It shouldn’t be that hard . . . to accomplish everything — or maybe just something — on my big list of things to accomplish, then take a long and meaningful moment to reflect and feel completely proud before picking up and moving on to tackle whatever’s next.
I’m not quite sure when it happened, but I’ve begun to realize that I’m no longer a healthy goal-setter. What once was a perfectly balanced exchange of setting goals and accomplishing them has somehow mutated into a feverish competition with my past self.
Blame it on the ease of comparison with things like ever-refreshing Instagram feeds and LinkedIn job updates. Or the fact that these days, nothing seems quite sacred or worthy enough to warrant celebration — unless of course you’ve hit thousands of followers on social media or are the new Content Manager at everyone’s favorite design magazine.
Personal goals, though? Nah. Who cares about those?
I’ve always been ambitious. And similar to many, most of my professional life has been driven by the aspirations I have for myself. But as of late I spend little-to-no time delighting in my successes. Instead, I turn, neglecting my well-deserved moment of self-praise, and get to work on the next item on a never-ending list of personal objectives.
That’s how you stay motivated and feel the most successful, right? Wrong.
The constant turnaround is exhausting. And it leaves me feeling like I really haven’t accomplished anything worthy to begin with.
I was inspired to write about this topic after reading an interview on The Everygirl featuring Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca. In it, she hit on a version of this lack of satisfaction in one’s own accomplishments, confessing:
“Levelling up in my career has been awesome, but it is shocking that you can achieve everything on your five-year plan list and still be distressingly self-doubting.”
Girl, I feel you. Even though I am nowhere near the level of success or notoriety you’ve achieved, in my own little way I feel you!
I just did this huge thing I’ve been dreaming of doing for years. A thing, no less, at the tippy-top of my list of things to do. I moved more than halfway across the country. And though I was in my right mind to think life was suddenly going to be radically different, when the initial dust settled, it really wasn’t. And instead of taking the unexpected quietness as a sign from the universe that I made the right decision, or as an opportunity to slow down for just a second and bask in what I had finally done, I took it as permission to shift my focus toward some other objective.
. . . . . . . wait, WHAT?! I’ve been waiting and wishing and dreaming for YEARS about this move. And that’s it? On to the next thing!? Just like that?
That’s ridiculous. I know that now. And I’ve since taken the time to reflect and write about it in a lengthy two-part post (read Pt. 1 and Pt. 2). But that reflection didn’t come immediately. It came after weeks of wracking my brain for something new to accomplish — something bigger and greater than moving — then feeling aimless and desperate when I walked away from that search empty-handed.
After a little soul searching, I identified exactly where I went wrong on this path to self-praise, and how to adjust my mindset moving forward.
1. Recognize what distinguishes a long-term goal from a short-term goal, and grasp what each calls for
There are very distinct reasons that a goal would be categorized as long-term versus short-term. The scale of that goal, the effort to reach it, the investment (both time and money) it might require — all things to consider, among many others too. It’s a safe assumption that the greater each of these things, the more a goal would err on the side of long-term.
I have got to learn to work toward these different types of goals with the knowledge that they will require different undertakings.
The promotion I received last December (read that post here) was a goal that took a great deal of commitment and patience. The move to Nashville was also one that required a considerable amount of time, emotion, money, and effort. I didn’t go into either of these ventures lightly. I knew that if they truly meant something to me, they’d be worth working toward.
On the other end of the spectrum, the trip to Iceland, Ireland, and Portugal I took last summer with one of my dearest friends (read those posts here, here, and here) required both time and money, but on a much more manageable and temporary scale. From the time we decided to plan the trip to when we actually embarked on said trip, I simply had to accrue paid time off at work and save up money.
The goals presented here are vastly different, so it makes sense that they called for different things. Which brings us to #2.
2. Understand that because different types of goals require different amounts of effort to reach, they will no doubt render different reactions once you’ve reached them
My biggest #fail likely falls at this step in the “How-To Guide of Slowing Down and Being Proud of Yourself.”
I have a history of wrongly assigning the same amount of satisfaction to long- and short-term goals . . . my most recent episode being the move to Nashville. Because of this, I’ve failed to recognize the weight of some of my most important milestones. I am quick to pass the exciting, much-deserved stage of really feeling good about myself. And in doing so, I’ve missed out on plenty of opportunities to be proud.
Enter the fits of self-doubt that Lauren Duca mentioned above in her interview with The Everygirl.
Because, at first, I didn’t take the time to recognize how noteworthy it was that I had achieved some type of objective, I never gave myself the opportunity to verify that I was on the right track. Reflection didn’t exist on any level (both with my short- and long-term goals), so validation didn’t exist either.
But once I finally understood the significance of what I’d done, I was able to slow down a bit, reflect on everything, and locate where the uncertainty I may have felt stemmed from. Enter #3.
3. At all costs, avoid comparison
You are you. You are not your best friend. Or Cathy from the Marketing Department. You, unfortunately, are not Beyonce, either. And even more, you are not the you of your past. At present, you exist wholly as you in the truest sense of the word.
As soon as I was able to recognize this, I started to hone in and focus on what was actually in my lane. I could at last take control of what my life entailed, and steer in a direction that made sense to me. And if I wanted to change course, that was okay because at least I knew I was deciding not based on my best friend, or Cathy, or Beyonce, or the me of my past, for that matter. It was based on where I was at that exact moment.
And then, I could begin the process over again, distinguishing the short- and long-term goals I would reach along the road I had decided to take.
There are so many worthy reasons to celebrate this life. And not all of them revolve around the number of followers you have, or that you were just named the Content Manager at your favorite design magazine. Or maybe they do.
Just be sure to slow down once you’ve reached that milestone, and take a long moment to truly be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
Because I know it probably wasn’t easy. And it warrants a hell of a lot more than a passing glance.