Goals are a gift and a curse. On one hand, they provide direction and a clear objective to work toward. On the other hand, they can trick us into never feeling fully satisfied with our lives. We find ourselves on mental and emotional hamster wheels trying to get to some point in the future that never seems to be close enough to grasp.
Years ago, I was reading a book by Dave Ramsey where he discussed how goals can become a liability to our happiness if we aren’t careful. He described goals as a playground bully that draws a line in the sand, dares you to cross it, and then steps back and draws another line when you cross the first one. He explained that we often slip into a pattern of constantly chasing external things, and it can make us crazy.
I agree with Dave’s assessment, but the decision to be a person who will set and achieve goals and create a legacy is noble. So, how do we reconcile the drive to achieve with the need to honor the journey and acknowledge what we’ve already accomplished?
The answer is gratitude.
Epicurus said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
When we look at it this way, everything we’ve accomplished and earned takes on a different meaning. Rather than emotionally rolling our eyes at the things we have now, we take time to acknowledge the miracles and blessings around us. Rather than obsess over the next goal and when it will happen, we take time to be grateful for what we have and use that gratitude as inspiration to continue working toward what we want.
Here’s an exercise for you:
Every morning for the next week (or every night before bed), take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. On the left side, make a list of the things you’re grateful for. On the right side, make a list of your goals and aspirations. Keep the list balanced – if you’re planning to write 10 goals, then write 10 things you’re grateful for.
This exercise goes a long way toward raising our consciousness about the abundance we have and reminding us that it’s not necessary to be anxious about the future. Hard work is important, but there’s an ease of living that comes with being fully present in the moment with a mindfulness for the future. We become much more happy and relaxed when we allow our goals to unfold as a byproduct of our efforts instead of struggling against what is out of fear we won’t achieve more.
Good things will happen. New opportunities will show up. The right people will come into our lives.
Our faith in ourselves, our Higher Power, and the flow of life is the ticket to emotional freedom as a goal oriented person.
Remember: Have faith. Work hard. Live well.