Have you ever set a goal only to end up feeling, unmotivated, uninspired, and defeated?
Back when I was in the business of selling financial products in a network marketing company (seems like another lifetime ago), one of our regular team tactics was to meet weekly and review our monthly and quarterly goals.
We were encouraged to set our goals outrageously high. “The bigger the better!”, we were told….
….and almost every week I would show up at these meetings with my tail between my legs, sad and defeated, that I did not hit my goals.
“What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I figure this out? Maybe I’m not cut out for this!”
These were just some of the thoughts that were going through my head every week, and on the rare occasion that I could report a win, it was a brief flash of joy followed by the depression of having to get back on the treadmill to do it all over again.
Sounds like fun, right? Well, as you can guess, it wasn’t. I often equate this type of success as trying to get through a brick wall using your forehead.
Since that time over a decade ago, I have devoted myself to the study of what makes some people able to achieve their goals while others end up endlessly procrastinating and beating themselves up.
Are your goals toxic?
I first heard the term, toxic goals, from one of my coaches, Jamie Smart.
To find out if your goals are toxic, simply ask yourself, “why do I want to accomplish this goal?”
If your answer has anything to do with a feeling, such as happiness, freedom, joy, success…there is a good chance of high toxicity.
Because feelings do not come from anything outside of you. Feelings are internally created. This is why we often hear of high achievers, people who seem to have everything, reporting that they feel empty or struggle to find meaning to their life. It seems like the answer is to keep chasing goals, and so they continue to strive, work, acquire…only to experience brief moments of satisfaction before jumping back on the goal-setting treadmill.
The magic is in the journey, not the destination.
The common self-help strategy for setting goals is to choose a target, set a time limit, and then work backwards, step-by-step, so that you end up with a detailed plan of how you will reach your end target.
Sounds logical, right?
Yet, this strategy could be limiting you in ways that may be detrimental to your productivity.
By limiting yourself to a step-by-step plan that you come up with in a moment, while quite possibly being in a lower state of mind (thinking that your goal will make you feel a certain way, i.e. making your happiness contingent on an external thing), you are cutting off all of your creative potential and discoveries that you may have along the way as you experience life.
So, now what?
The key is to recognize that your happiness and state of mind are not dependent on anything outside of you. Your circumstances will change, and depending on your state of mind, your mood will fluctuate up and down according to whatever you are thinking in that moment…independent of those circumstances.
Rather than limiting your creativity by mapping out a plan that you come up with based on insecure thinking, point yourself in the direction of where you want to go and take the next step. The next step is whatever makes sense in that moment.
‘Listen’ to your feelings.
One of the biggest traps we can fall into is thinking that more thinking will get us to our destination faster (often referred to as, “paralysis by analysis”). You’ve probably done this before. You get a feeling of discomfort or insecurity, so you begin to try and analyze the situation and think your way out. The consequence is usually more confusion, discomfort, and stress.
Ultimately, it’s when we let go and drop out of our troubled thinking that we open ourselves up to our innate wisdom and connection.
In this space we are more present. We experience more richness of life. We immerse ourselves in the journey rather than distracting ourselves.
It can seem counter-intuitive, but as we drop out of our thinking, into the moment, and take the next step, not only do we have a richer experience of the journey, we find ourselves moving gracefully in a space of creation and imagination, where unexpected resources appear and…
…we achieve our goals, naturally.