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Day 23: Goals that hurt you

November 6, 2023

I was going through old notebooks today, looking for something I’d written a while back, and I found this:

How do you know your goals are hurting you?

  1. You beat yourself up for mistakes / failures and setbacks.
  2. You’re trying to do everything and feeling like you’re doing all of it badly.
  3. You’re exhausted all day but struggle to sleep at night.
  4. You secretly wish for ‘disaster’ so you can stop.
  5. You feel that everyone else is doing better than you.
  6. You oscillate between moaning a lot and pretending everything is fine.
  7. You don’t particularly want to get up in the morning as nothing you have planned for the day excites you.
  8. Despite all of the above, you still feel you’re on the right path.

I recognise myself in most of these – and, if I count historical thoughts and feelings, then I recognise myself in all of these, though I’m not sure I had it right by saying they were indications of goals causing hurt.

These could be indications of all kinds of things…

  • Depression
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of clarity about what’s important or why you’re doing what you’re doing
  • Unresolved hurts, trauma or limiting beliefs from childhood
  • A combination of all of the above.

The Practical Implications

Most of the work I do now is born out of my efforts to address my own struggles with the list above. I didn’t want to feel that way and I didn’t know how to feel differently.

At first, I set my sites on pursuing happiness instead of pursuing other, more tangible goals, like money, but I ended up in the same place because I was still focusing most of my attention on what was missing and what I was doing wrong in my efforts to get that missing thing.

Writing this blog is my first step in turning my attention in the opposite direction – focusing instead on all I am grateful for and recognising that the uncertainty of life is what makes it worth living – but also recognising that in order to be ok with the uncertainty, I have to have a certain level of peace and ease within me.

But I never find peace inside myself when I’m in the throes of the things in that bullet pointed list. In those cases, I get stuck. Where this all wraps back around to the original heading of this blog, however, is that my efforts to correct the items on the bullet pointed list were also the efforts that led me to feel all the things in the numbered list!

AAARRGGHH! Catch 22.

Bringing me back to the need for this blog. I’m the first person to recognise that self-development and life improvement can and should feel good. It’s a mark of the uniquely privileged position in which I find myself that the conundrum I’ve just described is a big enough problem to occupy my thoughts and time the way it does.

If I was facing famine, war, death or other true life threats, I wouldn’t be concerning myself with such things. I’d be focusing my efforts on trying to survive.

So again, I arrive back in the same place – gratitude for what IS, and a need to focus solely on cultivating that sense of gratitude, even in my efforts to make changes.

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