Working towards a goal can be exciting and energizing. Goals give us something to focus on immediately, while also providing something for us to look forward to. Whether you're saving for a winter vacation, working to improve your running time, or striving to be more punctual, the focus and discipline required to achieve a goal can bring out the best in us.
On the other hand, instead of feeling inspired and motivated by our goals, we can sometimes find ourselves feeling trapped by them. There's nothing to be gained from pursuing a goal that only leaves you feeling burdened and drained. Here are 4 ways you can prevent that from happening.
1. Distinguish between feeling challenged vs. feeling burdened.
Whether your goal is health related, financial, or something else entirely, it's going to take some effort. We refer to "working" towards a goal precisely because there's work involved, and we experience the challenge of that. But there's a big difference between feeling challenged vs. feeling burdened.
Feeling challenged stretches us, without overwhelming us. We feel good about the steps we're taking, even when those steps aren't easy. We're able to proceed with confidence, even if there are some unknowns; and there's an inner sense of satisfaction about what we're doing.
Feeling burdened, on the other hand, is largely an unpleasant feeling. There's a sense of heaviness within, and you may even start to feel that heaviness in your physical body, too. Feeling burdened is a clear indication that something isn't right, and it's time to reconsider what you've committed yourself to.
2. Adjust your goals to reflect your changing needs.
As you grow and mature as a person, your needs also change. Preferences and priorities can shift slightly – in some cases, dramatically. A goal that made perfect sense awhile back simply might not make as much sense anymore. There's nothing wrong with the goal itself, it just doesn't hold the same relevance or fit into your life the way it did initially.
Be prepared to adjust your goals to reflect your changing needs. Aging, health changes, life experience, and family responsibilities are just a few of the things that impact who we are and what we need at any give time. Recognize when a prior goal is no longer a good fit for who you've become.
3. Make sure you're pursuing your own goals, not someone else's.
A goal may sound great in theory, but that doesn't mean it's the right goal for you. Pursuing goals that don't align with your own personal values is a sure-fire way to get yourself stressed out and tied up in knots. This can easily happen if you have people around you whose values, opinions, and priorities differ sharply from yours. Before you know it – perhaps without even noticing that it's happening – you can find yourself being swept along by someone else's agenda.
If you feel a sense of pressure around your goals, consider asking yourself why you're doing what you're doing. Is this goal something you genuinely want and care about, or are you trying to please someone else? You're far more likely to find the pursuit and attainment of a goal fulfilling when that goal is truly your own.
4. Know when to abandon a goal, regardless of what you've invested.
One of the most difficult things is walking away from a goal you've set for yourself. Holding ourselves hostage with thoughts like "I don't want to be a quitter" or variations of it, we dig our heels in and plow on, joylessly. We struggle to find motivation, we lack enthusiasm, and it becomes increasingly difficult to continue on.
Persistence and perseverance are great qualities, and there's much to be said for pushing on and staying the course in the face of hardship and setbacks. However, there's no point in persevering for something you don't genuinely care about. Don't let pride, stubbornness, or a misguided commitment rob you of precious time and energy. Know when it's time to abandon a goal, regardless of what you may have already invested in it.
Rather than viewing things in terms of "quitting" or "lost" time or "wasted" money, consider what you've gained in the process. There's bound to be something, if not many things, you can extract from the experience and utilize going forward. It may very well be that your efforts were a necessary step in your path, meant to prepare you for something much bigger and better ahead.
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