Why chasing goals is fleeting, and leaves most people unhappy and unfulfilled

Goals are funny. In your mind, they are these distant carrots we choose for ourselves, working tirelessly toward their achievement.

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It feels like you were the last one at the party to get the joke.


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Goals are funny. In your mind, they are these distant carrots we choose for ourselves, working tirelessly toward their achievement. We as humans inherently believe the way we feel during our pursuit is how we will feel once our hands are wrapped around the trophy, except better.

We see goals as a euphoria that, once captured, will never leave.

The truth is, the high you get from achieving a goal usually lasts all of 12 seconds.

As soon as you reach that goal, it’s not so much glory that you feel, but this strange realization that who you thought you were going to become was who you already were.

I remember back when I had just graduated from college, and even years after, when I would look around at people I viewed as “successful” and pinpoint certain things about them I wanted to have.

I wanted to live life on my own terms and be an entrepreneur.

I wanted to make a certain amount of money.

I wanted to associate myself with certain types of people.

I wanted what they had.

In my mind, I viewed the gap between them and me as this big, wide ocean. It seemed so wide that I struggled to understand how I was going to be able to overcome that gap, and become something “more” so that I could become “successful” too.

So, I set goals for myself

And every time I would achieve a goal, almost instantaneously a bigger one would take its place. Like Tetris blocks that continued to click into place and then disappear, I failed to ever feel any real sense of “achievement.” Sure, I felt good for a moment. Or I was proud of myself for a day. But as soon as I reached a new height, suddenly my vision opened a little bit wider, and I realized the goal I had set for myself had actually been pretty small — and there was a much larger one there on the horizon.

Or I was proud of myself for a day. But as soon as I reached a new height, suddenly my vision opened a little bit wider, and I realized the goal I had set for myself had actually been pretty small — and there was a much larger one there on the horizon.

It has taken me a long time to learn that achievement isn’t the thing you’re after

What you’re after is the feeling you feel as you pursue something you care about. Because once you reach it, that feeling leaves you. There’s no reason for you to continue. And while it feels relaxing for a moment, the feeling that follows is actually disconnection, or nostalgia. You miss the journey you just completed. You’ve closed a chapter, and now it’s time to say goodbye.

This is part of the reason why I think it’s so important for people to focus on the journey and not the destination. To say you’re after the destination is to say, “I can’t wait until I’m done playing this game.” Well then what are you playing for in the first place? The whole point is to play, to enjoy the process. The moment you reach the final level, defeat the final boss, and have nothing left to do, is the moment you lose your love for playing at all.

And that’s not inspiring or exciting.

That can actually be quite sad.

This article first appeared on Medium

 


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