When is it a goal and when is it something less healthy?
This is a topic I feel really needs addressing. I want to talk about when we push ourselves to achieve something worthwhile, versus when we push ourselves too far.
Something I’ve been noticing lately is how our culture of needing to achieve more and more is leaving some of us feeling that we are never quite enough. Whether it’s about looks, finances, social stature or work – as a society it seems we are more driven than ever before.
This, of course, has its merits. There is nothing wrong in wanting to better ourselves, and in finding the motivation to go out and pursue our goals. It’s commendable, in fact.
What I want to bring to your attention is how to know when you have crossed over the line from pursuing a goal into an unhealthy place. If you fall down a rabbit hole of punishing yourself then there are ways to spot it.
So what might this look like?
This is when we are not just motivated but have become deeply emotionally invested in the outcome, so much so that our sense of worth hangs on the result. This is when you are starting to slip down that rabbit hole, as no achievement or outcome should affect a person’s sense of self in this way.
Part of working with a coach is helping you to find your balance; sometimes between work and leisure time, and other times, it can be something less obvious. The pursuit of a goal that goes to the extreme may be less obvious at first, since bettering ourselves is something commendable. It is likely that friends and family will support your goal as you are pursuing something positive.
So here is the first warning sign to look out for. The support of your friends and family should feel good. But when them knowing about your goal feels more like added pressure, then this is something to pay attention to. The knot in the pit of your stomach when a friend asks you how things are going is a little red flag waving for your attention. At this point, I suggest checking in with yourself.
Where is this feeling of pressure coming from? Are you worried about how your friend sees you, or how success or failure will make you appear?
The other big warning sign to look out for is when you stop having fun or feeling a sense of joy in your pursuit of this goal. When the work to get you where you want to go feels less like self-improvement and more like punishment – it’s time to step back and take a good look at what is going on for you.
- Have you taken on more than you can manage?
- Is what you are feeling just tiredness from the extra effort, or do you wish you hadn’t taken this path at all?
And finally, ask yourself if not achieving this goal will affect your sense of self-worth. It’s a hard question to ask, but a crucial one. I think we could all do with a reminder that we are worthy of joy, and are enough just as we are.
I think the bottom line is this. Goals are wonderful, tangible ways of moving us up in life. We can gain new skills, boost our career prospects, or widen our horizons in an exhaustive list of ways.
But, your goals should always be things that enhance your life – not things that make your life unsustainably busy, or that rob you of joy; and importantly, if you fall short of your goal, please don’t let this damage your sense of self-worth. Most things in life are direct control. What matters most is that we do our best, looking after ourselves and each other.
If in doubt, take a step back and look at the long-term effects of your goal. Remember that making yourself happy is more important than a trophy, certificate or a tick off the achievement list.