You want to chase your goals and dreams. But, you somehow fail to find the time required to pursue them. You always have more to do than hours in a day.
Here’s the problem:
Most people are not chasing the right goals. When was the last time you took a moment to analyze what you’re aiming for? Too often, we go after things for different reasons without thinking our actions through. As a result, you spend time on goals you care little about.
When you put in effort and energy into random goals, you run out of steam to chase the dreams which resonate with your heart.
In this article, we will cover:
- The types of goals we chase
- The wrong order of goal prioritization
- How to make time for the right goals
- Type of goals you chase:
- The wrong order of goal prioritization
- How to make time for your real goals in 3 steps:
Type of goals you chase:
Any goal that you or I chase falls under one of these three categories:
1. The goals set by society
Society determines many of the goals you chase. People buy cars and houses they cannot afford because everyone around them has one. They spend money buying things they don’t want, with the money they don’t have, to impress the people they don’t like.
The problem is, you don’t genuinely care about such goals. You chase them thinking they’re your own. In reality, society imposed them on you. People spend decades paying EMIs for the superior house they didn’t need and a fancy car that remains in the garage most of the time. You spend an awful lot of time and energy on such meaningless goals, making your life a daily grind of regret and compromise.
Since human beings live as a group, we have a strong need to adhere to society’s trends. You would not sit in a restaurant with your feet on the table. That isn’t because the restaurant has any such rule, but because you do not want to come across as the only jerk doing that. From a young age, you’re taught the importance of gaining the respect of the world around you.
Following societal norms isn’t a bad idea. If everyone turned into a rebel by doing whatever they liked, you would be surrounded by chaos. Therefore, you cannot ignore all the benchmarks society has set. But our need for acceptance by society makes us believe that some of the goals defined by others are indeed our own. Such decisions force you to sideline your true passion and compromise on the things which matter to you.
2. The cool/fancy goals
The majority of the goals you chase are more of a “nice to have.” You go after them for the shiny results they offer.
For example, I have tried mastering the guitar and having rock hard 6 pack abs. I had no clear purpose on why I was trying for such targets. The end result appeared fancy, and I was attracted to the outcome. Neither did I have a love for music, nor did I intend to pursue a career in modeling.
The reason why you aim for such cool goals is that you want to cultivate an image where people consider you remarkable. A typical example is people who are unemployed pursuing entrepreneurship to appear extraordinary. Having a tag of an entrepreneur on their social media profile instills them with a false sense of pride. They are not willing to put in the effort or the sacrifice necessary for the result. They expect a shortcut which brings them fame and money.
You may also chase a goal because you want to impress or prove a point to one specific person. Many men sign up for a gym membership to woo a lady they have a crush on. The day they find her dating another guy, the habit of working out goes out the window. Some others start lifting weights because someone made a joke about their physique.
Though such reasons can serve as strong motivators, you achieve no significant happiness by attaining such goals because an external factor triggered it. When you accomplish your target, you just tell yourself, “Bleh, ok, I did it,” shrug it off and move on.
Dave Mustaine was the lead guitarist of the band Metallica during the early days. After the band fired him over disagreements and misbehaviour, Mustaine was strongly motivated to make a name for himself.
And he did. After splitting his ways with Metallica, he went on form a band of his own called Megadeth, which sold millions of records. By usual standards, that band was a massive success.
The only problem for Mustaine was, Metallica sold more than Megadeth and became a bigger commercial hit. He had set himself a goal of selling more records than the band that fired him. As a result, irrespective of his stardom and success, he never experienced contentment.
3. Your real goals
These are the goals you genuinely want to achieve and give you a sense of happiness. You resonate with such targets and feel energetic working on the tasks associated with them. Not only are you motivated by the result, but you also enjoy the journey.
These goals do not always start as your passion. Sometimes, you develop love only after you spend time on them. For example, many of the well-known authors did not begin their careers as writers. They wrote an article or two, enjoyed the process, and kept pursuing it. The same applies to other professions like sports, arts, and business.
You may not love your goal from the bottom of your heart when you begin. As far as you do not feel unhappy putting effort, you might find meaning in it. Passion can come after expertise too.
The wrong order of goal prioritization
Unfortunately, your real goals take the least priority in your daily schedule. If I had to order the time and energy you spend on each of these 3 categories, it would look like this:
The goals set by society dictate most of your life. You feel the need for a stable well paying job, a house to your name and a baby by middle age. I am not saying such goals are meaningless, but a vast majority of people make them their lifetime goals.
If you want to become a parent by 35, that’s a beautiful thought. The problem arises when couples decide to get married or have a kid not because they want to, but because everyone is expecting them to. The decisions you make must stem out of your conscious thought, not due to peer pressure.
The fancy goals you chase take up the next priority. Due to the glimmer of the results, you put in some effort into pursuing them. Such targets end up with one of the two outcomes:
- You give up halfway because you do not have a strong purpose to persist with the effort
- You achieve the goal, enjoy momentary pleasure and find another cool goal to target
Both the societal and fancy goals eat time off your schedule, leaving no time for your real goals. Even if you manage to spare an hour or two by the end of the day, you’re mentally and physically exhausted to work any further. You postpone tasks related to your real goals to the next day, week, or month.
How to make time for your real goals in 3 steps:
Step 1: Identify which category do your goals fall under:
The first step begins with awareness about your goals. Identifying which category do each of your goals belongs to isn’t easy. When you pursue a target for a long time, you start believing that it’s your own. Though there isn’t a foolproof method to segregate your goals into 3 buckets, these pointers might help.
Ask yourself a question
You have heard the well-known interview question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Usually, candidates fabricate an answer tailored to the interview in advance, which sounds good to hear but isn’t necessarily true. If you ask yourself the same question, your answer will be based on your wants or some of your fancy goals.
A better alternative is to ask yourself, “20 years later, when I look back, what should I have achieved to feel satisfied in life?” This prompts you to look at your goals from a deeper angle of happiness and contentment.
Rarely do people consider driving a Mercedes or living in a luxurious house as an accomplishment 2 decades later. The real answer boils down to the true inner self, and you will hear your conscience providing answers such as “Becoming a well-known actor”, “Running a successful technology business”, “Having traveled over 50+ countries.”
Ask yourself why are you chasing a goal:
When you ask yourself the reason behind a goal you’re after, you will gain some insight into which category it falls under.
- If you have a strong reason apart from the result, it’s among your real goals
- If your reason is the result alone, it might be a fancy goal
- If your reason is generic or unclear, it is most likely a societal goal
Step 2: List down where you spend your time on
Mentally go through your day and note down all the tasks you spend your time on with the corresponding duration. If you want to notch it up further, you can track your time in 15 min slots for a couple of days to get the real answer.
Total up the time spent in each category of your goals. Look at figures carefully and ask yourself some questions like:
- Am I spending all my time on societal and fancy goals?
- Am I working enough on my real goals?
- If I had to drop one fancy/societal goal for my true goal, which one would it be?
- Can I stop some of the tasks I perform for fancy/societal goals?
- Is there a way to spend more time on my true goals?
Step 3: Re-arrange your priorities based on reality
No one can tell you the right amount of time to spend on each category. Your circumstances and responsibilities can demand more time on your societal goals. You cannot ignore them entirely either. Only you can determine what the right amount of time to spend on those goals is.
But, if you’re spending very little time on your actual goals, you will have to make some adjustments to your schedule. You can free up a portion of the time you spend on fancy goals to make room for your real goals. Now that doesn’t mean you have to forget all your cool goals. You can keep them as optional, which you will aim for if you have the time, energy, and money. Besides, those goals can serve as a much-needed break when you’re exhausted.
If you’re unsure whether you should work towards a cool goal you have, ask yourself:
- What am I achieving by targeting that goal?
- Do I need to work on it now, or can it wait?
If you’re not finding enough time to work on your real goals, look for an opportunity to postpone or drop a fancy goal.
We tend to look at all our goals as one list of things to accomplish. When you fail to separate the meaningful goals from the rest, you lose track of how you’re spending your time and the progress you’re making. The less attention you pay, the more your real goals get sidelined.
The first step towards achieving your dream goals is identifying them and providing special attention. By doing so, you will keep taking baby steps towards the target while enjoying the journey. If you treat your real goals like all the others, you reduce your chances of accomplishing them because time is a limited commodity.
Your day only has 24 hours. Spend as many of them as possible on the goals you care the most about.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.