Chances are, you’re an ambitious person. When you want something, you go after it with laser focus, and you work hard enough that you often get it. Maybe you’ve done this enough times that you’ve developed a sense that you can achieve pretty much whatever goal you put your mind to. That should be a good thing, right?
The kind of focused drive described here works wonders when your goals are closely aligned with what you actually want. Work feels like play. Energy abounds. Ideas flow freely.
However, that kind of striving can be draining if your goals aren’t in alignment with what you really want. The pursuit feels forced. Each step is exhausting, labored with lead-heavy legs. And I bet you know this feeling, yourself, because so many of us set career goals out of whack with our true desires.
Why would we do this to ourselves -- work toward a goal that’s not aligned with what we really want?
Sometimes we blindly strive for things we think we want, or things we think we should want, which may or may not be what we actually do want. Crazy, I know. But it’s easier than you think to confuse those things.
So, the next time you’re pursuing a goal, ask yourself, Is this what I really, truly, want? Be honest. And consider the following thoughts other people may be having right now:
- I don’t really want to do this MBA. It’s making me sick. I’d love to take a photography class instead.
- I don’t even want this promotion. My boss looks miserable. I don’t want to end up like her. Why am I even bothering to apply?
- Maybe I should forget about going for partner at the firm. I rarely see my kids as it is.
- I don’t want to keep pouring money into a failing business. A steady job would feel so much better.
If you’re chasing after something because you’re looking for approval or status, or because it’s what’s expected of you, that goal may just not be worth it. You’ll get to the finish line and think, This is it? This is what I killed myself for? Talk about anticlimactic.
We’re a goal-obsessed society. Stronger, better, faster. More, more, more. Striving and driving and pushing and climbing. And, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with ambition. Ambition can be wonderful -- but only when it’s aligned with what you really want.
And, sometimes, to figure out what that is, the best thing to do is let go of old goals that simply aren’t serving you anymore. To lighten your load.
You only live once, after all, and your life is too important to waste, chasing after things that just don’t matter.