How often do you read articles teaching you all the ways you can achieve your goals? Do you watch motivational videos on Youtube? Or maybe you’re one of those enthusiastic souls who lists all their yearly goals in a bullet journal with perfect hand lettering. In fact, a 2018 study conducted by Statistic Brain Research Institute found that 41% of Americans usually make New Years resolutions.
However, in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, how often do any of us stop and question why we’re working towards the goals we have? In a 2011 Psychology Today article, Carl Beuke Ph.D wrote, “It can be hard, but it’s essential to reflect honestly on why you want to achieve a goal. Your reasons for wanting to achieve the goal are what will keep you going when times get tough.
Here is the big life question (the question that sparks Pinterest quotes and deep conversations over bottles of wine): Are your goals truly what you want?
Right now, write down your top 10 goals (that’s right, get out of bed, put on some real pants, and find some motivation.) With these goals in mind, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are you using these goals just to give yourself a false reality of accomplishment or moving forward?
In this world that is obsessed with planning, bullet journaling, to do lists, and daily routines, it’s important that you’re actually putting check marks next to those important items.
No, sitting around watching Netflix all day isn’t going to help you move forward. But, making a to do (tomorrow) list isn’t going to help you either, and it’s going to give you a false sense of accomplishment.
In a Psychology Today article, procrastination researcher Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., said this: “Too often, the list is seen as the ‘accomplishment’ for the day, reducing the immediate guilt of not working on the tasks at hand by investing energy in the list,” says Pychyl. “When a list is used like this, it is simply another way in which we ‘lie’ to ourselves.”
2. Why are you not achieving this goal? Are you not putting in the effort? Why?
We can be so critical of ourselves, especially during moments of tiredness or lethargy. However, we rarely stop to ask ourselves why we’re feeling lazy, and resort to harsh inner dialogue that just brings our mood down even more.
Laziness doesn’t exist in you solely for the fact that you just don’t feel like doing things. If you’re not feeling motivated, then it may be time to ask yourself why.
3. Have you really taken the time to get to know yourself?
In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron gives readers a simple exercise to connect to their inner voice and get past everything that may be blocking you.
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages; they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind and they are for your eyes only.”
Connect to your inner voice and see what it has to say, you may be surprised.
4. Are you using “being busy” as an excuse to avoid how you really feel? Are you always busy but never getting anywhere?
“Being busy” is an interesting trend that seems to have taken over, especially among the millennial generation. We say, “I’m so busy” as a badge of honor, as if avoiding time to relax and be with our own thoughts is something to be proud of.
Try this: Block out an entire day on your calendar to “do nothing.” If you wake up in the morning and don’t have a to do list or any events planned, what will you do? Where will your thoughts take you?
5. Is this goal being imposed upon you by someone else?
It may be out of love, but there are times when friends or family may pressure you to go for a goal that they want for you, but you may not want for yourself.
In the podcast Sheroic, Cassey Ho, popular fitness blogger and star of her own Youtube channel Pop Pilates, talks about the obstacles she faced on the way to success. While she was pre-med and in her senior year of college she decided to change her career path. When she told her parents, this lead to a rift that lasted for years.
“I definitely knew what my passion was, but my parents made me doubt that it was something I was actually good at. I just wish that I had listened to my heart sooner. But it’s okay, because I ended up getting to where I wanted to be,” she said.
6. What do you enjoy? What would you do for free?
I don’t mean binge eating Cheetos while you watch the latest episode of Orange is the New Black or anything else that is mentally numbing. What would you do for free that would give you positive energy?
These are always the big questions you need to ask yourself when trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. Your hobbies are what you do for fun, but is there a way you could make money from them?
7. Is your goal making you not feel good enough as you are now? (i.e. “When I’ve done ____ I’ll be happy”)
Being unhappy with who you are now is putting you on a negative wavelength, and surrounding yourself with negative energy will only set you up for failure.
For every negative feeling you have, make it a positive. For example, if you hate your body, stand in front of the mirror and list five things you really like. Or, if you’re having a bad day at work, look back at the last five years and list all the things you have accomplished.
8. Is this goal just giving you a sense of control in life?
Have you ever had that moment at a party when someone asks the inevitable question: So, what do you do? It’s as if every party these days descends into a contest of who is doing better in life, and it can make you feel worse than scrolling through Instagram.
Sometimes having lists, plans, and goals can give us a false sense of control over life. Ask yourself: Is this goal truly what I want, or is it just making me feel less anxious about the future? Is having the goal itself just making me feel better about myself?
9. How many excuses have you already come up with?
When you are able to make time for your goal and take small steps towards accomplishing it, do you find an excuse to avoid this? Are you always too busy? Too tired? Too everything? Then it may be time to ask yourself if you truly want this at all.
After asking yourself all these questions, have you figured out that you truly do want to accomplish your goals? Get specific.
For example, if your goal is, “I want to lose weight,” then getting more specific would be, “I want to lose 15 pounds because I want to have more energy to play with my kids.” Keep asking yourself why you want to achieve your goal, and keep asking why until you have a good enough reason. Having reasons for wanting to achieve your goals will not only motivate you to achieve them but will also help you figure out if you really want them at all.
In his Psychology Today article, Carl Beuke Ph.D. wrote, “It’s also worth asking yourself what other ways might there be of satisfying the underlying motivations behind your goal. For example, maybe you want to study medicine in order “to help people stay healthy,” but your level of academic interest and past performance suggests this might be unrealistic and/or involve some undesirable tradeoffs. You could consider setting a goal of acceptance into one of the allied health professions (e.g. radiology or speech therapy) to achieve the same ends by different means.”
We spend so much of our lives thinking about the future, and making goals and plans. But, in doing all of that, don’t forget to tap into your inner voice and listen to the real reasons you’re on this path.