How Goal Setting Makes You Miserable and What To Do About It
Newsflash: Setting goals can make you more miserable than satisfied.
Now this might be shocking to read, especially coming from a life coach, but it’s true. Some goals take weeks, months, even years to achieve – that’s weeks, months, even years of not having achieved your goal yet. So when your sense of satisfaction depends solely on you achieving the goal you’ve set for yourself, you’re setting yourself up for some serious disappointment.
There’s also the question of how long your satisfaction and sense of accomplishment actually lasts after you’ve achieved your goal. Will it last a second, like the moment it takes for you to realise you’ve hit your target? Or maybe a month while you ride out the wave of your success, until you realise that it’s time to get back to work, this time to maintain that success? More often than not, you won’t have enjoyed it very long before it’s time to bring your head back down from the clouds and it’s on to the next one.
The truth is, you’re bound to feel trapped by your own goals, especially if it means you’ll be keeping your head down, doing the work and waiting until you’ve reached the moment when you’ve done enough to achieve them.
A more appealing alternative is to make progress your goal. Rather than just thinking “I want to lose 5kg,” think “This week, I want to go to the gym one day more than I did last week.” Or instead of thinking “I want to run a renowned six-figure business,” go with “I want to close one more client than I did last month.”
Now don’t get confused. You should still definitely have your big goal or vision. But with your big goal in mind, lay out all the smaller steps you need to take to get there. By doing so, you can find satisfaction more frequently (even as often as daily!) when you achieve each smaller step that paves the way.
But why is this important?
It keeps you sane.
Especially if you’ve got some seriously ambitious goals, you need to keep yourself fuelled with a positive attitude. You need to feel a sense of reward and accomplishment consistently along the way, or risk getting sucked into being so down in the dumps. You’ll be anxious and stressed until you achieve your goal – but who knows when that’ll be?
It keeps you sane.
As human beings we can only go so long without being given a pat on the back (literally or figuratively) before you start to question yourself, or worse, ask why you even bother. When you aim to make consistent progress rather than to only achieve the big goal, you’re allowing yourself to receive more pats on the back along the way, which means you’ll stay motivated to complete the rest of your journey to the finish line.
It makes your ambition manageable.
“You can go one more mile!” is a much more encouraging chant than “Twenty-five more miles to go!”. Achieving any goal is like running a marathon – you need to be in it for the long run. But when training for a marathon, you break up the training into chunks: first one mile, then two, then three, and months or years later, you’re doing practice runs for the London Marathon! There’s no way anyone would get started and last to cross the finish line by thinking that they need to finish the whole 25 miles from the get-go. Save yourself from the discouragement.
So today, resolve to make the journey the goal. Rather than worrying about how far you are from achieving your goal, enjoy being on the right track today.