Have you ever met a goal, and once your initial pleasure passes, found that you feel flat and deflated? What an anti-climax. Sadly it’s a pattern that is repeated again and again in life. We say to ourselves ‘I’ll be happy when…’ ‘Life will be OK when…’ ‘I’ll have more time when…’ It’s easy to buy into this, and to believe our emotional state is entirely dependent on what we achieve or have, but over time it’s unfortunately unlikely to be a sustainable or successful strategy.
So what can we do? After all, it’s not really an option to down tools and not have any goals. There are many things in life that do need doing, and we need some motivation to help us step up to them, because they are not always easy.
The key thing we can do is to imagine life after the goal has been achieved, the outcome met. Spending some time really inhabiting that world, and getting a good sense of what we will gain and what we will lose helps us to be more realistic about what happens after we finish striving to get there. Having reflected, we will have a better sense of what will be different and how it will be different, and we can notice how this will connect with different aspects of our experience and life.
I call this seeing past your goals. An example of this is focusing on being married rather than on the wedding. So, so much energy goes into the symbolic act, the rite of passage, and somehow the whole point of what is coming to pass can be missed. Spending time planning for married life as well as planning the magical day that begins it is a sensible plan, it’s one that stands couples in good stead for their life together. I’m always impressed when couples come into couples therapy before they get married, putting the work into the relationship can be a sound investment into their shared future.
Next time you hear yourself stating the benefits of meeting a goal or achieving an outcome, take some time to step back and imagine what then happens. What does it make possible? What does it change? What do you have now that you want to keep? What pitfalls may you want to avoid?