3 Ways Goal Setting Can Make Us Unhappy

Guest Post
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Setting goals for ourselves keeps us moving forward.

It’s what creates innovation and growth and the reason we pursue anything new. We set a goal and work to reach it.

Goal-setting is often considered to be positive. But if we don’t fully understand all that is involved in creating and achieving our goals, we can easily sabotage the process.

Fortunately, this is a mindset that we can change. Here are 3 key points to remember:

1. Set your goals with accurate data.

Generally speaking, when we set a goal we very quickly consciously or unconsciously set a timeframe in which to accomplish it. It is not uncommon for this time frame to have very little data to support it and many times we make it at a subconscious level.

Then we begin to judge our progress and even our ability to achieve our goal based on this timeline. For example, if we decide to lose 20 pounds and we give ourselves ten days to do it, we will fail. No matter how well we stick to our nutrition plan and our exercise plan, we will not reach the goal in ten days.

If in five days we get on the scale and see a weight loss of seven pounds, even if our progress is quite accelerated, we will feel like a failure because we will be judging our progress based on a faulty timeline. We do this quite often, and it can undermine our confidence and abilities. This is why accurate data when creating goals is so important.

We should also remember that initially, depending on what we are undertaking we may not be able to access all the information necessary to set an accurate time frame. Keeping this in mind leaves us flexible and keeps negative judgments about our progress at a minimum.

2. See the “process” of achieving your goal as the fundamental goal.

When we set a new goal most of us have an unhealthy habit of becoming very attached to the moment of accomplishment. When we do this, it makes the process of achieving the goal feel like a nuisance we have to endure. In reality, the only reason our goals feel satisfying is because of the process we undergo to accomplish them.

We spend 99% of our time achieving our goals and only a very short period celebrating the achievement. Shifting to a present moment mindset where our primary focus is to be absorbed in the process of achieving our tasks while using the end goal as nothing more than a rudder to steer our efforts completely changes our experience of working towards anything. The feeling of longing drops away, and in every moment that we stay process-oriented, we feel successful.

3. Take time to appreciate the goals you have already reached.

We are designed from the ground up to want to expand as individuals. It’s in our DNA. If we didn’t operate from this perspective, we would still be living in caves because we would feel that nothing needed to change. This is why we are driven to reach for more, to set new goals.

But so often after we reach a goal and we choose the next mountain to climb we quickly forget how many goals we have set in the past, how many we have accomplished, and how many skills we have acquired through our efforts. By doing this, we deprive ourselves of confidence building perspective that we are entitled to and that we have earned. Take the time to notice and appreciate your past accomplishments.

Personal growth is and should be rewarding. Being able to look back a week prior and say, “I’m more skilled now than I was then,” is a great feeling. Looking forward to a goal and saying, “I am unhappy because I’m not there yet,” is a great way to feel terrible. When we set goals, we need to set them intelligently.  Remember your goals should serve to inspire you, not serve to remind you of what you have left to accomplish.

Tell us in the comments, who do YOU keep goal-setting positive?


Thomas M. Sterner is an international best-selling author and the founder and CEO of The Practicing Mind Institute. As a successful entrepreneur, he is considered an expert in Present Moment Functioning or PMF tm. He has brought clarity to thousands regarding how they can accomplish more with less effort, in the least amount of time, and with greatly reduced stress. For more information visit www.tomsterner.com.

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