All too often good-intentioned people set forth goals designed to satiate others rather than themselves. While the intent is honorable, the results will likely lead to failure. Why? As the somewhat provocative title of this article indicates, you need to be selfish with your goals and select ones that mean something to you.
Through segments on the evening news, magazines, talk shows, radio programming and even the advice of family and friends, we are consistently subjected to a whole litany of goals that anyone with half a brain should strive for. If we were to listen to all the experts, we would all need to be perfectly fit and rich individuals with at least two college majors under our belt.
Now I won't deny that there are tremendous benefits to being physically fit, financially well off or highly educated, but let's be honest here ? one doesn't require all of the above to live a successful and happy life. There are many somewhat overweight individuals that are quite happy to escape the annoyances of careful food selection and exercise and instead focus on earning money or spending time with family. By the same token, there are many physically fit individuals that see no need to bring in extraordinary levels of income to be happy; they would just as well get by with what they need to live.
I firmly believe all of us should constantly strive to improve ourselves, but there is no single blueprint that we should all follow. What might be important to me (business and management) might not be important to you, and vice versa. For this reason, when you are determining which goals you would like to pursue you should always block out the wishes of others and select goals that are dear to your heart.
This sounds incredibly selfish, but obviously I'm not advocating adopting a goal that would hurt others, and ideally in a committed relationship you and your significant other would share common goals. But when push comes to shove, if you choose a goal for someone else rather than yourself you will do yourself a huge disservice.
Take, for example, weight loss. Many overweight people lead happy and successful lives despite their weight; you don't have to be as fit as a fiddle to be happy. Let's say one of these somewhat overweight individuals decided one day to finally buckle under the constant societal harping about the benefits of weight loss and begin a diet program. What would happen?
Chances are very high the individual would adjust his diet and get off to a good start. Almost all of us are capable of losing a few pounds during the first couple weeks, particularly since much of the initial weight loss is water. But during this time chances are good the dieter will be fairly unhappy, and this unhappiness will fester over time. Eventually when the body stops losing water weight and shifts into fat loss, the weight loss will slow down to about a pound or two a week.
Throughout the diet the dieter's morale and optimistic outlook on life will suffer, and this might even affect other areas he was already successful with, such as his relationship with his family or his business. Eventually he will quit his diet in disgust, and immediately upon reverting to his old eating habits he will not only gain what he lost he'll also gain even more! Diets play havoc with the body's metabolism, so more often than not a person that quits a diet will end up weighing far more than had they never dieted to begin with.
Clearly weight loss is a fantastic goal that can provide a lifetime of benefits, but it isn't for everyone! If you are not passionate about such a goal, you could actually harm other areas of your life when stress is added and morale and motivation drops due to your lifestyle change, and then to add insult to injury you just might end up being heavier than you were had you not even tried to adopt to society's standards.
The above example holds true for every single goal under the sun. Many people love the business world and all its risks and challenges, but others would rather avoid the stressful situations and problems that all businessmen face. Perhaps they would rather live a middle-class lifestyle, stay physically fit and enjoy hiking or camping trips with a partner over the weekends during the time the business-oriented are probably working overtime.
Choose only the goals that are compatible with your desires and needs, because selecting an incompatible goal that society or family advocates is a virtually guaranteed formula for failure, and can very easily do more harm than good.
Copyright 2005 Goals and Motivation.com
Jeffrey Rolo is an experienced human resources manager, business owner and also the owner of Goals and Motivation.com, a website offering a free 20+ page guide on goal setting. Visit http://www.goals-and-motivation.com to view this guide as well as other articles about goals and management.