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Before Setting Another Goal, Get to Know the Goals You Have

The highs and the lows of life connect with your goals.

Key points

  • Goals are at the core of all that we do.
  • Feeling great and feeling lousy are connected to goals.
  • When we repeatedly miss the goals we set, often it’s because we’ve achieved another goal instead.

Goals are big business. There is no shortage of information, courses, coaches, and other resources, all offering ways to help you get better at setting and achieving goals. One of the keys to becoming a really slick goal achiever, though, might be to recognize that you already are.

Everything we do is about goals. We can’t help it. We are a buzzing, cacophonous hive of interconnected goal-chasing units. Goals are all about outcomes. They are all about results. All day, every day, we produce results. Sometimes the results we produce look different to other people than they do to us, but we produce them nevertheless. And the point is, we’re always producing some result or other.

Avoiding the pile of dirty laundry is a result. Getting to work on time is a result. Clearing your nostrils is a result. Calming your mind is a result. Choosing the right words is a result. Ignoring credit card payments is a result. Staying out of the rain is a result. Hating yourself is a result. Being the best person you can be is a result, and writing a list of positive affirmations is a result.

Because goals are central to living, both the highs and the lows of life are connected to goals. We’ll think things are peachy when we’re on track with our goals, and we’ll be down in the dumps when our goals are foiled. So, depending on the goals we chase, we give environmental conditions more or less ability to mess with our state of mind. If my goal is to win my next set of tennis and I come up against the reigning NCAA Men’s Champion, I am unlikely to pull that off. I’ll probably end up feeling miserable. If, however, my goal is to bend my knees every time I hit the ball, I can master that regardless of who I’m playing.

It can be really frustrating when, again and again, we set goals for ourselves only to have them remain just out of reach. Often, when we set ourselves the mission to realise a particular result and we miss the mark, it can be because we’ve actually nailed a different result instead. There’s always a goal in the background. Of course, accidents or other unforeseen events can conspire to thwart your goals, but more commonly, when we miss one goal, it’s because we’ve grabbed another one instead.

tisomboon, Image ID: 149335300, @123RF
tisomboon, Image ID: 149335300, @123RF

When we crash out of our latest diet goal, it could be because feeling soothed by a hearty serving of banoffee pie was just what we needed. The times when we flunk out with our goal of completing two six-mile runs per week could be because, without even realising it, we’ve prioritised finalising the project at work and keeping our inbox empty. Making an apology and giving up on the goal to attend the staff meeting and demonstrate assertiveness could be because avoiding the sting of being criticised, demeaned, and cut off was the priority goal at the end of the week.

Goals are who you are. Understanding more about yourself is to understand the dreams, desires, objectives, preferences, standards, routines, ambitions, and expectations you spend your time pursuing. It could be that you aren’t particularly happy about some of the things that demand your attention. You might even get disappointed with yourself that you’ve headed down that path again.

Before you can head down another, more fulfilling path, though, it’s important to understand and appreciate the path you’re on right now. You might not be overjoyed that you’re in this place again, but you are, and you're here for a reason. Tapping into that reason can often be the best way to get clues about how to stride off someplace else.

All your goals are all you are. The better you know all that you are, the more you will be able to build and expand on the foundations that exist. It is not the case that we can just choose absolutely any goal to set our sights on. Someone who lives their life according to vegan principles could not really set a goal to enjoy the Chef’s special slow-cooked pork belly the next time they dine out.

Our goals exist within a magnificently extravagant interconnected network of goals ranging from simple to wondrously complex. Any new goal has to snuggle into what’s already there. It is true that the network can be jiggled and jostled so that the nextwork has new ideas and fresh perspectives, but that still occurs within the framework of what’s already there. That’s why it’s so important to become a master at learning about the you you are.

A better life, a more positive you, or whatever else you have in mind is within your grasp. To give that seed of an idea the best chance it has of flourishing, you need to know the terrain into which you are planting it. You may well be the most intriguing puzzle you will ever meet. May you revel in the encounter.

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