Why Hanging on to Your Goals May be Limiting Your LifeNone By Homaira Kabir
It’s that time of the year when many of us (60% by some accounts!) have already given up on our New Year’s goals. We respond to this apparent failure in different ways, most of which are variations of the shame and blame cycle. Rarely do we sit down and question the authenticity of our goals.
In a world where external pressures to be someone or do something begin in our very early years and come at us from all directions, often in very subtle ways, it’s not uncommon to set goals that are misaligned with who we are.
They are grounded in a view of how we “should” be, which means they tend to be rigid and absolute. We pursue them with the underlying motive to be accepted by others, and fail to notice signs that it may be time to let go. We remain oblivious to draining energy, to lack of joy, to obsessive behaviors. And we turn a deaf ear to other opportunities that knock on the door because we hear only that one tyrannical call.
We can open up to a much more joyful experience of goal pursuit by setting goals that conform to who we are, rather than desperately strive for those that twist us to fit externally ordained expectations. Who we are and how we move through the world are deeply connected, and when we project ourselves in a way that’s inauthentic, we run on precious little fuel and find scarce joy once we reach our destination.
If you’ve already given up on your resolution, and even if you didn’t set any, here’s a way to live that helps you build a life story you’ll be proud to call your own.
Ask Yourself: Who Do I Want to Be?
Begin with your heroes. Who are the people whose lives you admire? What are the values they espouse and why are these meaningful to you? Would you like to be one of their “tribe,” and how would you add value to it? What is the unique combination of the character strengths that mark your authenticity? And how does it change depending on the different roles you play in life? For authenticity is not singular by any means, a fact beautifully stated by humanist Walt Whitman when he said: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
Ask Yourself: What Do I Want to Do?
This is where goal-setting comes in. Identify a need out in the world and create a unique combination of your many facets so you can do your part in fulfilling that need. Think of the experiences you’ve had, the expertise you’ve gained, and the strengths that come naturally to you. Consider your goals one pathway among many on a journey towards the person you want to be. Obstacles such as expanding your skill set or building greater confidence are part of the journey. And insurmountable roadblocks are merely signs that you need to move flexibly to other goals that get you to your destination nonetheless.
Ask Yourself: How Will I Turn It into a Habit?
We often mix up goals and habits. In most cases, eating healthy or exercising are not purposeful goals that add value to who you are as a person. If they are, they don’t do justice to the difference you can make to the world. They are ways of life, or habits that need to be instilled towards your larger goals. Positive habits are our greatest ally in goal pursuit, because they bypass emotional resistance and free up energy to pursue our goals with gusto. And even if we need to change our goals (because external factors are sometimes beyond our locus of control), the habits we’ve built along the way have helped shape us into the person we want to be.
Author Hunter Thompson said: “Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life.” If you struggle with goals, whether it’s in setting them, or letting go of them, begin with your life story in mind. When everything you do becomes aligned with the person you are and the person you want to be, goals become a means to an end, and not the end itself.
Homaira Kabir is a positive psychology coach and cognitive behavioral therapist. She offers courses and coaching to help women develop the self-confidence and inner strength to identify and achieve their biggest and boldest goals. You can take her free quiz on learning to grow authentic self-worth at her website.
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