In these early months of any new year, many of us are often thinking about goals and targets and ambitions for the months ahead. And as someone who got switched on to goal-setting and planning relatively late in life (in my early 30s), I have gained a lot of trial-and-error/trial-and-success experience with accomplishing goals.
In the past few years, I ticked off two of my biggest “bucket list” goals (publishing a best-seller and being invited to give a TED talk), hit a massive business target, and got some high-profile PR coverage, so I have some recent data on what happens when you finally accomplish the thing – or things – you’ve been wanting to accomplish for a long time.
But let’s start with what doesn’t happen when you accomplish a goal: The heavens don’t suddenly open up and rain down good fortune, everything you touch doesn’t automatically turn to gold, clients/investors/potential-partners who once rejected you don’t come begging on their knees to win you over, your poop doesn’t start to smell like roses, all of your health/wealth/relationship problems don’t disappear, happiness and fulfilment don’t come streaming through your door on a daily basis, you don’t achieve overnight stardom/wealth/wisdom/popularity/etc. And – to put it quite simply – everything you built up in your mind about what it would mean to be an author/on the cover of a magazine/on a TED stage/etc doesn’t match up with reality. Or to put it even simply-er: your life doesn’t change very much at all.
So why bother achieving anything?
Because here’s what does happen: you become better, smarter, stronger. You learn how to push yourself, you dust yourself off after the nineteenth rejection and get back out there, you stay in the game, you learn what you are made of, you learn what you are not made of (and this is okay, essential even, to any success), you learn who your friends are, you realize that the things you thought you wanted might not be the be all end all of your existence, you learn new skills, you encounter and overcome new challenges, you find a way through the deepest and darkest parts of yourself, you learn, you grow, and you learn and you grow some more.
And sometimes – only sometimes – the wealth/fame/fortune/popularity/begging from those who previously turned you away/feeling of being on top of the world does come along with your accomplishments. But not always. And it doesn’t always stick around.
So don’t choose your goals based on what you think the outcome will be; choose your goals for what they will make of you to achieve them.
Or to put it another way: the goal isn’t really the goal. Who you become along the way is.