Don’t Let Goals Ruin Your Life
Setting goals is a valuable practice and many of us set them as “resolutions” in the New Year. Goals are essential for completing tasks, whether it is developing a new business skill or cleaning your closet. However, don’t let the intensity of setting goals ruin your life.
While setting goals can motivate you, they can also produce a feeling that what you currently are doing or have, isn’t enough. A sense of unease can come over you if your goal-oriented life discounts all that is good in the present moment.
A goal tends to be concrete and is often focused on fixing a perceived problem (for instance, your closet is too cluttered). Goals are usually a black or white idea that is specific and measurable. They are frequently externally focused on getting or achieving something by a certain date.
When you set a goal, you begin to think about how you are going to achieve it, which evokes your analytical mind, focusing on specific information to achieve your goal. That’s a good thing. The downside is if you are overly focused on just that one goal, you may not pay attention to your intuition and lose sight of other opportunities that are on the horizon.
Over-reliance on goals can also set up a win-lose mindset, which fuels the internal Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). For example, if you don’t reach your goal, your judging mind might say: “Why try anyway? I’ll never be a success”—typical of the Victim mindset.
Other questions may come up: Am I going to fulfill my goal? Will I be successful or not? Will I be happy once I reach the goal? Should I set another goal to keep the pressure on? Am I a failure if the goal is not reached?
That’s why goals can sometimes ruin your life if they are not combined with outcomes. Focus on outcomes first, then goals.
Outcomes tend to be more intrinsically focused, values-driven, and longer-term in nature. When you focus on a broader purpose for continuous learning, for instance, you have a compass that guides you even when things don’t go your way. In other words, outcomes tend to be “larger” than individual goals and often rest on the other side of the problems goals are trying to fix. A possible outcome for cleaning your closet, for example, may be a more organized life that helps sustain your energy, rather than wasting energy, always looking for something.
Another example of a goal may be: “By next week, I will read a book about listening.” The desired outcome could be: “I am deeply committed to listening first to understand, rather than to be understood.”
Hear the difference?
Reading a book about listening is an awesome goal. When your goals are anchored within outcomes you really care about, you are giving yourself a much higher chance of reaching your goals. Why? Because when action is connected to a larger desired outcome that you care deeply about, you are living from a Creator Orientation and generating positive energy that will sustain you over the long haul.
Focusing on outcomes does not mean you give up goals. Quite the contrary. But goals not connected to desired outcomes become a transactional exercise, with a higher chance you will revert to old habits when challenges arise.
If you combine goal setting in service to your declared outcome, you now have a win/win combination that will generate powerful and positive energy throughout the New Year!