myth 4 - goal

Myth #4: I will only be happy when I achieve a goal

All of us have dreams and goals that we want to achieve in life, from building a successful business empire to earning our first million or achieving our ideal weight. If I had a dollar for every single time I said I will only be happy when something happens, I’d be a millionaire! I would be thinking wistfully, “I will finally be happy when I have achieved….” To this end, we spend every waking minute of our lives by rushing and racing towards our goal. We try to move at record-breaking speeds to achieve all the goals we set out in life.

As a result, we do not enjoy the present moment and feel that it is insufficient and lacking. When we are working towards a goal, we are telling ourselves that we are not good enough until we reach it. We start measuring our self-worth by our achievements.

By possessing this mindset, we postpone our happiness by thinking that we will only be happy when we are thinner, richer or more successful. We start thinking that it’s ok if we are feeling completely exhausted and miserable now.

We feel that we need to sacrifice our present happiness in order to achieve the supreme and absolute holy grail of happiness in the future.

Milton is an example of an individual who put his happiness on hold. He had set a goal for himself to become a successful salesman by hitting a huge sales target. In typical fashion, he felt that until he achieved that goal, anything else that he was experiencing now was secondary. He wanted to have a fast-track road to excellence. By adopting this attitude, he was not enjoying his daily journey because he was only waiting to cross off the days on his calendar until he could finally call himself the best.

Gradually, it became clear to him that he was not appreciating the time he had with his family or friends. He was allowing time to slip past his fingers. Looking back, he knew that if he had stopped worrying less about reaching his goal and actually appreciated each day as it came along, he would have been so much happier.

In the movie Whiplash, Andrew Neiman is an ambitious jazz student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory who aspires to be a legend like Buddy Rich.

He is discovered during a practice session by Terence Fletcher, an infamous conductor who is notorious for abusing his students until they suffer emotional breakdowns.
Determined to be the best, Andrew embarks on a harsh regime, drumming furiously until his hands bleed. In his obsession to become one of the greats, he initiates a break-up with his girlfriend Nicole because he felt that she would be an unwelcomed distraction and hindrance.

In short, Andrew was a perfectionist. The life of a perfectionist is challenging because they are driven by an overwhelming desire to excel and are gripped with an irrational fear of failure. They often go to extreme lengths to achieve their goal and take an ‘all or nothing’ approach to life. There is no middle line because anything less would be a waste of time. As attaining perfection is frankly impossible, perfectionists feel that the current moment is insufficient because it does not represent them at their peak potential.

Tal Ben-Shahar, wrote in his book “Happier” that this is the ‘arrival fallacy’, the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you will be happy. Why is it a fallacy? Because arriving rarely makes you as happy as you expect. When we arrive at the desired destination, our happiness is short-lived and there is a temporary loss of purpose and identity.

Before we know it, another goal will appear which represents another mountain to scale. We are often reminded that the journey is more important than the destination but is there any truth to this statement? The answer is yes because working towards the goal can be a great source of happiness. The arrival fallacy does not mean pursuing the goal is not the route to happiness. The goal is equally important but more emphasis should also be placed on the journey where you bite off small chunks of the elephant and you revel in your progress. Happiness comes when you are learning and growing and that happens when you are working towards your goal.

As written by coach Tony Fahkry, goal attainment is a by-product of one’s journey. The journey to achieve a goal is governed by: the person you become along the way, the skills acquired, the connections made and the inner growth which takes place. We are taught from young that goals are the pillars of success. However, we may be surprised to learn that many successful people set out with little or no goals but still managed to achieve notable success. Their underlying motivation was grounded in continuous improvement and acquiring valuable skills.

A lot of us have dreams that we wish to achieve and we feel devastated when we have not achieved them.

We live as green-eyed monsters, envious of our friend who works at Google, the friend that has the perfect family and kids, the friend who travels the world and has fun experiences.

What you need to know is that you should not make the mistake of comparing your life to others. You are on your own special journey. Life often does not go according to our plan. What we need to do is be guided by our passion towards our purpose and savour the growth we experience along the way. Life actually comprises of small destinations and goals that we set out and achieve instead of one ultimate goal.

If we only pay heed to the final destination, we disregard the experiences and life lessons that we accumulate. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, do not only focus on the kilos that you are shedding but revel in the fact that you are adopting healthier eating habits and gradually gaining confidence and nurturing self-love in the process. These are habits that we should practice in the long term and not abandon once we have achieved our goal.

Here is a quote by Henry Ward Beecher, an American clergyman, social reformer and speaker:-

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”

How to make yourself happy?

Stop wasting your energy on anticipating happiness in the future

Enjoy the journey and live in the present moment. Stop wasting your energy on anticipating happiness in the future. By living and enjoying the present moment, you will always have a chance to taste happiness. We need to lose the mentality that we will only be happy when everything falls into place. The truth is, nothing will turn out exactly the way we want it to be.

We easily get stressed when we think of the big, hairy, audacious goal. Sometimes it feels impossible and we do not even dare to take the first step. Reduce your stress by channeling your focus on the daily process that will help you to achieve your goal. You will also feel more motivated when you are able to keep track of small wins. This will provide a stronger push factor to ensure you sustain your momentum which will eventually enable you to reach your goal.

Do not try to fast forward your life with a remote control and skip the important moments in life. We should stop focusing too much on the finish line and the results. It doesn’t mean you forget about your goals but you need to understand how you can enjoy the simple pleasures of life while you keep your eye on the prize.

Be happy regardless of the outcome

Adam Khoo, who is an award-winning Singaporean entrepreneur had mentioned that there was a point in his life where he felt unhappy in spite of his impressive string of successes and he did not know why. He discovered that it was because his definition of happiness was based on when everything goes his way, he will be happy.

However, whenever he achieved a goal, something else would surface and he would be unhappy again. If he held on to this crazy definition, he would never be happy in this lifetime because there will never be a day where everything will go exactly as planned. The more successful you get, the bigger your responsibilities and problems. As such, he decided to change his definition of happiness which was as long as he gave his best and act according to his values, he will be happy regardless of the outcome. Immediately after making this decision, he was happier and felt lighter.

He no longer required a reason or an excuse to be happy; he could already experience happiness now. So instead of achieving goals to be happy, he would focus on happily achieving his goals instead. His personal motto now is “Have Fun, Make a Difference and Make Money.” Money was no longer his primary focus but having fun by doing what he loved and making a difference in people’s lives was.
If you are able to add value to another person’s life, money will inevitably flow into your life as a by-product.

Jason Lengstorf wrote in his book that you should change your words and do not say “I will only be happen when I have…..” Your goals may change and sometimes achieving your goals may not bring you the desired happiness that you thought you might want. You won’t know until you finally reach the top of the mountain. However, you can find peace in knowing that you will be happy as long as you keep climbing.

What you should do now is replace the thought with, “I will be happy as long as…” and list down words that represent a journey and not a final destination as shown below.

“…as long as I am learning and improving myself everyday….”

“…as long as I am able to embrace the challenges before me because therein lies a golden opportunity….”

“…as long as I know how to be grateful and thankful for the blessings that I have in my life…”

“…as long as my family knows that I love them and I can spend quality time with them everyday….”

“… as long as I have made a positive difference to another person…..”

For there is no journey in life that is as great as the journey that one takes to truly discover their true self.