“Set your goals, reach your goals, and repeat” – We hear this sentence or similar ones over again in the field of self and business development. As much as goal-setting is a vital topic, it is way misunderstood among people who are looking for improvements in their lives. It is becoming like an obsession rather than being a motivator and a guide. Goal obsession is a trap that many of us entrepreneurs fall into every now and then. Goal obsession can be one of the primary reasons why many of us don’t reach our goals!
You might say, “Well, that’s absurd. How can we move forward without goals?” and I totally agree with that. At the beginning of this post, I want to mention that goal-setting is one of the most important moves that you can take for your next achievements. However, to not drift away from what’s going to get you closer to your better self, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind and keep in check-in. In this post, I will go through some of these points.
What is Goal Obsession?
The phrases are self-explanatory, goal obsession is when you become obsessed with your goal. You might say, “Isn’t getting obsessed about your goal actually beneficial?”. The answer is no. Obsessing over your goal is a hoax that is being forced on us out there in society and through social media content. If you dig deep, the real purpose of a goal is to show us the destination of where we are heading to. Like a navigational system, the destination is set, and the road directions are chosen to get us there one road at a time. Goal Obsession is when our internal navigational system only shows the destination and not the path to it. Goal Obsession is like a ripped piece of a map where only the big X is located.
It is effortless for us to get obsessed with our goals. It is the easiest thing to do! We find ourselves daydreaming of how our life will transform once we reach our goals. Taking the initiative is always complicated. When we start moving forward towards our goals, we’re continually introducing new habits and activities to our brains. Let’s say our brain is not a big fan of that! When our mind is on default it finds stability and predictiveness safe and the right state to be in. This is why we usually get into a dreamy state about our goals, which needs no new activity required to be there. After a while of dreaming instead of doing it, we slowly start to get obsessed about goals. We have seen this state within ourselves and many others. The state in which we talk about what we’re going to achieve but always feel like we can never reach it. I definitely do not enjoy this state.
What's Dangerous about Goal Obsession?
Once we are obsessed with our goals without any achievements, we start getting disappointment in ourselves. We start self-doubting and giving up on developing ourselves to be better humans. Once we have given up, we find ourselves lost in a never-ending loop of meaningless tasks and not enjoying life. When we give up on ourselves, the universe gives up on us as well, and we find ourselves old and full of regrets.
I’m sure that what’s been said above is depressing and sounds scary for some people like myself. Life satisfaction is one of the main reasons why we’re all alive. Therefore, the sooner you understand goal obsession and its traits, the sooner you can break the loop and accelerate in life. Now let’s talk about how we can do that.
Solution: 1. Switching from Goal-Setting to Identity Building
The first and the most crucial step you can take to avoid goal obsession is identity building. Once you have set your goals, for example, being the best chef in town, you have to ask yourself, who am I if I’m already the best chef in town. You need to close your eyes and create an identity of the person you want to become that has already reached the goal you want to achieve. If you’re going to be a great singer, then you need to create a personal identity of yourself being a great singer and start asking yourself questions like:
- As a great singer, how does my daily routine look like?
- As a great singer, which places do I attend?
- As a great singer, with whom do I spend my time?
- As a great singer, how do I…?
You need to spend some time getting to know yourself within your desired identity. You can also find role models and do researches on how they live and spend their time. Once the identity is fully formed in your head, then you need to start living that identity. You need to spend your days being that identity. As much as it might look unreal to you, you need to accept that you are who you want to become. Before making decisions within your days, you need to ask yourself if the person you want to become would take that decision.
When you practice identity building, you move away from goal obsession. Once you’re living your desired identity, then you notice that goals lose their importance as you move within your journey. You enjoy the journey rather than the destination. You start believing more and more that you are the person you want to become in life, and your actions and decisions align with that identity. You will notice that the journey is rather satisfying than difficult.
Solution: 2. Micro-Goals and Rewards
Our goals are usually broad and too far in the future. For example, we want to be rich and financially free. This is a big goal, and might takes years to be achieved. Our brain needs constant dopamine rushes to voluntarily stay within a path, and dopamine rushes in our minds by achievements. If you think about it, our brain is not satisfied without daily or weekly accomplishments and will move against you within your journey. Procrastination is an excellent example of when our mind is not happy. We might find ourselves not motivated to grow.
A way to fix this issue is to break the big goal into smaller ones. For example, when I started this blog, my big goal was to have thousands of readers and subscribers reading my posts. However, I have broken this big goal down to smaller weekly ones. My current weekly goal is to have more readers than the previous week, even if it’s only differed by one person. This goal is much easier to achieve, matches my desired identity, and gets me one step closer to my main goal. My brain is also satisfied because I get a bit of a dopamine rush each week to achieve my micro-goals. These micro goal compound into a massive success over time and will keep you motivated within your journey. (Recommended read: The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy)
Solution: 3. Don't Measure. Just Move Forward without Looking Back.
One of the everyday habits we have when we set goals and start moving towards it is measuring our results. Always at the beginning when you start anything new in life, the results are disappointing. For example, when we start exercising to lose weight, we keep measuring our weight several times daily. Or sometimes I find myself getting lost in looking at my blog views statistics. When you’re obsessed with a goal, you will notice that you will measure your progress more often, and it can be really disappointing, which will get you more obsessed about your goals. The goal will slowly become a dream and then an impossible achievement.
One way to avoid the above is to stop/reduce measuring. Just move forward as if all the odds are with you. Keep practicing, producing, learning, improving, and keep moving. In this way, you will reduce disappointment. You can start measuring your results once you are highly engaged within your journey. Have full trust in yourself that the universe is on your side and guide you towards your goal even if everything feels wrong! Live the desired identity instead of measuring how much you are not close to your desired self.
My Last Words
There are many other ways to keep you away from goal obsession. However, the above 3 are the most essential to get you started. Remember, a massive shift in your life towards your goals comes from identity building. What keeps you motivated and pushes you to move forward is getting rewarded, which you can gain from realistic micro-goals since you’re more likely to achieve them. And to eliminate disappointment, you need to stop continually tracking and measuring daily results (stick to your micro-goals).
Like any other improvement in life, you need to first understand the change and also understand yourself. There should be no self-judgment what-so-ever. Change is hard and needs to be done systematically rather than emotionally. Change is more practical rather than emotional. Change happens from our core identity rather than our to-do lists. Change happens one step at a time rather than trying to change everything in your life at once. Change is beautiful, and is what makes us humans.
Related: How to Break a Bad Habit No Matter How Addictive it is