“A man’s wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.” -James Allen
How do you know if you’re working towards the wrong goal?
If the goal isn’t aligned with your core values and beliefs.
In his autobiography, Anthony Bourdain described how he was able to become a head chef very early in his career, far earlier than the rest of his colleagues. By his early 20’s, his ambition led him to be in charge of an entire veteran kitchen staff at one of the highest-rated restaurants in the city.
But he was miserable. He admitted he had been chasing the money, not actually learning how to be a great chef. After years of this, he heard that a colleague had just earned another Michelin star, the highest award a chef can receive. While Bourdain looked good on paper, he was unhappy, jealous, and burnt out.
“How come I’m not a 3-star chef? Why don’t I have 4 sommeliers?” he wrote. “Well, there are lots of reasons, but one reason is that I went for the money. The first chef’s job that came along I grabbed. And the one after that and the one after that. I was unwilling to take a step back and maybe learn a thing or two.”
Bourdain realigned his goals. He recognized that he had been chasing the wrong goals — money, prestige, and fame. He started over, and began learning under some of the most talented chefs in the world.
He eventually went on to become one of the most famous and recognized chefs in the world, starring in several TV shows and connecting cultures through food and drink.
It’s hard to know what the right direction is. But when you take a sober, honest look, you always know when you’re going in the wrong direction.
“What kills a soul? Exhaustion, secret-keeping, image management. And what brings a soul back from the dead? Honesty, connection, grace.” -Shauna Niequist
The Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned From Achieving Several Big Goals
I’ve achieved some huge goals recently.
- I signed my first book deal and wrote my first traditionally-published book.
- I celebrated my first anniversary of being self-employed.
- Start a profitable coaching business.
- Gotten published in an international magazine.
- Self-published a book on writing and blogging strategy.
I’ve also been able to consistently wake up at 5:00AM, exercise 3 to 4 times/week, and lose my big beer belly.
I’ve learned an important lesson from achieving these big goals:
The goal is 10x harder if it’s the wrong goal.
Have you had trouble with your goals?
Are you constantly procrastinating?
Do you keep getting distracted and unfocused?
Then you probably have the wrong goal.
“Nothing creates more stress than when our actions and behaviors aren’t congruent with our values.” -Darren Hardy
Most People Are Working Towards the Wrong Goal
The sad truth is, most people are on the wrong track right now.
They’re focusing on the competition — being better than their coworkers, colleagues, even their family and friends. Most people spend incredible amounts of energy maintaining their perfect facade on social media.
But winners don’t focus on the competition. They focus solely on the right goal, and what they can do today to get there.
For a long time, I wanted to be a “New York Times best-selling author”. I wanted to be on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. I wanted to have a million dollars.
Frankly, to have any of those things would be awesome.
But I’m not working for them anymore. I stopped focusing on the outcome, and started focusing entirely on the process.
Since then, I’ve seen huge results: in my career, relationships, health, and momentum. I have far more energy to pour into my quality and productivity that was being wasted worrying about the competition, and outcomes I can’t control.
Most people are working towards the wrong goal, and they don’t even realize it.
Best-selling author and former editor of SUCCESS Magazine Darren Hardy once wrote:
“Most people drift through life without devoting much conscious energy to figuring out specifically what they want and what they need to do to get themselves there.”
Today, choose to be someone who spends more time discovering your true goals — the achievements that will align with your values and beliefs — instead of mindless entertainment and distraction.
How to Get Back on Track With the Right Goals
“A false path in life is generally something we are attracted to for the wrong reasons — money, fame, attention, and so on — because the field we choose does not correspond with our deepest inclinations, we rarely find the fulfillment that we crave.” -Robert Greene
Realizing you’ve been working hard for a long time for the wrong goal is a terrible feeling.
There’s an old proverb that goes, “The best time plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” You may have already spent a long time working for the wrong goal and wrong money.
That’s OK. Plant your tree today, and move forward.
Years ago in my old corporate job, I had an opportunity for a promotion. I spent months preparing, raising my numbers, getting ready for the interview.
The day finally arrived. I killed the interview. I had excellent numbers. I was young, ambitious, and hungry — what else could they want??
Then my boss told me they were giving the promotion to my coworker. He was older and had more experience.
I remember going on a walk right after I heard the news. I thought I was going to be angry and upset, but during that walk, I realized — I had never really wanted the job in the first place! My real dream was to be a writer and travel the world with my wife. 6 months later, I quit my job and moved to South Korea with my wife to teach English.
How do you get back on track with your real goals?
It’s hard to see sometimes, especially in the busyness of life.
You must choose to be someone who doesn’t mindlessly drift through life. It’s hard to take time to self-reflect and figure out what you really want.
Here’s a 20-minute exercise that will help give you clarity on your deepest desires. But the clarity I have has been a simple result of taking action and spending time visualizing my future.
You may not know what you want, but you probably know many of the things you don’t want.
The Goal of Life Isn’t to Drink Mojitos on a Beach All Day
“The goal of life is not to relax on the beach, sipping mojitos all day. The purpose is to find something you love that adds value to the world.” -Ben Foley
After a year of being self-employed, I’ve had some really great financial months (and lots of not-great ones). But I learned a surprising lesson: I hated being idle and not doing anything all day.
That’s the dream, right? Work hard enough for long enough that you never have to work again.
But it’s not true. The boredom, the restlessness, the mental nervousness…this is not the goal. In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr spent years studying energy output. They discovered it takes about as much energy to do nothing as it takes to work hard towards a goal. Sitting on the couch all day is exhausting!
These vacations are great over time. But as American author Frank Crane wrote many years ago, “Nothing in all this world I have found is so good as work.” Doing the work is what reveals meaning and provides deeper fulfillment than lounging on a beach all day ever could.
You were meant to help people with your gifts.
“People are unhappy in large part because they are confused about what is valuable.” -William Irvine
Saying “no” to the wrong goals and wrong money is really hard.
Money, fame, and attention are always nagging at you. It’s tempting to take the shiny, popular road — even if you know deep down it’s the wrong one.
When your life is defined by freedom and your actions align with your values, every part of your life benefits. An increase in one area is an increase in all areas. Your health, relationships, career, spirituality, and every other area will improve.
But the opposite is also true. You can’t excel in one area of your life while you’re doing wrong in another area. Drag one area down, and the whole system suffers.
Take time to find out what’s truly valuable to you.
Say no to the wrong money.
Life isn’t about never working again — it’s about consistently doing work that matters, and helps others.
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