Pursuing your goals with less struggle
Updated: May 14, 2019
I had a cool session this week with a client who has risen to the upper tier of her profession. While she’s been content with her work the past couple of years, she recently felt inspired to reach the most elite level of her field in 2019. As we spoke, she mentioned the extreme physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion she’s felt in pursuing this new goal. To her (and let’s face it, this is the dominant model in society), success is only achieved through copious amounts of action and effort. She felt the only way to get her business to where she wanted was to work 10 times harder than already is. But her extreme exhaustion and burnout got her questioning if perhaps there was a better way. When I offered that in my experience, it was certainly possible to thrive without running herself into the ground, she was all ears.
I saw nothing wrong with her goal, and said if she felt moved to pursue it, why not go for it? But I also shared two things I heard from her that I thought were making her pursuit a little more strenuous than it needed to be:
1. She was putting a lot “on” achieving the goal.
There are things we pursue in life because we feel moved to, they’d be really cool to do, or they make us gasp, grin, or giggle. And then there are things we pursue “so that…”. There’s an underlying motivation of “I’ll be happy/worthy/okay/successful/have proven myself when…” In other words, the goal is a means to an end; rather than chasing the result, we’re actually chasing a feeling or identity, like who we think we’ll be or how we think we’ll feel when we’ve accomplished our goal. We all innocently do this sometimes because the world tells us that qualities like happiness, joy, worthiness, and wellbeing are found or lost “out there”.
While my client’s dream for her business had definite shades of “gasp, grin, or giggle”, there was a distinct feeling that she was looking to the goal to give her validation. I think it’s common for our goals to have bits of both sometimes. In my experience though, getting clean and clear about the space we’re coming from when pursuing them makes all the difference between burnout and aliveness.
We humans do better at everything when we have nothing “on” a result. Living more often from that space is simpler once we see there truly is nothing at stake. One of the biggest insights I’ve had into the human experience is that we are all walking around with “okayness” built into us. Our wellbeing is a pre-existing condition; we came out of the womb bursting with worthiness and it will go with us all the way to the grave. And while our experience of life might wildly fluctuate, our innate wellbeing is a constant – it’s not defined, given, or taken away by what happens to us or what we do or don’t achieve.
Seeing that who we are is never riding on an outcome fully unleashes us to explore our passions and enjoy the journey. We create in the world because we think creating is cool rather than looking to achievement to fix or complete us. As a result, we’re more productive without feeling like we’re really “working”, and we have much more fun.
2. She thought achieving her goal was all on her.
After I said that, my client exclaimed, “Well, who else is it up to then?!” Pretty fair question, I thought! I replied that in today’s “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!” culture, we think answers, solutions, and action steps are only found by thinking harder and leaning on our intellect. But we forget that we are all built with a deeper, innate wisdom – a responsive, in-the-moment intelligence that shows up when we need it. It’s that voice that tells you when to turn left, puts words in our mouth when it’s time to speak up, gives us the next line of text or music just in time, or reminds you where you left your keys once you give up trying so hard to remember where they are yourself. It’s that deeper knowing that just knows when something is a clear “yes” or “no”. And it’s the resourcefulness that helps us rise to the occasion and have everything we need, when we need it.
A few weeks ago, I was right in my client’s shoes. I was freaking out and stressed about growing my coaching business in 2019. I’d love to reach more individuals and organizations this year, but didn’t know how to accomplish that beyond what I was already doing. I felt fried from thinking so hard about it (there’s a clue there!) when it suddenly occurred to me that my stress was coming entirely from the fact that I thought I needed to find the answers and that I needed to work it all out on my own. An image came to mind of me sitting on a bicycle, pedaling as hard and fast as I could, unaware that the bicycle was equipped with a built-in rocket engine! When I remembered that we have an inner guidance system that is much wiser than the best ideas we can come up in our head, I literally felt pounds of stress and pressure fall away from me. Not long after, several new possibilities for my business came to mind, and some next steps I hadn’t seen before became obvious.
Certainly, I'm not saying we can achieve our goals without putting in the hours. But when we allow our intuition to do the heavy lifting for us, we'll know what to do and have what we need, when we need it. We'll take more inspired action, do more impactful work, be more efficient with our time and energy, and feel more like we’re gliding instead of trudging towards our destination.
If you feel like you’re treading water with your goals, ask yourself, “Why do I want this? Do I think it would be cool, or do I think I need it to be okay?” And see if it looks like you have to power the bike yourself, and consider letting the rocket engine have a go at your goals. When we play the game of life with nothing “on” it and rely on our gut, it becomes more reliable in showing up when we need it, and the possibilities are endless.
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