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Why is it that the excitement and satisfaction derived from goal achievement is long-term for some goals and fleeting from others? The answer lies within the nature of the goals.
Many people think of goals in terms of things to achieve, or more often, things to attain, such as a new car, a new house, a two-week vacation in Hawaii, a promotion at work, a bank account of a certain size, and so on. These are "tangible" goals whose achievement can be defined and tracked with numbers - the profit projection you must hit to earn the promotion or the amount of commission you must earn, and the amount of money you must put away each month in order to buy the house, take the vacation, etc.
Have you ever worked hard to reach a tangible goal - purchase a new car, for instance - only to find that the satisfaction of the purchase and the excitement about the new car wore off quickly once you took delivery? Chances are, the new car didn't fit into a larger life plan.
While tangible goals are worthwhile, it is the accomplishment of goals that reflect your core values and desires - your life plan - that provides the long- term sense of satisfaction.
How do life-plan goals differ from tangible goals?
Life-plan goals have to do with your personal growth, your relationships, your educational and career aspirations, your health, etc. Maybe you want to get married or live in a particular part of the country. Maybe you dream about traveling and going on an around-the-world trek or leaving the sales world behind to live in the country and raise sheep. Maybe you want to go back to school for a special degree program or learn to ice skate or speak French. Maybe you want to lose some weight and improve your health and fitness. Perhaps you want to develop a closer relationship with your family, church, or community.
If a tangible goal is not part of a larger life plan, you are likely to reach the goal and find yourself asking, "Is that all there is?" Buying a new house is another example. You might have been highly motivated to do whatever it took to close enough sales to earn the money for the down payment and closing costs. Each sale brought you closer to moving into your new home.
Once you bought the house and the excitement of moving in and doing some decorating wore off, what was left? Three hundred and sixty mortgage payments, insurance and property tax bills, utility bills, credit card payments for the new furniture, and the monthly bill from the lawn service that continually promises grass will eventually grow in the back yard. What happened to your motivation? Where's the excitement now?
Suppose, however, that buying a house was the first step in a long-term life plan. You want to get married, start a family, and maybe convert a corner of the basement into a woodshop so you can grow your woodworking hobby into a home-base d business. Then, you are likely to stay motivated and excited. Buying the house is the beginning of something bigger.
When you decide to get serious about goal setting, a good place to start is your life plan - a description of where you are and where you want to be in the various areas of you life such as career, family, health, education, and so on. It can form a framework for and impart greater meaning to your short-term and tangible goals.
Before you begin plotting your journey, however, you should examine your core values. You may discover that one of your core values conflicts with one or more of your other core values. For example, you may want to have your own business one day and "run the show" which will require working ten-hour days, six days a week. You may also want to have plenty of time to spend with your family. In that situation, stick with the goals that reflect your highest priority values. You can change or abandon goals that reflect low priority values and that conflict with goals that reflect higher priority values.
What are your core values? Have you identified them? Can you list them ... describe them? If not, perhaps it's time to give the topic some serious thought. Think about what is really important to you. What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish in you life? What do you want to be known for? To help get you started, here is a list of some values to consider. If they hold meaning for you, add them to your list.
Knowing what you value at your core and building your life plan around those values will add lasting meaning to the goals that become part of your plan. When you accomplish those goals, you won't be wondering, "Is that all there is?" but instead, you'll be energized by all there is.