What Are Your Anti-Goals?

A woman sits on a bench in front of a lake

Don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of your goals.

We all know how important it is to dream big and pursue our goals. Goals give us something to strive for. They challenge us to improve, dig deep, and realize our true potential.  

And while it’s important to work hard and chase after your goals, it’s even more important to make sure that you’re not sacrificing your values or your true self in the process. You want to consider your “anti-goals.” These are the negative outcomes, traits, and behaviors that you want to avoid. 

We’ve all heard stories of successful people who’ve sacrificed their personal life in order to achieve their goals. They neglect their families and friendships and even their own well-being for the sake of launching a successful business or winning that gold medal or getting that award. But after reaching that brass ring, the end result doesn't feel as good as they had initially hoped. The success doesn’t feel gratifying, it feels hollow.

Remember: success isn’t just about the end result or the outcome. It’s about how you get there. 

You don’t want to lose your soul in the process of reaching your goals. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t be going after your goals because you think it will make you more popular or beloved or respected. Your goals are there to help you build character, develop your integrity, and improve as a person, with or without the shiny prize at the end.

Here’s how you can avoid your anti-goals by learning to use your inner compass and stay true to yourself.

Look at the big picture view of your life

We’ve all been guilty of obsessing over our goals and achievements. We want to wake up at the crack of dawn to work on that novel. We want to block out every single night and weekend to plug away at our side hustle. We avoid hanging out with our loved ones so as not to get distracted and stay dedicated to our work.

While discipline and a strong work ethic are both necessary ingredients to a successful goal setting strategy, there is also such a thing as going overboard.

To avoid losing yourself, it’s important to step back and look at the big picture of your life. This will help put your current ambitions and working style into perspective. 

  • What good is this job promotion if I don’t have any friends to celebrate it with? 
  • What good is running this marathon if I don’t have anyone cheering me on at the finish line?
  • What good is this finished manuscript if I don’t have any peers to share this with?

Actionable exercise: Take out your favorite notebook and start writing about your current ambitions and how they ultimately fit into the long term view of your life. Are your goals helping you connect with your true desires? If you find yourself feeling wayward, then try to pinpoint why. Maybe you’d like to include your loved ones in your goals. Maybe you can share your dreams and get their advice. Or maybe it’s a matter of setting aside time to check in with yourself and others so that you don’t get too wrapped up in your goals. 

When you look at the big picture, you’ll understand that your goals are small stepping stones compared to the greater trajectory of your life. 

Set boundaries around your goals 

Another way to avoid losing yourself is to establish clear boundaries around your goals.

While work-life-balance seems like an elusive and seemingly unattainable concept, it is still worthwhile to set some boundaries around your time and energy so that you don’t burnout or feel overwhelmed in other areas of your life. 

We encourage you to conduct regular check-ins with yourself to see what aspects of your career or personal life could use some TLC

  • When’s the last time you had one-on-one time with a friend?
  • When’s the last time you checked in with your family?
  • When’s the last time you did an activity that was for fun and had nothing to do with your goals? 

It will also help to block off certain days or times for your goals so that you don’t end up blanketing your entire week with work. For example, you could devote every other weekend to your goals, or work on your goals on Mondays and Wednesdays. 

Try on different schedules for size and see which one can accommodate your goals and your real life as well. 

Define your values 

Sometimes you’ll find yourself at a crossroad with your goals and have a difficult decision to make.

Should you attend your child’s recital or go to work? Should you miss your friend’s wedding or work on your passion project? Should you say yes to that new client or go on that much-needed vacation? 

During times of conflict or doubt, it helps to look to your values for guidance. 

Your values are what you stand for and are motivated by. They can guide you and help you define your biggest priorities. 

Here are some prompts to help you explore what your values are:

  • Who are the people in your life that are most important to you?
  • What type of work do you enjoy the most? Maybe it’s working with a team or having the freedom to work on your own.
  • What motivates you? For example, maybe you want to serve your community or maybe you want to empower others. 
  • What gives you a big sense of accomplishment? Maybe it’s tackling a challenge or learning something new.

Pick two to three values. You’ll turn to these whenever you need help making a tough decision or to help you find clarity when you’re unsure of what to do.

So, for example, if your values are to be there for your family and have freedom when you work, then you would say no to heading to the office on the weekend.

Think of your values as your inner compass. When you follow them, you’ll always stay true to yourself and stick to your path.

Written by JiJi Lee

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