Science has proven that setting goals helps us achieve what we want to achieve, from weight loss to financial success to surgical recovery to academic honors.
Why, then, do so many people find the process ineffective?
I’ve always been a committed goal-setter. Every year I create a Word document that lists my goals, and every December I review the page to see how I did. More often than not, I achieve them all, which gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, and encourages me to set more for the following year.
One goal, however, has continued to elude me—that of making more money. It’s been on my list for several years now: “Make $XX per year.” And every year, I fail to achieve it.
When Goals Compete with What We Really Want
Feels lousy, like maybe I’m not working hard enough, or being smart enough.
But that isn’t it. The problem is that this particular goal competes with my true inner voice. If I go a little bit deeper, I find that “freedom” is more important to me than money. Sure, I could earn more money if I wanted to take on another job, work longer hours, or move to another part of the country where I would be paid more for what I do.
But I don’t want to do any of those things. I like where I live—I have no desire to move. And I fight for every spare hour I can get, because I devote it to my own creative endeavors. I want more time more than I want to pad my checking account.
It follows that I’m naturally going to resist anything that gets in the way of what I really want—time for activities other than work. So where is that extra money going to come from?
The Freedom of Pursuing Your Real Goals
Maybe eventually my creative pursuits will turn lucrative, but until then, I’m probably going to remain in the same income bracket. No sense banging my head against the wall, so this year, I struck “Make $XX/year” from the list. Whew. Big relief. Now I can go after those goals that I really want—more time and freedom!
If you have a goal that seems to be consistently eluding you, you may want to dig a little deeper. Is more money what you really want? Or is it that you want to buy a new car, or experience less financial stress? If so, maybe a tighter budget would be more likely to help you meet your goals?
Whether we like it or not, we’re all influenced to a certain degree by our culture, our upbringing, and our peers. We may think we want more money when that really isn’t on the top of our list of true desires.
We may believe we want to wear a size six when really, we’re perfectly happy at a ten. Some people think they want to write a book, but when it’s time to actually sit down alone at a desk and fill up the blank pages, they’d rather do anything but.
What does the inner voice really want?
Do you really want to write a book, or are you actually craving recognition for a job well done, in which case you’d be better off capitalizing on your natural gifts? Do you really want a new relationship, or is it that you’d like to feel more secure in your own skin, in which case you may be better off spending a little more time alone? Do you really want a new house, or are you just dying for a shake-up of your daily routine?
Even if goals haven’t worked for you in the past, I urge you to try one more time. Check out this post for some great tips. Just be sure that each goal suits your inner voice, and lines up with those things that you’re truly passionate about.
If so, you may find that you’ve accomplished a good share of them by the time next December rolls around.