Goal Setting You Can Actually Feel Good About
A how-to guide on how to find the satisfaction you're searching for.
Have you ever felt a distinct lack of satisfaction even after you achieved something you thought you wanted? Have you ever received that promotion, started that new job, or gone on a date with someone who had perfect partner potential and still felt…meh? Good news: you’re not alone.
Not feeling the sense of fulfilment, joy, or success we think we will after achieving a goal is more commonplace than you may think. In a society where goal setting feels like second nature, the “hustle” is glorified, and our worth is seemingly tied to our achievements, it can be easy to get caught up in the never-ending chase of goals.
Before we dive into how to set goals we can actually feel good about, let’s first explore why our current goal-setting approach might not be leading us to the feelings we’re hoping for.
Goal Setting Fatigue
Goal setting is a popular and effective way to track and measure our objective success. If you set a goal and achieve it – boom! You’re successful. Theoretically, the more goals you achieve, the more successful you should feel. Unfortunately, goal setting without intention leads you only to objective success, which means nothing without context. Often we’re accomplishing goals that someone else (society, your boss, and let’s be honest, even your mom) thinks you should achieve. So although you might set a goal and achieve it, the disconnection to your personal values means you might not feel much of anything after your accomplishment. Goals are deeply personal, and we need to start treating them that way.
The “hustle” is normalized and even revered in today's culture (search anything #inspo-related on Instagram for proof). What’s more, the pace in which society operates and expects individuals to create value has seen a massively unhealthy increase over the last 20 years. We applaud those who hustle with little sleep, a back-to-back schedule, and a never-ending to-do list. We celebrate the “work hard, play hard” mentality. And while it may fuel our self-importance and ego to always be on the go, it’s only a matter of time before it catches up to us. Real power comes from slowing down.
More Being, Less Doing
We’re wired to be action-oriented. Society encourages the notion that if we’re always doing, we’re accomplishing, which means we’re successful. Right? More often than not, it feels like our worth is tied to our achievements. We judge success based on the volume of goals achieved, not necessarily the quality of those goals, or the relevance of the goals to the person who’s accomplishing them. As a collective, we’re moving and doing at such a fast pace that it’s more important than ever to stop and take time to reflect on what we’re doing and why. More being, less doing.
Now that we understand why we might be feeling this distinct lack of satisfaction, let’s delve into how we might go about changing this.
The Usual Take on Goal Setting
- Set a goal.
- Achieve goal.
- Move on to the next goal.
- Achieve goal.
- Move on to the next goal.
Here’s an example:
You hate your job, so you decide to work towards a promotion, which you think will make you feel better, maybe even happier at work. You work hard. You get the promotion. And yet, you still hate your job. Sound familiar?
Taking a Step Back
Why do people set goals in the first place? Goal setting can be an incredibly valuable tool to measure achievement, motivate yourself, and trigger desired behaviors. Goals can give people a sense of direction, purpose, and fulfillment (hi, it’s no wonder we set goals!).
Reframing Goal Setting
Instead of setting tangible goals based on what could seem objectively “successful” for almost any person on the planet (from finding the perfect partner, to getting published), we should start setting subjective goals. Goals that deeply matter to us as unique individuals; goals that align with our personal values. Instead of following the “set goal, achieve goal, onto the next until infinity” mindset detailed above, we should set an intention of how we want to feel after accomplishing each goal, define what success looks like to us, and reflect on if we achieved these outcomes every time.
A New Take on Goal Setting
- Set a goal.
- Get really clear on the why. Why do you want to achieve this goal? Is this goal for you, or someone else? What is deeply important to you?
- State your values. Which of your values does this goal align with? Creativity? Learning? Adventure?
- Set an intention for that goal. How do you want to feel after accomplishing the goal?
- Define what success looks like to you. What will make you feel successful in this situation?
Let’s put this into action:
- Goal: I want to take painting classes in 2020.
- Why: I want to carve out time in my life for creativity.
- Values: Creative expression and trying new things are really important to me.
- Intention: I want to have fun, stay open-minded, and not be hard on myself if I’m not “good” at painting – I want to feel proud for committing to something that’s important to me.
- Success: Success would look like showing up for myself consistently, even when I don’t feel like it.
It’s normal to feel a lot of external pressure around goal setting, from the media telling us what success should look like, to our parents not-so-subtly hinting at their ideas of success, to comparing our accomplishments to those of our peers and partners (even – or especially – random people on social media we’ve never met). But we now know that if we don’t set goals with intention, it’s no wonder why we don’t feel much of anything when we accomplish a goal that wasn’t important to us in the first place.
We don’t have to get caught up in the never-ending chase of goals. It’s time to take our power back and start setting goals that are as unique as we are. If we shift our mindset with this new take on goal setting, we just might find the satisfaction we’re searching for – and that’s something worth celebrating.
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