In life, we are taught that having goals is a good thing that we should set them and we should and ought to aspire to them.
But have you ever considered the possibility that even doing such a thing as setting a goal is actually placing a limit on who and how you can be?
What happens when you get the goal?
How do you feel then?
And if you don’t meet the goal, then what happens to you, how to you feel?
If you’re like me, probably disappointed, and perhaps devastated. Sometimes we react in response to these feelings with either withdrawal or ramping it up and acting out and this can lead to uncaring behaviour which brings further harm to our bodies and our lives.
Have you ever considered the possibility that once you set a goal that it comes with a whole palaver of how you achieve that goal, when you achieve it and whether or not you achieve it?
Have you ever considered the thought that in the depths of your body there is a unique psychology that actually sets up a goal as something that is a limit, around which you base your entire life?
Thus, have you considered the possibility that by setting yourself a goal or a mile line or a timeline that you have set yourself up to fail? And that by setting yourself up to fail the true tragedy is that you don’t reveal who you are in full or what you are capable of doing?
We don’t think of this usually in society – but, what if there was far more for you and to you than that goal which you set? And that by setting that goal you have limited all that you can and will be?
Or, what if that goal you set was not realistically possible for you? eg “Losing 10kg”.
(as an aside: who btw ever loses that mythical and ever elusive 10kg ?! But instead remains chasing that goal for their whole life, much like the pot of gold under the rainbow….!!)
Either way, you have set yourself up to fail, either to achieve ‘the goal’ in a certain timeframe or not, and either way, there has been a limitation, on your well-being.
We are taught in life that setting goals is heathy, however, in life I can share that I have found that setting goals has been a deep source of misery, discontentment and thus low level of well-being. Even when I have ‘achieved’ goals.
When I set myself goals, I am already effectively saying that “I am not happy where I am”. It already comes from a lack of appreciation of who I am and what I am doing and where I am at in life. Thus I need to do something to change me, to make me better, to make me something worthwhile. I thus already go into a goal feeling less, needing that goal to feel good. It begins with a tension. And then if I don’t achieve a goal or it slips and slides around I am frustrated and disappointed because it is something that I want to achieve, and in fact need to achieve to make me feel good, which does not leave me feeling well at all!! In fact, its a source of stress, which as we know, is bad for our health and well-being.
And usually when we set goals, we want to achieve them within a certain timeframe. We are very specific about when we want these things to happen and in fact, one could say that we get attached to these things.
And how do we feel when we are attached to things?
We can get consumed by them, they can take over our whole lives, we can become excessively focussed on them to the extent that we neglect certain areas of our lives.
We can forget to self-care, in many if not all areas of our lives: in our relationships, our finances, our exercise and body care. We can forget to take care and attention to our sleep, and we may we sleep badly because we are ruminating and stressing about the fact that we haven’t achieved goals or are thinking about how to achieve them as quickly as possible. And lets not forget comfort eating…!
There is no well-being in any of that.
There is only stress and distress, and perhaps a moment of relief, a transient high if and when we ‘achieve’ a goal to then be followed by the same pattern of stress and ‘lows’ again while we search for and try and achieve another goal.
Goals are not part of well-being and well-being goals will paradoxically interfere with your well-being!
If you set yourself a goal of having a certain level of well-being, you have already capped how far you can go with your well-being,
Once you have set a cap you already get in the way of getting there, because our whole life is fixed on reaching a cap.
You have already limited yourself even if you set yourself the highest possible goal.
Why not instead of setting goals, trust the path of self-care.
Pay attention to each area of our lives, deepening care and attention to detail, deepening the quality that we bring to each day and each part of our live and let our lives unfold from there?
If you can see the benefits that come from making even a few small changes in self-care is it not guaranteed that your future will be even more amazing if you continue to deepen your self-care?
What if we simply let it all go and let it all unfold?
Now this would be a completely different way of thinking.
True well-being is a consistent feeling on a daily basis. It is not something that is part of highs or lows, which you achieve when you set goals – the high when you achieve it, followed by the low after you achieve, it, or the ongoing low when you don’t achieve it.
True well-being is being true to yourself on the inside.
Goal setting is setting yourself up for misery, discontent and a lack of settlement in the body. Neither of which are part of well-being.
Dr Maxine Szramka (MBBS Hons 1, B Med Sc, FRACP) is a physician based in Sydney who works full time in private practice in Rheumatology. She runs her own business, is a university lecturer, and is the founder and director of a research council. She is a sought after educator in health care, both for patients, peers and students, serves on the editorial board of an international peer reviewed journal and is on the peer review panel for Rheumatology for another international medical journal. She has had a vast experience in different fields of medicine before specialising in Rheumatology and her interests and experience in life and medicine are diverse.
Maxine is passionate about and an advocate for the health and well-being of the medical profession. Equally passionate about education, equity, equality and empowerment, with a deep care for all people, here Dr Maxine writes on health, well-being, medicine, science and society. Stay tuned for her healthy lifestyle tips!