Goals are crucial to our happiness and success as individuals. They allow us to dissect our lives and imagine the ideal lives we wish to have. As with every journey, without knowing where you’re going, you’ll never get to where you want to be. Goals aid us in understanding our wants and helping to dissect our lives, enabling the opportunity to weed out any habits that slow our progress towards our destination.
There is one problem, however: Goals can be extraordinarily debilitating and restrict you from reaching your maximum potential. Sound counterintuitive? It’s not the physical goals that place restriction on our progress; rather, it is our mentality towards those looming, incomplete goals that starts a vicious cycle of achievements and setbacks, which inevitably stalls our progress or results in our failure entirely.
We may have one or two main goals at the forefront of our minds for the long-term, but we also have countless, no less significant, short-term goals along the way -- each taking us a step closer to our final destination. The issue is, because we have our sights set on our long-term goal(s), we overlook our smaller victories -- those smaller, short-term goals that pave the way to the bigger picture. Therefore, we often find ourselves feeling unsuccessful and discouraged from fulfilling the long-term goals.
“It’s not the destination that is important, but the journey that takes you there.” This is a statement you’ve surely heard plenty of times. Yes, we get it; we should appreciate the little things in life. For those of us who are incredibly driven, the notion of taking our eyes off the prize is unfathomable. If we take our focus off where we are going, then how can we guarantee that we will ever get there? The first problem with this point of view is thinking that you know where exactly it is you want to go.
I personally argue against promising to love someone for all eternity and question the legitimacy of the marital institution. Why? How could any one individual promise to love another in 20 years, when not only does he or she not know the type of person his or her partner will be in two decades time, but he or she also doesn't know the type of person he or she will be. Two decades is a long time, and people change over time in all aspects.
Likewise, your goals will change over time. You may very well think you are 100 percent certain of where you want to end up in life, and you may be correct in your thinking, but you may be wrong just as well. As you get older, you become wiser and begin to attribute more importance to certain things and less to others. The pursuit of happiness and success will remain; however, what will evolve are our conditions of happiness and our definition of success.
Focusing on only the future causes you to miss out on all the beauty of the present. There’s much more to experience than the smell of roses. Success itself is only experienced in the moment of achievement and for a brief period afterwards. Even the high you experience from the euphoria of success wears off. Why? Our minds recalibrate and refocus on the next goal, the next action that needs to be taken and the next success we wish to experience.
Do you see the problem here? If we are always focusing on the next goal at hand, we can never thrive in our present successes. Thus, we can never fully enjoy our lives in full satisfaction. Life shouldn’t be a race to the finish. You can race if you want to, but trying to reach the end will bring you to the end. In our case, that end is death.
What’s even worse is the fact that without being able to enjoy our little victories along the road to success, we are almost guaranteed to fail in the long run. Every time you pass up the opportunity to dwell a little longer on one of your smaller successes, whether it be praise from your boss, a raise, buying a new pair of shoes 50 percent off the original price, or bringing an umbrella with you because you had a feeling it would rain, you are passing on the sense of satisfaction and resulting motivation that fuels our successes.
Human beings are workers and doers. We set out to do things; we do our best to complete them, and as a result, we accomplish the tasks at hand. Every time we put effort into accomplishing even the littlest task, we are dedicating a sliver of our lives to that task. There are those who don’t put much effort into anything: lost souls. However, even those that do put their best foot forward and do their best work 90 percent of the time fail to reap the fruits of their labor. No matter how faint the glow and sense of satisfaction, bask in your successes for even a moment longer; it will better your mood and increase your level of motivation.
My point is, seeing as how our lives are filled with tasks and actions that need to be carried out or accomplished, we have two options: 1) Spend our lives completing said tasks, dedicating little time to reflecting on those successes and immediately moving onto subsequent tasks, or 2) Take more time to appreciate the work that we have accomplished and be proud of our successes. We really don’t give ourselves enough credit as individuals. Sure, others may have achieved our same successes -- hell, maybe they did it even more gracefully. But they didn’t do what we did; we did what we did.
Not everything that you do in life will feel like it's entirely driven by purpose or even worth mentioning to others, but everything accomplished is another opportunity to embrace the elusive wonder that is success. Again, you have two options: spend the rest of your life grasping at some future success that may or may not come, or enjoy all your successes, no matter how small, and use the resulting motivation to increase your productivity. The choice is an easy one.
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