YOU’LL HATE THEM FOR CAUSING SO MUCH PAIN AND PRESSURE
Including the ones you put on yourself voluntarily. Again, if we don’t grant ourselves a little bit of space, freedom, pressure-free time and zones, you’ll start to perceive them as an executioner and yourself as a victim. After all, they will be depriving you of friend-time, me-time, sleep, sweets, family’s understanding… Remember to give yourself some slack. As Marie Forleo puts it, “What we persist resists”. Don’t get yourself to the breaking point.
YOU’LL NEVER GIVE IT YOUR 100%
Following John Wooden’s philosophy, 100% is perfect and there is no such thing as perfect. You will never be able to devote 100% of your time, emotion and focus to your goal. Something will ALWAYS be compromised. Not giving your very best leads to frustration, dissatisfaction and thinking “I wasn’t good enough”. And yet we all know it’s not like that. It’s not like that at all. Give it as much as you’re willing to give. You’re the one who sets the rules. Sometimes it will be 85% and sometimes only 20%. We need to learn to be OK with that.
IF I FAILED, I’M FAILURE
You don’t really believe that, do you?
One misstep, mistake, mark, project or whatever, does not equal the value of your life.
“I’ve achieved 5 out of 5 big goals, cool, I’m a living success. Got 1 out of 5, get out, you’re useless.” Thinking about your goals in terms of determiners is a straight way to misery and a distorted vision of you.
You wouldn’t call your loved ones failure for being fired and neither should you give yourself such label for similar mistakes.
BY-PRODUCTS OF SETTING GOALS FOR GOALS’ SAKE:
– emotions reduction (becoming a goals setting and achieving machine);
– becoming an overachiever (you’ll always want more, there will never be enough);
– priorities will start fading and mixing (other areas of your life will inevitably suffer, the most important ones will be the first to get the axe)
Have goals set them, achieve them, make them exciting and thriving. And make them your aid towards a quality life. Just keep in mind that they are the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.