Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Shoot for the stars and you'll reach the moon?
We all want to be successful. But asking yourself the big "why?" is clutch to actually getting there, to true success. Most people are influenced by a combination of societal expectation and the influence of our childhood upbringing at home. Deeply understanding what formed your value system will help you discover why you run after the things that you do. No, not just the reason you enjoy left overs in the fridge. I'm talking about those higher aspirations, wants and desires. But can our lofty goals sometimes be counterproductive?
Meet Jenny. She had a generally positive upbringing and although there were certainly bumps in the road and a few extraordinary challenges at home, her relationship with her parents was good. They are hard working people with a strong sense of values and raised her to be the same. They sent her to college and she went on to get a good paying job. By all measures they would consider her successful. She would probably say the same about her friends in similar situations, when looking from the outside.
Yet as we discussed her drive for success, it became clear that she continued a cycle of failure. She was consistently setting the bar so high that she would consistently fail and then feel bad about herself. That motivated her to set the bar even higher and the same thing would happen. She constantly set her goals beyond reach resulting in damage her self esteem. This can cause tremendous anxiety and make it difficult to confidently make decisions. But that's not all...it didn't stop there.
“As we discussed her drive for success, it became clear why she continued a cycle of failure. ”
When we look a little bit more deeply, we discover a highly motivated Jenny who is not happy with the success that she's achieved. She constantly feels the need to achieve more. We probed a bit more and discover she desires to be much more "with it," successful, respected and out in the world. When I probe further, she reveals that she deeply resents her parents in some ways. Then I went on a limb and asked about Jenny's parents. Were they not really"with it," unsuccessful, not respected and not really out in the world? Her jaw drops. For the first time she realized that what was motivating her to try to achieve this definition of success was deeper than she ever imagined. She was trying to become everything she wanted her parents to be.
When setting goals it is important to set realistic goals that set you up for success. Often times we defeat ourselves on the road of life by subconsciously buying into a value system or aspiration. Doing the deep work can save a lifetime of frustration, confusion and pain in pursuit of some foreign definition of success.