Today’s society is very achievement oriented. Most of us could list of any number of goals we are working on at any given time. And that is a good thing. Setting goals indicates a desire to change and grow. Growth leads to self-improvement, satisfaction and more opportunities for fulfillment. Ultimately, I like to think we are all looking to have a fulfilling life, so goal setting is a great tool to help move us along the journey.
Of course, as with just about everything, setting goals can have a flipside. Have you ever set a goal that seemed like a good idea at the time, but achievement was always just out of reach? And sometimes, if it seems like you will never reach that goal, the goal itself can become self-defeating. Or worse, you reach your goal and realize it didn’t bring the changes or fulfillment that seemed guaranteed.
When discussing and setting goals, I encourage my clients not to stop at a first draft. One of the keys to setting meaningful goals is to make sure they are just that—meaningful. Oftentimes we choose a goal as an end point, when it is really more indicative of a more profound issue we are looking to address. In that instance, reaching that goal will only satisfy us for a short period, almost a hollow victory. That is why it is so important to examine our goals and what we are really trying to achieve.
I like to call this goal digging. It is actually a way to move forward and help clarify what is really important to you. For instance, many people say they would like to lose a few pounds. Dropping the extra weight would make them happy. They set a number and move toward it. They focus on whichever diet method works for them, all their energy consumed in meeting this new goal. Sure enough, they hit that number, fit into those jeans and all is good—victory. A few weeks later those jeans are tight again, the old behaviors are creeping back, and getting back on track seems a like a bit too much effort this time.
If you take the time to examine the bigger picture around what you want to change, setting a goal can become much more effective as a positive tool. What would making that change mean? What are you really trying to change in your life? Is it really just about the weight, or is that just a piece of a better vision you have for yourself? When you put goals in perspective around the big picture, very often they make more sense and seem less daunting—much more achievable. It also helps you to realize that your happiness or fulfillment won’t hinge on a single event. Lasting happiness is derived from the combination of factors. Placing too much importance on any one event is almost always certain to disappoint in the long run.
So the next time you are thinking of setting a goal, or struggling to achieve a current one, take a moment and think about what you are really striving for. Bringing as much clarity as possible to your overall vision will help put your ideas in perspective and give you a deeper determination to make those changes happen. And with that determination, you will find it much easier to develop new behaviors or habits, and perhaps most importantly, and keep those changes in place.