Do you always feel unmotivated when pursuing goals that you have set for yourself?
Do you feel dejected when things don’t go your way?
I felt the same way a few months ago and have decided to write an article to share my experience of overcoming this feeling. It is too easy to waste time and energy getting burnt out while pursuing goals and it makes the journey seems long and unbearable. But hang in there, things are going to improve from now on as I am going to share with you one strategy that can change your perspective about goal setting.
Creating goals are counter productive to being successful.
I have spent the past two decades of my life setting goals in order to move towards what I set out to achieve in life. I enjoyed the success of achieving my goals. However, I realized that it was not sustainable to keep me going throughout the journey. In the end, I burned out and lost my meaning in life for the past decade.
I have since gotten back on track and I have been quite consistently living my life, giving my all. I am also slowly discovering meaning in the things that I do. It has been a great experience and I would like to share on a concept that I have learned recently that I found quite useful. Hopefully you will get to apply it to your life too!
This is my experience which was inspired by freedom in thought, an awesome YouTube Channel that transformed my mindset.
Concept of Goal Quadrants
In the video, the author mentioned that there are 2 categories for goals, namely Avoidant-pursuant and Internal-external goals. Avoidant refers to what we are avoiding and pursuant refers to what we are actively chasing for. Internal refers to what we have within us and external refers to what is beyond us.
By plotting a graph with x-y axis, we place avoidant and pursuant on the y axis and internal and external on x axis as shown below in Fig 1. For simplicity sake, we shall name the quadrants 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Let me give some illustrations on the goals that fit the quadrants which are taken from my life:
Lets breakdown the graph for analysis…
Earlier this year, I have managed to get a job in data science after working towards it for many years. I felt like I had it all at that point in time. However, coming from a non-data science background, I was thrown off guard when I first started my job and realized the technical gap between me and my team mates. My skills and knowledge were hardly enough to sustain and I felt stressed and mentally strained trying to cope with the work for many months.
Quadrant 1 is where people set goals that they will feel happy when they have achieved that, however, they feel overwhelmed and stressed when the goal is moving away from them. That was where I was at, I was happy that I have achieved it, but any setback made me feel like I was going to throw up anytime. I felt terrible all the time and avoided socializing with my friends and family.
As the weeks go by, I realized that I can do more work to justify my worth. I slowly moved to quadrant 2, where people do what they can within their ability to pursue their goal. I wanted to prove that I earn a spot in this field.
In the end, it didn’t work out. I realized that quality beats quantity as I was not going deep into my thought processes about the analytics work. I gave up easily and moved onto other projects when I was being thrown questions by my boss. In short, I wasn’t growing at all. I was trying to stay afloat.
I was stuck at quadrant 2 for months and I got upset whenever my ideas got criticized. It got to the point when I gave up trying to actively pursue after my goal as I was mentally drained. That’s when I moved to quadrant 3.
For a few weeks, I felt as if I had no control over what I was assigned to do and I was doing the bare minimum just to avoid getting into trouble. I was just surviving.
After being a work zombie for weeks, I chanced upon this video by Freedom In Thought and decided to apply it to turnaround my life. I felt an urgency to rectify my life as I was envious of friends who enjoy their work and I figured that I still have a few good decades of working life before I retire.
Hence, this video has changed my perspective about work and moved me from quadrant 3 to 4. People in quadrant 4 set goals that are avoidant in nature and they felt that their actions lead them to their goals.
At quadrant 4, I was telling myself not to be lazy and I needed to put in the effort to bridge the gap between my current level and desired level of knowledge. I set small milestones to hit everyday so that I can achieve small wins daily. As long as I am moving away from my goal of not being stagnant, I am happy.
In the process of picking myself up and getting back on track, I learned several lessons in life.
- Confidence does not come from achieving my goal. It comes from being honest with myself, identifying areas to improve in my life, making efforts to improve on them and taking every criticism as objectively and constructively as possible. It is not easy to take criticisms but in the process of it, I learned that we can be desensitized to them. Read this article by Adam Grant to find out more on ways to deal with criticism.
- The advantage of having avoidant goals is that it reduces stress on me. I no longer notice the knowledge gap between me and my peers. I planned out my own curriculum for my improvement and it doesn’t matter if I do not complete my to-do-list for a few days. As long as I going according to my plan, I win. This brings me to my third point.
- Life is a series of small wins. When I was achieving goals, I was thinking of ways to move myself closer to them. By focusing on the gap between my desired and current state, I felt terrible and inadequate. Instead of focusing on one big win, I focused on many small wins. This made me be more present in life.
- Avoid doing things that drains my energy and bring little value to my life. I found myself drained of energy during midday even though I had adequate rest. An analogy that I always think of is that my energy level is represented by the battery level in my phone, and I have limited energy level. Think of tasks in terms of energy requirement instead of time required. Even when you have excellent time management skills, you may not have the energy to do the planned task. Before I embark on doing anything, I will always determine the return of investment (ROI) and required energy. By doing more of the things that has high ROI and low energy requirement, we can achieve more small wins daily and hence increase our improvement rate.
Hope this article finds you well!