My work has taken me in a direction where I've been spending quite a bit of time studying the area of human happiness and well being, and what makes us content in our lives.
I've become convinced that many of us are spending way too much time, energy and resources chasing goals that we don't even want.
Seeking the Wrong Prize
To understand this dilemma, we need to understand what a goal really is. Many of us would define a 'goal' as a tangible thing. A car, a trip, a promotion, pounds lost, money made.
When in fact, a goal is really an unrequited feeling. We have a certain amount of discomfort with our current situation and we want to change it. We think that attaining that 'thing' will fix the discomfort and we'll feel better, or at least be more comfortable.
It's Never the 'Thing'
Let me explain more clearly by giving you an example. As a mother of young children, you may tell me that you want a new car. After a few questions, I find out that what you're really concerned about is feeling safe when you're driving your young daughters around. So what you're really after is not a new car but a 'feeling of safety', a 'sense of safety'.
After more examination, it turns out that the easiest, most efficient solution to your problem is a new set of tires for your existing car and more time at the park with your daughters, because they're your priority. You've just saved yourself the expense, time and trouble of purchasing a new car, and gotten what you really wanted, a greater sense of safety and more time with your children.
Will You Love Me?
Another example would be a man who is attracted to a co-worker, but feels convinced she won't be interested in him until he loses 25 pounds. The goal is set to lose 25 pounds. He goes on a diet and exercise program, loses the weight, asks her out and they develop a warm and loving relationship.
Once in the relationship, he then finds out that the weight was irrelevant, and that she would have been interested in him 25 pounds ago.
Had he been clear about his goal to be in a loving relationship, he could have experienced that pleasure, had that need met and gotten healthy at the same time.
What Do You Want to Feel?
It's easy to see it in others, but how do we apply this to our own lives? By taking the time to look underneath the surface and understand what need we're trying to fill with our choices. When you set a goal for yourself, examine your motive and find out what emotions are driving that desire.
If it's an expensive new car, are you really looking for reassurance of your success, a glimpse of your youth, or does that 5-speed manual stick make you feel more powerful? Can you address those needs in a more effective and efficient way? After all, that's a big dent in your wallet to shore up some nagging emotional issues.
Do you really want to lose 10 pounds at the gym, or do you want to be more active and get outside in the fresh air more? Perhaps joining a local softball team or hiking group will meet your needs more fully.
Spending time with yourself to really uncover the feelings you're having behind the 'thing seeking' will get you where you want to be quicker.
A Nation of Thing Seekers
Why we've become a nation of 'thing seekers' is a big discussion, one that involves Madison Avenue, human nature and a cadre of other forces, some known, some still lurking in the shadows. We tend to grab for something the minute discomfort hits, rather that taking a look at the feeling and examining why we're experiencing it.
Unfortunately, like a bunch of junkies, our habit keeps getting more expensive to maintain. What it takes to squelch our discomfort becomes more expensive and harder to grab.
The next time you set a goal, plan a purchase, or decide on a path that will change your course in life, take a moment to examine your motives. Will this change create more peace, serenity and a greater connection to self in your life? Or are you just looking to fill a hole where you wish comfort lived?
Kimberly Montgomery is the creator of the Choices Notebook and blogger at FiftyJewels.com, where she encourages people to use their powers for good. Hop on over there to grab your FREE copy of the Choices Notebook Mini Kit.