“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu.

Setting goals used to be one of my favorite things to do.

From sticking a piece of paper with all my goals on the ceiling of my room (so it would be the first thing I saw when I woke up) to planning my entire day out on Outlook, I tried to have my entire life organized and disciplined.

I was always determined to follow through on my goals and achieve them no matter what. The problem was that I was never happy even after achieving my goals. I just got greedy and soon, there were a lot more goals in my life and too many things to do every day. Eventually, I hit the point when life stopped being fun and I got burnt out from the stress.

In hindsight, that was a turning point in my life. It has been close to an year since I completely stopped setting goals. And I can definitely say that I am happier and am as productive as I was before, if not more. If you think you’re in the same boat, see if you can spot any of these 7 warning signs your goals may actually be preventing your best from coming out:

1. You are a perfectionist.

You plan everything to the last second. And when things don’t workout exactly as planned, you get upset.

Why it’s bad

Though planning ahead is a great idea, being too attached to things working out exactly the way you planned is just setting yourself up for failure. The thing with real life is that things never work out perfectly. This is just something we all have to accept.

The solution

These days I plan ahead but take care to not rely on my plans too much. I always improvise on my plan based on any situation that comes up.

2. You are missing out on your social life.

You really want to achieve your goals no matter what, and therefore maintaining your relationships with your friends and family is not a priority. You tell yourself that you will do this once you have achieved your goal.

Why it’s bad

It’s true that sometimes you have to sacrifice your social life when you want to achieve something. However, completely abandoning your social life only makes you less happy and therefore less productive.

The Solution

This doesn’t mean that you always have to be there for all your friends. It doesn’t mean you have to show up at every friend’s birthday party. There is usually a small group of people who you really care about and vice versa. Make sure you spend time with them on a regular basis.

3. Working on your goal doesn’t make you smile anymore.

You do your work only because your to-do list says you should. You lack genuine motivation and have stopped getting satisfaction from your work.

Why it’s bad

When the things you do are actually because you want to satisfy the deadline given by a goal you created and not because you actually love doing it, you are no longer having fun.

The Solution

For a week or so, stop doing everything you are doing. For a day or two, you will probably spend the entire day watching movies or other unproductive things you think you love. But if you wait long enough, you will start doing productive things that you genuinely want to do.

4. Once you achieve your goal, you don’t genuinely feel satisfied.

When you complete your objective, your reaction is to set new goals. You don’t feel genuine happiness even though you have achieved something really great.

Why it’s bad

That’s a very stressful and toxic way to react. Being ambitious is okay, but being greedy isn’t.

The Solution

Ideally in a no-goals lifestyle, you feel satisfaction every day from doing the work you love and not because you have achieved anything. So, regardless of whether you achieve your objective, you feel happy because you’re working hard at what you love doing.

5. Nothing stands in the way of your goal, not even yourself.

It’s maybe not as dramatic as it sounds, but you stop taking care of yourself because that’s not helping you towards your goal. And by taking care of yourself, I don’t mean just dressing up well: I mean giving yourself a break every now and then, to sleep properly, to eat healthfully, etc.

Why it’s bad

In order to function at your best, you need to take care of your physical, mental and emotional needs.

The Solution

Always listen to yourself and make sure that you make time to destress and relax every once in a while. You can save the world after you’ve first taken care of yourself.

6. You constantly fantasize about how great things are going to be one day.

Everything you do is for the future. You push everything else that’s not helping you towards your goal including things you’ve always loved to the future.

Why it’s bad

The truth is that this day never comes. Trust me, I’ve been in this boat. Something’s always different from the way you imagined it. You are so blinded by working towards your goal that you don’t see other golden opportunities that come your way.

The Solution

If you feel a genuine need to do something, you don’t push it to the future. You do it right now. Because that’s your soul, or your inner voice telling you what you really should be doing right now. And like the Lao Tzu quote at the top, resisting this only creates sorrow.

If you are currently exhibiting any of the warning signs I listed above, I suggest you move on to a no-goals lifestyle and start having fun doing things rather than achieving things.

Goal Science - The Science of Setting Goals

Featured photo credit: Anne Gutermuth via flickr.com

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