If you’re setting misaligned goals, you may be setting yourself up for hollow success.
Many of us have it ingrained in us from childhood to pursue traditional markers of success. Milestones such as getting a degree, landing a well-paying job, and starting a family can often become our default settings.
This can make us feel like failing to meet those milestones makes us lacking in some way as a person, even if they were never what we truly wanted.
We’re certainly not taught that we should only set goals that actually resonate with our deepest-held beliefs and values.
At least I wasn’t. I had to learn that lesson on my own.
The Mirage of Misaligned Goals
Imagine thinking you finished first in a race, only to realize that you were running on the wrong course. This is how it feels when you accomplish a misaligned goal. It gives a sense of hollow victory when you realize you put everything you had into attaining something you never truly wanted.
Even worse, when your goals don’t echo your core values, they can slowly chip away at your sense of purpose and identity. Over time, this creates a subtle undercurrent of dissatisfaction. Externally it can look like you’re killing it but internally there’s an uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.
To ensure your path resonates with who you are, deep introspection is unavoidable.
Re-alignment Back to True North
If you’re reading this right now and thinking that your goals may be misaligned, know that it’s far from the end of the world.
I spent 4 years graduating at the top of my class only to discover I no longer wanted to pursue psychology. Considering there is little you can do with an undergrad psych degree, I then spent two more fretting that I had wasted those 4 years.
I now realize that education is never wasted time. However, had I already fostered the habit of regular review and adjustment, I could have had a two-year start on Grow Your Mind.
Your Next Steps
Know your why: If you haven’t already discovered your vision, this the first, and most vital, step you should take.
Re-assess regularly: Make it a habit to periodically check if your goals are still aligned with your values. Make it a part of your regular monthly review.
Reflect: If you find that you’ve started to veer off track, don’t panic or jump right into solutions and changes. Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.
- Which values hold the most weight in your life right now?
- When and why did your values start drifting away from your goal?
- Can you tweak the goal to better align with your current values without abandoning it completely?
Meditate: Meditation can provide clarity about what truly matters to you. It can not only help you define your values but also make decisions on how to move forward when you hit a roadblock.
Seek mentorship: Look to those who embody the values you admire. If you can, directly ask for their advice. If that’s not possible, studying their journeys can also offer insightful guidance.
Change is life’s only constant. It’s a cliche because it’s true. This is why regular reflection is essential and why remaining flexible and making adjustments is not a form of failure. On the contrary, it can be one of your biggest strengths.
Remember, your goals aren’t destinations, they’re touchstones that guide the actions and decisions you make in your daily life.