I’m a goal-oriented person. I have to be — with a job as busy as mine and with my fingers in so many proverbial pies, it’s important that I know what I’m doing and why! However, I’ve found through the years that being hyper-focused on accomplishing my goals may or may not be the most effective way to get where I need to be.
It sounds counterintuitive, I know. But in truth, sometimes our shorter-term goals can get in our way of achieving the big dreams that we want to accomplish. It’s all-too-easy to get off track, even in the pursuit of good things.
Here’s how you know you need to reorient — or drop — a goal for the good of your long-term aspirations.
5 Warning Signs That Your Goal is Getting in the Way of Your Big Dream
1) You’re doing it because you feel like you have to.
I see so many young professionals working on things out of obligation or a misplaced sense of survival. It’s true — in the beginning of a fledgling career, when you don’t have a lot of resources or notoriety, the desire to live well and build yourself up can lead to a lot of side-tracks. Though all of us go through this stage of doing “just a job” or feeling like we’re losing ourselves and our vision in the name of making necessary income, it’s valuable to recognize when these tasks and jobs drain the life from us.
Feeling purposeless or uninvested in your job, project, or goal at the time can cause you to lose sight and momentum towards what your really wish to accomplish.
Some things in life are necessary, and we won’t always enjoy our work or have it align totally with the long-term vision.
The problem comes when we get comfortable in this place. We’re doing fine and building a career, but it’s far removed from what we originally set out to do. If you become complacent or fearful of leaving that comfort zone, you can bet there’s something off. Big things don’t happen without some risk. An unwillingness to move forward and beyond “necessary” means that you will have great difficulty really accomplishing anything of true, real value to you.
2) You can’t find a clear connection to your overall goals.
By the same token, sometimes we get wrapped up in things that have no impact on our long-term goals. It can either be something that you thought would connect and help, but over time your efforts diverge into something else entirely. If you have a vision, be sure that your shorter-term steps to get there actually make a valuable impact. Over time, they may lose their focus and original purpose.
This is the time to bring things back in line or give up on these smaller, disconnected goals.
3) The end result isn’t worth it.
We all know that things can change throughout the course of life. While we set out with great intentions, we’re finding that it’s so much more trouble than it was worth to accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Now, this doesn’t mean you should give up on your big goals because they’re tough.
But I urge any goal-oriented individual to think critically about what they’re investing their time in. We often fall prey to the “sunk cost” fallacy. We most commonly see this in gamblers. Essentially, you will continue to do what you’re doing, throwing resources, time, money, and energy into your task largely out of guilt for having spent too much time (money, energy, etc.) on it already. We refuse to give up despite it being painfully obvious that there will be no payout or at least not the one we want.
If you begin to recognize that your venture is no longer worth it to you, don’t stick to it just to finish. This is valuable time you could direct towards things that are worthwhile.
4) Getting there conflicts with your values.
I’ll be brief on this one. Just as we can work on something with good intentions in the beginning and find it not to be worth it, we can find that a task that is initially well-intentioned can turn into something we have a real problem with. Integrity in business is one of the most important things we must protect as professionals.
It’s very possible that in the pursuit of some smaller goals that you will be asked, pressured, or feel otherwise forced into conduct and strategies that you find appalling. This may be due to the people you feel you must work with, industry expectations and norms, or just not understanding fully what the task would demand of you.
If this is the case, it’s time to let go. Find a new way that makes you feel pride, not shame.
5) Your goals have changed.
Lastly, and most simply, perhaps your goals have changed. I mean your big, long-term goals. Everyone grows and changes with time, and this affects the alignment of our vision. You may no longer desire or value what you so eagerly chased after. The mature thing to do is to regularly examine your needs, desires, and goals. Do they still line up?
If they don’t, it’s time to stop, step back, and redefine your goals from the ground up.
How do you prioritize your short-term goals? Share your strategies in the comments.