Don’t Set Goals, Set A Theme

The new year is now upon us and people’s thoughts turn towards what they want to accomplish this year. They may take stock of the previous year, assess what went right and what went wrong and what changes they need to make to get to where they want to go.

Studies show that the vast majority of people who set new year’s resolutions have given up on them by the time February rolls around. All you need to do is go to a fitness centre in the first week of January and then go back in February and you’ll see what I mean.

The problem with goals is that they are a static point in time and, although they give you a bullseye to aim at, they often end up defeating the purpose of why we set goals in the first place. Let’s look at this in more detail.

The reason people set goals is simply because they want to be happy and fulfilled. If you think about it any goal that you set whether it is to quit smoking, eat healthier, exercise more, be more attentive and present in your relationships, earn more money at your job or start a business has only personal motives behind it.

Now I’m not implying that there is anything wrong with setting goals and working towards them. I’m simply stating that if you desire more happiness and fulfillment in your life, goal setting and working towards that goal is not the best way to achieve this.

The reason for this is there is only one of two outcomes that are possible. If you don’t succeed in achieving your goal you will be disappointed. If you do succeed in achieving your goal, the reward is usually fleeting and leaves you seeking the next goal to experience that brief feeling of fulfillment.

So this brings up the question of what true happiness and fulfillment really come from. These can only come from cultivating certain attitudes and habits. There are people who, no matter what they achieve, have a negative attitude towards everything so are never happy or fulfilled despite their achievement. We all know such people.

Your attitudes and habits are more important than any goals you can set and achieve because these come from within while goals are external achievements. It is only by changing your inner landscape that you can achieve the happiness and fulfillment you desire as these will no longer be dependent on external circumstances.

So go ahead and set your goals for the year but don’t do this without working on cultivating the attitudes and habits that will keep you on the path to success despite whether you achieve the goal or not. The way you do this is to set a theme for your year. What do I mean by this?

Your theme should be around the attitudes and habits you are trying to cultivate in your life. For example, you could set a theme of experiencing joy despite circumstances which means that no matter what happens with your goals, you will continue to feel joy. This is not hard to do once you realize that joy is an inside job and not dependent on outer experiences or circumstances.

I have chosen to make this coming year about connection. What I mean by this is that I want to feel deeply connected to, not only those who are closest to me, but also anyone who I come into contact with in my daily life from work colleagues to the grocery store clerk and everyone in between.

Connection lies at the heart of all our relationships which are a major factor in determining our happiness, fulfillment and success in life. This is not only true of our intimate relationships and friendships but also our financial wellbeing because whether you work for someone or are an entrepreneur, it is your relationship with your superiors or your clients which will determine your financial success.

So go ahead and set goals for your coming year but don’t do this without setting an overarching theme for the year which will put your goals into the context of a broader inner landscape which is more crucial for your overall wellbeing and fulfillment than any single goal.

Nauman Naeem MD

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