“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Henry David Thoreau
Long-term goals are challenging to achieve for several reasons:
- They require sustained effort over long periods of time.
- They require you to balance many different components of life to maintain that sustained effort for as long as necessary.
- Life’s inevitable challenges will require you to change the plans you’ve created and put into action.
- Due to fatigue, boredom, or other unforeseen circumstances, motivation to achieve the goal will wain over time.
The challenges listed are very likely to occur, and any one of these challenges can derail an individual’s goal pursuit very quickly. One strategy, though, can help combat all the challenges listed in a strong, predictable, and thorough manner. That is, understand your “Why” and remind yourself of this “Why” every chance you get.
Why did you set this goal? Why do you care about achieving this goal? Why does achieving this goal matter to you? Why is achieving this goal so important? The answers to these questions constitute your “Why” and can serve as a shield against the blows incurred by the challenges listed above. Not all answers to these questions are created equally, though. Not all answers to these questions will avert the challenges above.
For example, if the answers you come up with are in the vein of, “To get a reward,” “So people will like me and think I’m important,” “To avoid feeling guilty or ashamed,” or “To be seen as better than somebody else,” you are setting yourself up for failure. Although these “Why’s” can be motivating in short, situational contexts, they tend not to be motivating over time. When challenges arise, we tend to care less about the reward, decide that we don’t really care what other people think, or come up with excuses for why not achieving the goal is reasonable and rational.
On the other hand, if the answers you come up with connect the goal to your values, you are much more likely to persevere when life’s curveballs are thrown at you. For example, if one of your values is family, your “Why” might be something like, “Because achieving this goal will provide stability and security for my family” or “Pursuing and achieving this goal allows me to model the right behavior for my kids.” These are “Why’s” that will, no matter how daunting the challenge or problem you face…from a lack of motivation to regular schedule disruptions, help give you the strength and drive to push through and overcome those challenges.
So, now…this minute…think about the goals you’ve set for yourself and why you’ve set that goal. And, if you haven’t before, connect that goal to your values, the things that you care about at your core, the things that make you, you. That connection won’t guarantee success, but it will undoubtedly maximize the likelihood that you’ll ultimately achieve the goals you’ve set out to achieve.