Setting goals is important in life as the right goals can provide motivation and encouragement. They can help you pick yourself up from the floor whenever something goes wrong, they provide a strong feeling of purpose and meaning to your life, and they help keep you focused. But only when we set the "right" kind of goals. A common problem I see is that people set the wrong kind of goals or use the wrong kind of motivation for chasing their goals. For example some people will say "I don't want to be poor" instead of saying "I want to be rich". It is a subtle but profound difference. The latter is a positive focus on something they want to achieve and the former is a negative focus on something they want to avoid.
The Driving Difference
Being driven by your desires, your goals and your dreams is being proactive. This attitude is ultimately positive as you are focussed on the end-goal you are chasing and what you need to get there. And because the brain always finds information that supports it's current focus it will begin finding opportunities that can progress you towards your goal. Very handy.
But being driven by what you don’t want is just being driven by fear. This is the negative and reactive approach to life. Instead of living with an abundance-attitude you live with a negative fear-based attitude.
This attitude means you are always running away. When you encounter a situation you don’t like you just react by running away from it. There is no planning, there is no alignment of your actions to your goals, and there is no positive outcome. It is a purely reactive state. When you don’t like something you blindly jump in any direction that will take you away from it.
In these situations, when you are driven by what you do not want, you essentially live your life in a random method. You do not control, or even look toward, the location in which you are trying to travel. Instead, you spend all your time looking backward at what you are trying to get away from. And by their very nature, the random “jumps” that you make to run away from your fears will not take you towards your goal. They just focus on taking you to anywhere else and not actually toward anything specific. And sometimes this means that you end up in a worse position than what you started in.
But when you are proactive, when you drive your decisions by looking toward your goal(s) then life becomes a whole lot easier. It becomes filled with opportunities and fun. It becomes joyous - an adventure towards your destiny and a chance to fulfil your dreams. But to master this proactive and positive attitude you need to develop awareness and discipline.
Goal-Awareness and Discipline
Awareness is required because you need to know and understand all your goals before you make a decision. Often in life opportunities appear suddenly, without notice and they require quick decisions to capitalise on them. If you are not ready and pre-armed with the awareness of what your goals actually are then you will miss out on these opportunities. You will not have enough information to make the right decision in the heat of the moment.
But if you actually know what you want BEFORE these opportunities are presented then you become more able to make flexible and adaptable decisions on the fly. You become ready to take advantage of whatever situation may arise and thus ensure that you are always moving towards your end goal.
When presented with a bad situation, the self-awareness of knowing your goals allows you to assess all your options and make a conscious and proactive decision on which step to take. Your decision will be based not only on which step will take you away from the current bad situation but, more importantly, which step will take you in a direction that is towards your goals. This is the difference between being reactive and being proactive.
It is important to note that not every step along the way toward your goals will be linear. Not every step will occur in a straight line. Sometimes a step may be required that feels like it actually moves you away from your goal in the short-term but it will provide better opportunity to achieve your goal later. Being able to identify these moments is a skill which only comes through knowing your own goals and drivers.
If you are not aware of your goals, or do not keep them in the forefront of your mind, then you slip into reactive mode. You will never have the foresight of being able to make a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain. You will never see the possible benefits of a short-term backwards (or sideways) step even if it really is the best long-term option for you. The result? When you reach the decision point for that short-term sacrifice you will only see it as a negative and instead of being proactive you will slip right back into the reactive mindset. You will panic and just “jump” away again in any random direction, losing all possible long-term benefits from your original action. This is why you always need to be aware of, and driven by, your goals.
The final thing to remember about being goal-driven is that your goals are allowed to change as you progress along your path. In fact you should expect that your goals will change several times before you reach them. Not many people actually know exactly what they want at the start of their journey.
Most people will not get their goals completely right the first time. You will make the best guess at the time, based on your current experience and knowledge, but as you start making progress you will learn more about yourself and your goals. This will cause your goals to shift, sometimes drastically, and I’m telling you that this is OK. In fact it is better than OK – it is perfect. Your goals are supposed to shift.
It is only through living a dedicated, purposeful and goal-driven life that you will begin to discover what it is you truly want. Initially you can start with a goal or a dream – something you think you want – but as you start working towards it you will realise that achieving it will not actually make you happy and that something else will. But, without the drive that came through chasing that initial goal you would never have discovered what you actually want.
The initial goal starts you on the path but rarely will it be the actual endpoint so do not get hung up on it. If you feel an urge to change direction then do not ignore that. Do not be afraid to regularly change your goals but just make sure you always have at least one goal that you are working towards to keep you motivated.
Now it is over to you. Are you goal driven or avoidance driven? Are you running towards your goals or just running away from your fears?