How You Can Feel Victimized by Goals
“Once I reach my goal, I will be happy,” is what most people say when they set a goal. What is problematic about this approach to life is the idea that your happiness is somewhere in the future and not available to you now.
Goals, by their nature, fool you into thinking that outside circumstances are what make you happy. They are for your future self, not your present self. This dynamic is how you can feel victimized by goal setting.
Future planning has its place and requires your attention to exercise some control and direction over your life. Goals help you make concrete what is uncertain. If you are like most people, you were taught early in life that you must have goals if you want to be successful. But there are limitations to living goal-to-goal.
Here are a few:
- Goals put you on a roller coaster relationship with achieving. Did you make your goal or not?
- Often goals are not yours. If they are filled with “should, ought to, and have to” phrases, it is a clue they are someone else’s goals, not yours.
- Goals are tied to certainty. You are making decisions today based on the illusion you can predict the future.
- Goals are rooted in either-or thinking. Did you achieve your goal or didn’t you? In this way your goal can become a problem that persecutes you into a disempowering relationship with yourself.
There is also an important myth about goals. It is not the goal itself that you want. In reality, you crave the feeling that having the goal will give you. You visualize the new shiny sports car and crave the feeling of independence and freedom. You want the job promotion to feel approval and status. Goals are linked to a change in your emotional state that you want. It is not the goal — it is the feeling that you desire.
As an alternative, fall in love with the outcome that is the larger context within which the goal resides. The larger question is: “Who are you are being on your way to what you want?” Here is one example of how I (Donna) learned this valuable lesson.
I have wanted to paint most of my adult life. I took painting classes with the goal that my paintings would be “good enough” to show to friends. However, after several classes I would hear an inner voice that said: “You are not a good painter,” and would set aside my goal to paint.
Last year I realized my goal to paint a picture good enough to show friends was a problem-focused goal and was not serving me. I shifted to a more life-giving outcome and asked myself a new question: “What kind of person do I want to be as I learn to paint?” The answer gradually emerged, and I declared. “I am a person who enjoys being around others who want to paint. I feel my pulse accelerate when I walk into an artist studio. I feel the child-like joy of playing with colors and shapes. I am a person who longs to paint.”
Goal setting certainly has an appropriate place in your life. But if you obsess about the destination, you may miss the joy in the journey.
Focus more on what makes you come alive. What are your dreams? When you visualize and integrate your outcomes, discern what baby steps you will take to get you closer to and clearer about the person you are becoming. This is the path to lasting fulfillment and realizing your Creator essence, which is who you really are.