Are you over-goaled and under-fulfilled?
Our goal-driven orientation can devalue, degrade or deny our current success
There is an assumption that we all buy into that if we want success we have to be in a constant state of reaching for new levels of achievement. With that, we also tend to make a foundational assumption that success is something we don't have in the present, that it is always on the horizon, in the future, and something to be always worked toward and hopefully realized in the future.
Because of these assumptions we strive—almost perpetually. We set goals and direct our effort toward them. We focus our attention on what we need to do to reach our goals, and thereby increase our experience of success. Our goals give us purpose, direction, momentum; and when we reach them, they also give us a sense of accomplishment and success.
Because they challenge and stretch us, goals are great for keeping the dust and cobwebs from gathering in our life experience. They keep us gaining new skills, realizing our higher potential, expanding our knowledge, and creating opportunities for satisfaction and fulfillment.
But like anything, too much of a good thing can introduce complication, if not danger. And with goals, our experience of success and our fulfillment from it is what's at risk.
Because goals are inherently future-focused, they are a vehicle through which can we become intently focused on what we don't have and what we are not. While this is great when it comes to seeking the expansion of our experience of success, it is not great when that focus causes us to loose sight of what we do have and what we are in the present.
This is where the way we use goals gets messy.
Our goal-driven orientation can devalue, degrade or deny the success we have already achieved. We can get so fixated on always setting new goals that we may never stop and assess whether what we're doing now or what we have today might actually be satisfying and fulfilling in itself.
It can start to seem like a steady stream of goals is the only thing giving us value, defining our identities, and providing purpose. We can be so consumed by the sheer having of goals that we don't bother to assess the degree to which pursuing and meeting them is actually meaningful and enhancing to our lives.
But we continue striving and reaching, setting goal after goal. And in spite of it all, we remain less than happy. We continue feeling like we have yet to reach success.
We are turning into a population that is over-goaled and under-fulfilled. It is time to take heed of the red flags of this condition and recognize the dangers of persisting in this way.
When we are over-goaled our goals can become counter productive and actually corrosive to our success and happiness. When we're over-goaled our goals can be devoid of the aim, meaning, and value we expect them to provide. When we're over-goaled we actually may be de-motivated and overwhelmed when we expected that the goals we set would stimulate and inspire.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying goals are bad or that they don't have value. I'm a big advocate for meaningful, relevant, and aspirational goals. The point here is really about using discipline and discernment in our goal setting. It is about being in touch with what IS now, who we ARE today, and what we HAVE in the present.
Could it be that you are living your definition of success today? Might your daily work and life fulfill now? Might you be content for the time being?
If you're answering questions like this in the negative you then have the opportunity to ask deeper questions to uncover the specific gaps in your fulfillment, success, or happiness. As you answer those further questions, you will be able to create goals that truly matter.
Without that connection with our current state, we can fall into a mode of working and living in which we are blind to what we ultimately want or need to be successful and fulfilled. We continue to set goals, often many at a time, and often without a clear view of what reaching them will get us. We may even reach most, if not all, of those goals. And yet we'll still feel pressured, uninspired, undervalued, unfulfilled, and unsuccessful.
So the next time you approach a possible goal, check in. Will achieving it enhance your success? Will your pursuit of it bring meaning to your work and life? Does the effort toward the goal and ultimately reaching it meet a true need that you have? If yes, great! If not, beware.
One more goal may be the last thing you need to be successful and happy.