We live in an achievement-based world. With so much opportunity and possibility available, we can’t help but dream up plans and visions and new goals for ourselves. It’s one of my favorite pastimes.
When I was 25, my mom found a stack of notecards that I kept on my kitchen table. They listed all the things I wanted for myself, organized into categories: Career, Spiritual, Personal, Home Improvement, Clothes, Health. She thought it was a little over the top, but I loved it. And I still do.
It’s exhilarating to dream up a life for yourself and watch it come to fruition.
Something that is rarely talked about is the inevitable discontent that can arrive with a newly achieved goal.
This discontent can come from many sources: an unexpected side effect that we didn’t anticipate when we first dreamed up this new thing, achieving part but not the whole of our dream, or blindly striving for a goal without checking in to see if the person achieving the goal is the same person who made the goal (ie - is this something I actually still want?).
Those unexpected side effects can be a real doozy.
They can zap the joy out of the whole thing.
The good news is that they don’t have to.
Here’s my process for working through the transition of achieving a new goal to feel all the joy and handle that pesky discontent -
Step 1 - CELEBRATE THE HELL OUT OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENT!
Yes, I’m yelling, but that’s just so I have your attention. Before any reality sinks in, bask in all the glorious joy of your success. You set out to do a thing and you did it. Hells to the yeah!
Step 2 - Notice where reality doesn’t quite line up with your expectations.
We can’t possibly know what something will really be like until we do it. We can visualize all day long, but nothing replaces actually doing and experiencing something. There’s bound to be something about the real thing that you didn’t anticipate and/or don’t really like.
Step 3 - Take stock of the discontent.
Is this something that can be improved upon with a new goal (ex: being fully booked with clients is leaving me frazzled, I can improve this with a new hire) or is it something that we need to accept (ex: now that I’m a mother I will forever want to be in two places at once, gone is the singular focus on any one thing)
Step 4 - Add new goals where you can and move through the process of acceptance where you can’t
Any improvement to our lives will come with a new host of challenges to work through. The beauty is that many of them can be optimized away. We are continually evolving creatures. Achieving one goal usually opens our eyes to something else that makes life that much better. Simply add it to the list and get dreaming/doing. Then there are the things that can’t be optimized away…we may not have anticipated them, but they’re here to stay. These ones require the deeper work. They require a voice, acknowledging how you feel. They require grief, time to mourn what’s been lost or changed. And they require acceptance, making peace with the things we can’t change.
Our goals run the gamut from big to small, permanent to fleeting, impactful to playful - no matter the type, our goals provide us with a direction and a chance to grow and change with achievement. In my 25-year-old list the new pants I wanted didn’t compare to the baby I desired, but there was joy and discontent in both (turns out I don’t have the hips for ultra-skinny jeans).
The pants were returnable. The baby, of course, was not, nor would I want to. That doesn’t mean I didn’t need to process the grief of losing my pre-motherhood self and fully accept this new state.
Whether it’s something big like motherhood, medium like a new business direction, or small like a pair of pants take the time to deal with the discontent. Going through this process will make goal setting, achieving, and handling change in general that much more enJOYable today and forever.