How to Rethink Your Goals for Greater Success and Happiness
Seven years ago, I quit my job to become self-employed. And for a few years that followed, I was a master at self-sabotage.
There was a pattern to it. It always began with me setting an ambitious goal for myself. Soon after, I would start to imagine how awesome it would be to achieve it. And slowly, my goal would turn into a destination I couldn’t wait to reach.
Here’s the problem. When you become obsessed with the destination, it becomes impossible for you to focus on the journey or to enjoy it.
In the words of author Ozan Varol,
“I was like a marathon runner who disliked running but craved the high of the finish line.”
On the one hand, my obsession with the goal made me impatient and restless. On the other, knowing what all had to be done to achieve that goal made me feel overwhelmed and anxious.
What ended up happening was, instead of doing what I needed to do, I spent most of my days and sleepless nights dealing with an overactive brain. It made it impossible for me to do anything productive. But more than that, it took a toll on my health — both mental and physical.
And so, after suffering through several repetitions of this cycle, I started to question the wisdom behind having goals and focusing on them.
Do you need goals?
Benjamin Hardy, the author of Personality Isn’t Permanent, argues both philosophy and psychology support the idea that goals are essential and indispensable. He says every human action is to produce an outcome, and what we do in the present is dictated by our imagination of the future we want for ourselves.
And it’s difficult to disagree with that. In the absence of goals or any vision of a desirable future, you just wouldn’t know how to go about your life. How do you create a system or a process to live by when there is no purpose to guide you?
But at the same time, as I learned from my experience and as Ozan Varol says, “an outcome-focused approach counterintuitively makes…