How Goals Can Get In The Way Of Happiness
You’re probably pursuing some kind of goal right now. And, if you’re like most of us, you think you’ll be happier when you’ve achieved your goal. You’ll enjoy “having arrived” and bask in the glow of your accomplishment.
The daily grind
But even as you think about how much you’ll enjoy arriving at your destination, you’re slogging through the journey. Project plan in hand. Head down, nose to the grindstone. Marking off your To-Do list. You’re staying up late and sacrificing self-care. Eating a hurried meal on the run. Neglecting relationships. You’re exhausted. Or maybe you’re not so much exhausted as just not having any fun. You wake up not really looking forward to what’s on your calendar and To-Do list. There’s productivity, but very little pleasure. Days are something to get through. The truth is, many of you aren’t really enjoying the journey as you pursue your goals.
A question worth asking
Which begs the question: If you can’t enjoy the journey, is the goal really worth it? Let’s say you’re trying to build your business and have an ideal number of clients you’re trying to achieve. You just know reaching this milestone is going to feel so good. You’ll rest easier. Feel successful. The future in your mind is very rosy. In the meantime, you’re overscheduled and overcommitted. You keep saying it will be different “when…”, but for now, daily life is a slog. If you can’t enjoy the journey, is the destination a place worth trying to get to? Are the months or years of your life you’ll not enjoy worth achieving your goal?
How goals get in the way
- Life starts when… You’re not fully showing up until you lose 20 pounds, buy a house, or the kids are off to college. When your goal is achieved—then you’ll really live full on. In the meantime, you turn down invitations because your weight isn’t ideal and put off writing your novel because the kids are still at home.
- Postponing happiness. If you think you can’t be happy until you’ve achieved your goal, it stands to reason the goal itself is in the way of happiness. Many of us pursue goals with this mindset. Are you giving yourself a pass on being happy now because you’ve put all your eggs in the Happiness Later basket?
- Future focus. Having a vision for the future is inspiring and enriching. But your life is made up of minutes and moments, the here and now. Don’t be so focused on arriving at some future destination that you look back at the blur of your past and realize you didn’t really live your life so much as goal set through it.
- Bullied by your To Do List. Your To-Do list is the boss of you. And a bad boss at that—demanding, unrealistic, never satisfied. And while you feel a momentary thrill marking things off your list, dozens of items always remain undone. Who has time to be happy now when there’s so much left to do?
What can you do instead? How can you shift from being overly focused on the future of your goal to living in the present—and enjoying life now?
4 strategies to shift from destination to journey
- Don’t set goals if you can’t find a way to enjoy the journey. Sounds overly simple because it is. Don’t be tempted to say “Yeah, but…” Goals are great. But if you can’t enjoy the process of achieving them, they aren’t the goal for you.
- Get even more creative. It’s easy to find pleasure in the creative aspects of working toward your goal, but not the more mundane parts. It doesn’t have to be that way. Bring a fresh perspective and more appreciative mindset to all aspects of working on your goal. Be creative about finding ways to enjoy the journey of goal achievement.
- Stay close to your Bigger Why. There’s a big, juicy Why behind your goal. Maybe you want to launch your Etsy shop so you can earn money to travel the world. Or your goal to lose 20 pounds is so you can keep up with your grandkids. Don’t get bogged down in the day-to-day tactics of working toward your goal and lose sight of your energetic, inspiring Why.
- Work on your goal in joy with gratitude. It’s a blessing to be able to work happily toward something. To see the steps and enjoy taking them. To have something specific in mind and move toward it, of creating and feeling inspired along the way. Focusing exclusively and narrowly on results—only on reaching a destination—denies the joy and beauty of the journey.
The present moment is all you have. It’s time to move away from I’ll be happy when…
Don’t sacrifice today in pursuit of a goal. Today—and your happiness—are too precious.
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