Have You Chosen the Wrong Life-Goal?

by Roger Reid

This one sounds like a no-brainer—you’d think our internal compass would set off alarm bells and red flags from the moment we begin to consider it. But a surprising number of people are addicted to a fantasy, believing in a future that is hopelessly unattainable.

These are the folks who are sure they’re going to invent the next Pet Rock or Beanie Baby, and are just waiting for inspiration to strike. Maybe they’ve been planning to write the next run-away best seller, but haven’t completed a single chapter in years. Or they imagine themselves the CEO of a Fortune 500 Hundred company but haven’t risen above the entry level position they were hired at twenty years ago.

And so they wait—for conditions to be just right, or circumstances to change, or for fate to magically transport them to the life they were “supposed” to live.

Ask the typical “Dreamer” why they continue to believe in the probability of achieving life-changing success without having taken the first step toward its attainment, and you’ll likely hear something like this:

“I can’t turn back now. I’ve invested too much time thinking about it. I’ve been getting myself “mentally ready” for the last twenty years. And if I give up now, I’d lose the one thing in my life that keeps me going, because someday, when I’m financially able to start my own business, or finish my book, or get my professional license, then I’ll . . .”

full moon in a starry sky

This is when self-talk turns into self-lies—misrepresenting the truth because it hides the reality of an unrewarding life. Holding on to the idea that a new and better life is waiting in some vague future that is years—or even decades—away is the worst kind of self-sabotage. It not only wastes valuable time on nothing more than wishful thinking, it prevents the assessment of more realistic opportunities, especially those with a realistic probability of success.

Those who suffer the most disappointment – especially in their later years – are those who believe their pie-in-the-sky fantasy is actually bankable, and so they decide to “coast” in their current career or occupation, thinking it of little importance compared to their imagined future. Unmotivated to contribute beyond the required minimum, they seldom do the kind of outstanding work that could result in promotion and advancement.

Ready to change directions? It’s never too late. The first step is to be realistic about what you want out of life, then determine how you’ll need to modify the way you spend your time to bring about the change you desire.

Separate fantasy from reality. Is your dream really something you can do? How many others have been successful in comparison to the number of people who tried and failed? How do you and your resources compare—in the ways that will make a difference—to those who were successful? If you discover major differences, are they inflexible prerequisites, such as age or physical limitations, or are they biased preconceptions and prejudices you can overcome?

Give yourself permission to enjoy the process. Realizing your name may never become a household word, or your talents and abilities may never receive recognition from the mass market, can be incredibly freeing. Without the pressure to get it right, to become famous, or to pass the judgment of others, you give yourself permission to take risks. This means taking action because you want to, not because the result has to please others or meet some arbitrary standard. And here’s the irony: this difference in mindset has the power to turn a dream into reality.

Start Now. Use the following seven-step goal setting and achievement model made popular by Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP). Write your answers out to these questions and include any alternatives or thoughts that come to mind. Simply going through the exercise will help crystallize your goals and make them more tangible—and attainable.

  1. Describe exactly what you want to accomplish.
  2. Describe how you will know when you have accomplished it – what physical or emotional evidence will you experience to confirm your success?
  3. What resources do you need and which of them do you already have?
  4. What will you have to give up to accomplish your goal?
  5. How long will it take? Set a realistic deadline.
  6. When will you start?
  7. What’s the first step?

Regardless of your goal—transforming your occupation, a relationship, or some other aspect of your future—it’s vital to start now. Don’t let the seasons pass while you continue going through the same motions day after day, waiting on the sidelines, until you’re eventually left looking back on a life of regret and disappointment.