To be human is to have dreams and desires. Well established goals that we are excited about will allow us to wake up with a sense of purpose and drive. However, when our goals are made for the wrong reasons or for other people, they can be our downfall. Here are some tips on how to ensure what you are aiming for is actually what you want and is best for you.
Choosing your goals carefully
Goals should not be taken lightly or overlooked as they are the foundation of our future. They are the conscious and unconscious force that drives our actions and mental set point for decision making. Below is a 5-step process you can use when goal setting.
Step 1) Block out the noise to find your inner voice
Step 2) Figure out what drives you
Step 3) The No Waver Zone
Step 4) Action
Step 5) Outcome and more goal setting
What do I really want?
Not surprisingly, one of the hardest things in life can be figuring out what will bring us happiness and help us reach our highest good on an emotional, personal, financial, and spiritual level. So often we are making goals based on knee jerk reactions, without stopping to consider the big picture and asking “is this what I truly want?”
It is important to ask yourself this question because many of the goals we are setting are coming from our surroundings and peers rather than our hearts. It’s not uncommon for our family, friends, environment, and the media to have a huge impact on our perspective and what we view as success. However, there is a big difference between being influenced by others and blindly following them.
“The last thing you want in life is to get trapped in someone else’s idea.” -Sadhguru
It is helpful to go somewhere quiet with a pen and paper and write down what it is that you think you want. Then make a list of all the reasons why you want to achieve that goal and how you would feel once you have accomplished that. Picture yourself being a success in that scenario, imagine what it would be like from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed in that life, is this really what you want? Now write down the ways in which you could get there and see if it’s a path you are able and willing to walk. It’s easy to say “I want to be a news reporter,” but it’s another thing to declare “I want to be a news reporter and am willing to wake up at 4 am every morning to do so.”
How many times have you found yourself working towards a goal and halfway through you realize you hadn’t thought out the details and were more interested in the idea of success than what it would take to get there. When choosing a goal, we must be cognizant of how we can get there, if we will enjoy the journey, and if reaching that goal will truly bring us what we want.
Perhaps you see an Instagram influencer traveling the world and think, yeah, I want to do that, my goal is to be an Instagram influencer. So, you open an account, start posting photos and getting followers, but then, after a month you start to flounder and feel deflated. Once you realized that being an influencer would require taking countless photos, you realized that you didn’t want to be an influencer after all, nor did you care about being famous, you just wanted to travel more. So then you asked yourself, how else can I travel more? What other paths would allow me to travel often, but fit my other desires in life? There is nothing wrong with learning through experience, but proper goal setting and planning can help us be much more efficient at reaching happiness and achievement.
Or maybe all the men in your family were lawyers and that was a goal passed down to you. You accepted it because you saw the comfortable lifestyle that came with it and liked the idea of learning law. However, once you graduated and started practicing you realized you didn’t actually enjoy it, that your true passion was home design. From here you have 2 options; keep the steady income by making the best of law and do design as a hobby or take a big chance and go for design, even if that means your budget is going to be very tight. It is never too late to realize and chase a goal, it’s simply a time factor. We only have so much time on this planet so getting clear on what will really make us happy is important for that reason.
Then again, perhaps this path was perfect, perhaps without learning law, you wouldn’t have had the confidence to pursue design. As long as we are enjoying each day on the path to our goals than the how’s and when’s will be less anxiety provoking. There is no right or wrong way to achieve a goal, only the way that is best for us.
What drives us
When it comes to goal setting, most people are motivated by money, power, fame, love, or time. Now ideally we have a balanced life that contains a few of these, plus being healthy, but there are times in life when there are only so many hours in the day and no matter how efficiently we are managing our hours, one area will take precedence over another area. Thus, when goal setting its important to ask yourself not only “what is most important to me right now,” but also “what is the biggest driving factor behind the goals I am setting?”
Let’s say a single mom wants to give her son the best life she can. She realizes that she will have to sacrifice time for money, in her mind working more and seeing her son less is more important to be able to give him the most financially. Her goal is to eventually have enough money to get some of her time back, but at the moment her main goal is money, with the drive of love for her son.
On the flip side, she may believe that skimping on some material aspects of life in order to spend the most time with him is the most important. She may come to the conclusion that having an actively present parent in his life holds a greater value than the material. In this case, her main driving factors are time and love.
The other reason we set goals, on the most basic level, is because we believe achieving them will add something to our life that we are missing or make us feel “a little better.” If we are coming from the premise that “my life is good now and achieving this goal will only make it better” then great, stay that way. However, if we believe that we need that one thing or person to be happy then we need to do some perspective work as we probably don’t have enough balance in our life at the moment.
While reaching the goal you are striving for is necessary, being happy on the way to reaching it is the true purpose of life. So often we are waiting for this one goal to be achieved before we start living or allow ourselves to be happy, this is neither healthy nor productive. It also puts enormous pressure on the goal and the happiness you experience when the goal is reached will likely not live up to your expectations or last very long. We all have heard of the infamous post wedding deflation, months of planning for one day and then poof its over and you wonder where the last 6 months of your life went.
The “I will be happy when… ” phenomena will hinder your ability to live in the moment and enjoy the present, so let’s see how we can shift this.
Example: “I will be happy when I get this promotion…so I will work this job I hate and be miserable until I get it because I need more money and freedom.” Can be shifted to “I will make the best of this job and find joy where I can along the way to reaching my promotion. I will be mindful and bring positively or at least neutrality to where I am right now.” Or you can change the goal completely to “I will leave this job I hate and find a good paying job I love, no promotion is worth this situation.”
Lastly, it’s important to be aware of where your beliefs originated from. Maybe we want a relationship because we believe having a partner will make life more enjoyable by giving us a “partner in crime,” love, and a sense of security. Or maybe we want a new car because we think we would feel more successful and confident driving in a nice car or that girls/guys would like us better if we’re behind the wheel of a fancy ride. But why do we believe these things? What brought us to this conclusion? Most of what we believe is influenced by the society we were raised in and there is nothing wrong with that, just make sure your inner desires are in alignment with them.
Recap; get clear on what you are striving for and why. Am I doing this for money, power, fame, love, or time? Is that the best choice for me? And am I happy on the path to achieving it?
Stay the course
Once you set the goal it is very important not to waver on your decision. Going back and forth and questioning your decision will undermine your goal achievement process and lead to mental madness. It has been scientifically proven that the more you second guess your decision the more unhappy you will be.
We need to put 100% effort into our goals so we don’t have time to waste second-guessing. If we took the time to get sure on our goals, then we can be sure we are on the right path.
Maintaining belief is also critical. Often when we experience failure or realize how challenging reaching our goal may be, we start to question our ability. Other peoples opinions are another factor that can cause us to doubt ourselves. Make sure not to tell your goals to the more negative people in your life if you find their fears contagious.
So, get clear on what it is that you want, set the path, go forward with belief, and then take action. Although doubts may show up, gently let them pass and keep the mantra “I can do this” in your mind.
Now obviously we can’t just set a goal and wait for it to appear at our feet. In this step, we will need to implement our will power and determination. We must be willing to put the work in, sacrifice when needed, and ideally, if the goal was set properly, achieve some satisfaction and joy in this process.
So what is putting in the work mean? It means reaching our goals through positive daily habits. Habits are very powerful, they are often the pushing factor that leads to our success or our failure. We wake up every day and brush our teeth, this is a habit, but we don’t even think about it, we just do it. In the same way, the things we think about and the actions we take are habits. Many of us are unaware of the self-sabotaging or unproductive habits we have, such as negative thinking, lack of confidence, laziness, fear, and lack of clarity.
We all have been victim to negative habits at some point in our lives, but we can overcome this with a goal setting action plan. If you have a well-defined plan then whenever you feel yourself starting to think negative thoughts like “I can’t do this” or “I don’t feel like putting in the work today” you can refer back to your action plan for motivation.
Let’s say your goal is to be a famous basketball player, then the action plan would include playing basketball every day, eating right, stretching, studying the plays, and mental clarity exercises. You will need to play basketball so often that it not only becomes part of your daily habit, but it becomes part of who you are. “I am a basketball player” is a powerful statement, once you have decided who you want to be, then you must adopt the habits of what someone in that position would take.
Now for most, there will be moments of upset or struggle, but if you can learn to look at each challenge as a lesson and an opportunity to come back even stronger, then you will feel less resistance on your path to success. If you are throwing your hands in the air and giving up at the first, or even the tenth set back, then this is where you need to dig deep and find that belief in yourself and your plan. This is often when people will cop out and say “well I don’t think I even want this anymore.”
Do not give up because things get hard, take a moment do some deep breathing, close your eyes and picture yourself achieving that goal. How does it feel? Better than giving up? Then keep going, you can do this!
Goal Achievement & More Goal Setting
Once you have reached your goal, take time for celebration and gratitude, but don’t stay idle for too long. Setting your next goals is an important next step to keep progressing forward and avoid post goal deflation. When you are no longer working towards something is often when we get lost and bored. It doesn’t have to be work, you can be striving towards being a kinder person, a more engaged partner, someone who laughs more and worries less, or something totally outside of yourself, like starting a charity, just keep progressing and having fun.