It’s human nature to expect that we’ll be happier after we reach our big goals. Happier, more content, satisfied…able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour. But is that really what happens?
I’ve been working with a life coach who says reaching one’s goals can often be a letdown IF we haven’t prepared to deal with the unexpected feelings that result. For instance, if you think finally running that marathon will make you feel accomplished and proud, find ways to feel accomplished and proud before you sprint past that finish line. Break the goal into smaller steps and celebrate each one as you achieve it.
I still remember getting that letter in the mail. It looked so much like a form rejection that I almost threw it away. But it wasn’t a rejection. It was a request for a partial manuscript, which was followed by a request for the full manuscript. Then I got a call from the agent and she was so excited about my book! Finally, after all the rejections and all the rewrites, someone was recognizing my abilities. There was only one catch…she had to make sure her boss, the head of the agency, felt the same way. She called back with good news and emailed the contract only a few days later, but the early thrill of acceptance was already gone and I couldn’t get it back. Landing an agent was nothing like I thought it would be.
Neither was getting engaged, becoming a director in the corporate world, or fighting in the ring. All were great moments in my life; all were worthy of celebration. And yet, if I were to be completely honest with myself, deep down there was a niggling feeling of, “That’s it?” But maybe this only applies to goals that end in disappointment…neither the agent, the engagement or the new job was a good fit, and I lost the fight. Whenever I’ve achieved a huge milestone, it’s been followed by a restlessness…a feeling of being completely lost. Now what? What to do next?
That’s why I think the life coach’s advice is so important. If you take a hard look at your goals, imagining how you’ll feel when you achieve them and finding ways to feel that way now, you won’t be crushed by disappointment if the accomplishment isn’t quite what you hoped. I’ll take this advice one step further and say it never hurts to have a follow-up goal so you know exactly where you’re going next.
Can you relate? Have you ever accomplished something really big and been surprised (and somewhat letdown) by the way you felt afterwards? How did you deal with it? Looking back, was there a way to give yourself the feelings you were seeking before you accomplished the goal? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Maybe it was because none of those things were a good fit that you lacked that sense of accomplishment? Sometimes we just know before we actually know.
I am a firm believer that the journey is far more important than the finish line. What happens when we get what we want is we start seeking a new journey.
Enjoy your present journey and Happy Birthday.
Good question!…but, like Kim, I have found that the journey for me has been just as rewarding as the destination…Training for my first marathon I went through many milestones and when I finally crossed the finish line I remember thinking that I wanted to do it all over again…ALL-OF-IT..;))))
Planning for months to go on a 6 day back country hike in the mountains was just as fun as the hike itself – and when we emerged from the wilderness 6 days later I remember weeping (tears of joy for the amazing memories and tears of sadness because I knew that I would never be able to describe the experience to others without them being there). I wanted to turn around and head back.
Interestingly the only time I felt a letdown after a “life-event” was the day after I got married to my first husband. But that’s another story for another day ;0)
Thanks for your comments, Kim and Lisa! And welcome back…I’ve missed your words of wisdom on the blog.
I guess that’s what I’m saying…the journey is often the most rewarding part of the experience, even though we don’t always realize it. Once you’ve accomplished that goal, it’s over. Always good to have a new goal waiting in the wings. 🙂
Really truly excellent advice! I’m learning this more and more. I went to an author launch a few days ago and the author talked about how much she’s looked forward to getting a book published, and when she finally realized it was going to happen, she realized it wasn’t what she thought it was going to be at all. Instead of a star it turned out to be an ACTUAL STAR, you know, like a big ball of burning gas and it was literally going to swallow her whole, lol. That’s kind of what happens, I think. From afar, things glitter. Up close, they’re really an unexpected reality and we have to switch gears to learn how to deal with them. Enjoy the glittering while you can.
Thanks so much for your comment, Michelle! I was beginning to think I was the only one who accomplished something big, just to feel disappointed or lost afterwards. I thought it was a fairly common feeling until I got feedback to the contrary.
I think what often happens is we pin all our hopes on our goals and think that once we reach them, everything will be perfect. But the fact is that we’re still basically the same people, and we’ll still struggle with a lot of the same issues. Publishing a novel, fighting in the ring, or running a marathon isn’t going to fundamentally change who we are or how we deal with things.
I almost think, as heartbreaking as it can be, the great shining moment of any writer’s life is the one before publication…when the imagination can turn that accomplishment into anything you want. When you have to face the reality of how many books you sold, the publisher’s or readers’ demands, the cruel reviews, etc., it probably doesn’t live up to the fantasy in many ways. Not that I don’t still want to be a full-time fiction writer, desperately…I’m just trying to appreciate my life as it is right now.
Yeah, the shining moments for me are when I complete a book. It has nothing to do with publication.
Even before you were ever published?
Yep, I look back and in all honesty, I can say completing a book has always been more deeply and lastingly enjoyable than getting published has ever been.