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The Secret to Developing Goals

Ever wonder why it’s hard for you to reach your life goals? Maybe you don’t try hard enough and give up too easily. Maybe you’re low on frustration tolerance and delaying gratification and high on impatience. Or, maybe the goals you set simply aren’t right for you. Should you pursue goals which are easy to achieve which bring little satisfaction or should you set goals which are difficult and may bring greater pride in their accomplishment? All good questions with no easy answers.
My reflections on this subject spring from a conversation I had with a client about how well she does in her job, yet how stressful she finds it. In sales, she works with large crowds of people and yet admits to being more of an introvert than a people person. She said she hates all the noise she encounters on her job and all the excess stimulation which, rather than hype her up, seems to drain her.
Many of my clients who engage in dysregulated eating set difficult goals for themselves because they think they should have particular feathers in their caps. For example, a client who’s an artist feels that she should be painting to sell her art even though she doesn’t need the money. Another client feels that there’s something wrong with her in enjoying dabbling and mastering a skill, then losing interest and moving on. A good many clients are introverts who believe they should be acting like extroverts. An equal number love quiet pleasures—a beautiful Sarasota sunset, walking their dog—but feel pressure to do have more exciting adventures to really “live” life.
My advice: You either try to fit a goal into your life or you allow a goal to come out of your life. For example, people comment that they wish they were a prolific writer like me and I’ll ask them if they like to write and feel enormous pleasure from doing so as I do. They usually answer no. For me, writing is a goal that developed from my enjoyment of story telling and playing with words. Loving being a therapist derives from feeling pleasure in reflection, insight, understanding people’s motivation and interpersonal dynamics. I could no more be a great golfer than a history scholar because I don’t find playing golf or learning about what happened long ago very interesting or pleasurable.
I understand that everyone can’t love what they do, but we can all set goals that make our lives more enjoyable. And these goals need to come out of who we are, not who we feel we should, need or wish to be. Too many of us are still trying to please our parents or to be similar to or different from them. Let your goals come out of your talents, pleasures, passions, personality and values and you are more likely to succeed.