Have you ever said:
I’ll be happy when I get to X. Or…
I’ll be happy when I have Y. Maybe the best one…
I’ll be happy when I win the _______.
For me, it didn’t matter what it was, it always ended with “…then I’ll be happy.”
I used to have these unhealthy approaches to happiness. It made sense at the time, but after hitting the goals that I set, I ended up having to start over each win. I was voided by hitting the goal – the opposite of happy or fulfilled; I was now empty and desperately clawing for new direction.
“Fill it with another goal,” I’d say. Or, another beer, coffee, or material purchase.
But happiness isn’t a place. Not even this awesome place:
My approach to being happy was improper, and it’s likely that you’ve said something like this when imagining your happier place. I set out to be happy, so naturally, I felt that happiness was a place that I could climb to with enough money, cars, friends, travel, airline miles, or awards.
But these will inevitably fail to make me happy always and forever – because as soon I get there, I’d be sitting there with only a need to find another thing to chase to satisfy me. The pleasure would be gone, and nothing would take its’ place.
My end-game, set on a fixed point, could never make me happy.
Setting Goals Is Good. But Goals Are Just Mile Markers
Ironically, we have these same habits in setting business goals, personal achievement objectives, sports mentalities, physical insecurities and relationships.
It’s not that setting goals is wrong; it’s that our method of measurement should include goals that come as a result of continued betterment, rather than one that uses goals as the means of achievement.
If I aspire to be a successful professional artist, I might imagine that I’ll be successful when I sell my painting to a big-time gallery. I’ll be happy when I get there. I can stop. And likely, I will.
The truly successful artist may set a goal of selling a painting to a big-time gallery. But, his or her artistry would be founded on continuing to hone and perfect the craft, and that particular sale coming as a result of the continuity. That artist would then, after the sale of the art to the gallery, go on to produce higher value works, see a better lifestyle and level of success.
I’ve got a friend that hit his first million in net worth. He’s been miserable, and had to go about changing his life around because it wasn’t fulfulling him. He’s got no achievement in his life, only goals that he’s checked off his list. More money – check. More career accolades – check.
More happiness, fulfillment, and love – well that will come when I get to 2 Million. Won’t it?
Maybe, and there’s some research that says more money can mean less stress. Some argue the opposite.
Wealth is a byproduct of me offering better value to customers, or selling at a higher price point, or addressing a larger audience. But you’ll have to learn more, break habits, and change a lot to get your wealth. It’s not just a one stop goal. Even the word wealth is very subjective. That’s really not my point though.
My point is – finding the process that allows me to keep growing is more important than setting a fixed point that I look towards for measurement of my success.
Failing to hit a Goal is Only Allowed in an Alternative End-Game Process
The major flaw in this logical pathway is not inherently obvious until you start to look at the conditions in which life is forced to exist. Life, and the microcosms: business, sports, and happiness, are a continuum of experiences, both good and bad. I can’t say that failing to hit a goal is something I’ve never experienced – actually many failures have brought tears.
My end-game never changes, and so, a painful failure is just another stone in the pathway I’m building. It works something like this:
When trying to find happiness, my failure is a distinct element in the path, but it is not a distinct element in the journey. In fact, some argue, like Mark Manson, that you should stop trying to be happy. In doing so, you allow yourself the room to actually let the journey create happiness.
Most importantly, placing an exorbitant amount of weight on a particular goal is a recipe for the mental process I like to call “Becoming the Failure.”
When determining whether or not I am successful, I can look at an event that did not go in my favor and approach it as a learning lesson. Remember, my focus is on continued betterment, so any setback is an opportunity to continually improve.
However, if my goal is all that exists to me, and I fail to achieve it, I am now a failure – someone that didn’t hit his or her goal, unable to reflect upon it appropriately and still stuck underneath of it as a means to joy, completion, or success. Rather than looking at the failure from a distance, I’ve now become the failure, attributing the failure to me (my person, brain, talent, capability or other fixed component of myself), rather than to the process.
The best athletes go back to work after a bad loss, continually invested in the process of getting better. They don’t quit and sulk and attribute the loss to their personality or their work – they continue to work to get better where they know payoffs are secure.
These 5 ways will help you leverage the right parts of the process. And some others agree that being able to fail is a critical element in happiness, or success.
Because to them, the product (the object and thing that they are working towards) isn’t a fixed place in time. It’s, instead, a wheel, something constantly moving, constantly changing. It’s a process. And the successful believe in the process.
What part of your end-game can you re-configure, so that you’re setting yourself up for a better, happier, journey? Comment below!