Have you ever chosen a goal, only to find out that you really didn’t want it, or once you got it you thought maybe it wasn’t all that you thought it might be?
Or maybe you’re lucky enough to have had a goal, tried really hard to achieve it, and then failed. And after you’ve failed, you realized that you really weren’t after that goal after all, but something deeper, and by doing things that were moving you closer to the goal you thought you wanted, you were actually developing your skills that would make it much easier for you to achieve a much larger, more satisfying goal.
I know a guy that really wanted to be a standup comic. He had watched comics as a kid, and really enjoyed him, and really wanted to be onstage telling jokes, and getting people to laugh. So he read books, went to trainings and seminars. He studied the structure of humor so he could write his own material. When it finally came time to get up on stage and burst onto the comic scene, he failed miserably.
He was literally booed off stage again and again. His jokes were horrible, his delivery was terrible, and his timing was awful. For a while he was completely demoralized. The he started learning about personal development and motivation. As it turns out, studying the structure of comedy is closely related to the structure of human understanding and how we humans view the world. Which is very closely tied to our own motivational strategies and our beliefs about what we are capable of.
So he started studying and learning more and more. And he found out there was a huge demand for this kind of seminar. He started giving seminars that quickly sold out every time.
The skills he had picked up along the way, studying about human nature through comedy, and practicing public speaking skills against a ferociously unappreciated audience gave him incredible understanding of other peoples pain and fear, and incredible effective public speaking and motivation skills.
Had he not tried and failed as a comedian, he would never have succeeded as self-development coach. His seminars still sell out whenever he gives them, and he is making quite a bit of money today.
But the point of this essay is not to encourage you to chase after a goal and then fail. If you started out with that mindset, you’d likely not chase it with near as much gusto as is you were expecting to win.
The point of this is to encourage you to really examine the goal you are chasing. Really really examine it. What is it about that goal that is so appealing to you? What will you have, feel, and experience when you achieve that goal? Is there and even better, quicker, and easier way to feel, experience and have those same things by choosing a different goal?
In the example above, the underlying criteria of becoming a comic might have been to make people feel good, and happy, and feel good about oneself for delivering those emotions to others. There are many ways to do that. Being a comic is certainly one way, but is it the only way? Is it the easiest way?
There is one very powerful motivating factor in psychology called commitment and consistency. This has been proven to be a very powerful social influence technique. People that publicly claim they are Republicans will never vote democrat, but people that never commit publicly to either party are much more likely to vote for a candidate not based on his party, but on his or her qualifications.
In the jury system, studies have shown that juries where they publicly voice their opinion (guilty or innocent) before deliberation have a much harder time coming to a consensus. Those that indicate their initial opinion anonymously (writing G o I on a slip of paper) have a much easier time agreeing on a consensus. The people that publicly claim either guilty or innocent have a much harder time changing their minds.
This same dynamic is in place when setting goals.Â Sometimes a goal that should have been abandoned a long time ago is still pursued, only because the person made a decision to get it, no matter what.
Of course, this is not to be confused with simply giving up on chasing a goal due to some adversity or difficulties in achieving it. This is about a goal that has lost its relevance.
When you can really dig down deep inside your mind to discover the real reason behind your goal, and go after that, the goal itself can become a temporary placeholder in your mind for your deeper, and more important criteria. Once you identify what that is, you will realize that there are many more ways to get there.
This can take some time and person introspection, but it is well worth the effort.Â When you realize that the underlying structure of your experience is something worthy of your attention, you can be assured you will be successful.