Goals are everywhere in our lives. At work, supervisors want to know your goals for the next month, the next year, the next five years. You have probably set your own goals for your personal life. Maybe you want to get married, build a retirement fund, have kids, learn to play the trombone. We are constantly encouraged to set goals for ourselves and create a plan to reach them.
Usually, goal setting is a great strategy. It gives you motivation and, when you reach the goal, feelings of accomplishment and contentment.
But what if it doesn’t? In a high pressure world, where we are pressed to continue setting goals for ourselves, it is exceedingly easy to set the wrong goal. Yet far from bringing us that motivation and joy, the wrong goals can make you dread the process and the achievement.
How the Wrong Goals Can Make You Unhappy
There are many reasons why we set the wrong goals for ourselves. Sometimes, a goal may be right when we set it, but they become out of alignment with our needs as we grow. Maybe someone else, like a boss or a family member, set the goal for us.
Perhaps even more common, however, is that many people often have not done the self-reflection to know what their goals should be and they have assigned themselves a goal that seems like what they should want – essentially living to other people’s expectations, not necessarily their values and dreams.
Depending on the goal, it can take weeks to years to reach it. When you devote that much time to a goal you are not truly invested in, you will experience:
- Feelings of Burnout – The wrong goal will make even the idea of putting in effort exhausting, so if you find the right goal for you, you may not want to attempt it.
- Unfocused Goals – If you are not motivated to reach a goal, you have probably left the goal and its plan undefined, which can make you feel directionless.
- Sacrifices Are Not Worth It – Many goals involve sacrificing time, money, or other desires. The wrong goals can cause you to regret these sacrifices and constantly wish you had done things differently.
- Lack of Fulfillment – When you do complete a goal that you were not interested in, the absence of a feeling of success often results in you feeling depressed and empty.
There are signs that the goals you are working towards are not the right ones. You may already feel happy or uninspired by the idea of achieving them. But even when we know the goals are wrong, it can be hard to abandon them. We may not know what else to do or do not want all the time we dedicated to be for nothing.
Determining the Right Goals for You
The right goals will usually be enjoyable to work towards and, at the very least, gratifying to accomplish. Knowing what these goals are requires self-reflection.
Although it can be disheartening to admit you are following the wrong path, recognizing your goals are not right for you is a strong first step to choosing the right goals going forward. Other strategies for setting goals can include approaching the big picture in your life and breaking it down into smaller steps. Focusing on measurable outcomes helps some people. Above all, reevaluating throughout the course of the goal to continuously make sure you are still moving in the right direction.
Often, working with a trained psychologist can help you identify your goals and create a plan to work towards them. Long Island Psychology provides therapy in Garden City, Rockville Centre, Oceanside, Huntington, and other cities in Nassau County. Call us today to learn more about our therapy services.