Opinion | Columnists

Why setting goals can sometimes pull you down

Setting goals may or may not work for you

  • By Mehmudah Rehman Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 17:49 January 5, 2013
  • Gulf News

The anticipation has ended, the parties have finished, and the fireworks have fizzled out too. The year 2013 is finally here, and some of my more ambitious friends have talked about their goals and resolutions for the year. As for me, I have spoken little about what my own goals are. That’s because I don’t have any. Perhaps you would like to know why.

The goals one sets out for oneself imply the obvious: The person hasn’t got to where they would like to be in life. Goals exist because they would like to do better, because they would like to achieve something more. Let me give an example for the sake of clarity. Joe works as a manager in a company, and dreams of becoming the CEO one day. In fact, he imagines his life would be perfect if he would only achieve that position. After years of toil, Joe finally becomes CEO — only to realise that he would rather be an entrepreneur. That becomes the new goal. Surely, when he is an entrepreneur, he might hope for something else, or better returns. It goes on, doesn’t it? Suffice it to say that no matter what we do, we’re never satisfied with our lives, our weight, who we are, and how much we make.

That begs the question — is it worthwhile to have a goal at all? I realise that goals are eked out so we can spur ourselves on, so we can keep aiming higher, but an over-reliance on them can sometimes be trying. Our self-image and our thought processes can get too dependent on them. A woman who is above what might be her ‘perfect’ weight constantly frets about it, and starts a diet at the drop of a hat to achieve her goal. She constantly compares herself unfavourably to magazine models and/or her counterparts and ends up feeling miserable. This takes her happiness away; this takes her satisfaction with her persona away. The goal interferes with everything. In the same way, someone who is too psyched about getting ‘the big promotion’ forgets to enjoy his current job.

Sometimes we set goals that are too lofty, and instead of using them to our advantage as mere guidelines, we end up obsessing about them, and belittle our current achievements. We forget to be thankful for what we have, and even as we set our sights on the summit of the mountain, we forget to appreciate the colourful rainbows and the beautiful scenery along the way.

One might ask a valid question: how would you achieve more in life if you don’t have goals? How can you be in a better place tomorrow if you don’t plan today? I am a firm believer that if we enjoy our lives, live them to the fullest, and are glad that we exist, things will begin to look up. If I am in a happy place, and am able to do my best, success will in fact find me. If we live our lives by some simple but important truths as a matter of principle, our goals become reality even before we realise it.

Consider a writer who wants to write a book. Every day she/he slaves away at the computer, producing little valuable output. One day, inspiration suddenly strikes, and within a few weeks or months, before she/he even knows it, a full manuscript exists. That is because the writer was enjoying what she/he were doing, rather than focusing on a goal of writing a certain number of words in a day. They probably wrote far more than the initial goal, and through the night too!

To each his own — setting goals may or may not work for you. Some people (like this writer) tend to get more stressed by them, whilst others find that setting goals unleashes their productive energy. Ironically enough though, as I sign off, I think I might have finally found myself a new year resolution: to be content.

With who I am, with what I do, to wake up every morning satisfied with myself and my life, and to go to bed every night thinking that the day gone by was perfect in its own special, imperfect way. To understand that even though I stumbled and made mistakes, I learnt something new and became a better person for it.

Mehmudah Rehman is a Dubai-based freelancer.

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