Whose Goals Are You Really Chasing?

By Ali Luke

December 8, 2011   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Set Goals

Do you have a big goal for the next year – or perhaps a three-year or five-year plan? You might have a whole bunch of goals, even if you don’t call them that – perhaps ranging through things like:

  • Lose weight
  • Make lots of money
  • Get a promotion
  • Study for a new qualification

Stop reading for a moment, and think about some of the goals that are currently lodged in your mind – they might be things you’ve told yourself you “should” do, but you’ve not made much progress on them. You may want to write them down.

Whose goals are these?

Perhaps that seems like a stupid question: obviously, they’re your goals … aren’t they?

Unfortunately, there’s a fair chance that some of “your” goals aren’t really yours at all. They might belong to your parents, your friends, or even your society as a whole.

Here’s how other people’s goals can become yours – and why you want to take control again.

  • #1: Your Parents’ (or Family’s) Goals
    Naturally enough, parents often have big hopes and dreams for their kids. They may have struggled through hardship and made sacrifices in order to support their children – and they might have ideas about what constitutes a “good” career or a valuable life.

Parents (or other relatives) may impose goals by:

  • Insisting that a particular activity isn’t worth pursuing because “there’s no money in it” – perhaps art, writing or music
  • Focusing on certain qualifications and career paths – perhaps wanting their children to become doctors or lawyers
  • Encouraging a particular type of lifestyle by criticizing behavior that they consider “wrong”
  • Talking about the success of certain family members in terms of career, wealth, marriage, etc…

How to Change: Spend some time digging deep into your own goals. What do you really want for yourself? If you’re pursuing a degree or career that you dislike, don’t be afraid to change to something new. Your family may well turn out to be more supportive than you expect.

  • #2: Your Friends’ Goals
    Among groups of friends, it’s common for particular traits to spread. For instance, if your friends are all overweight, there’s a good chance that you’ll be overweight too.

One recent and dismaying example of this trend is for breast enhancements, with women feeling pressured into following their friends into having surgery.

Your friends might not talk about their goals as such. But they probably have a set of things that they value – and it may be hard for you to identify your own values. For instance, if you work with colleagues who just care about the paycheck, you might find it tough to stick to what’s important to you: doing a good job and playing a valuable role in society.

How to Change: Consider joining a group or club that relates to one (or more) of your goals. For instance, if you’re starting up your own business but all your friends are traditionally-employed, you could look for small business networking opportunities in your area.

  • #3: Your Society’s Goals
    Family and friends aren’t the only people whose goals you might have unwittingly adopted. Society as a whole can impose certain goals on you – ones that may not be what you want at all.

Big companies have an interest in making sure you think of certain things as important or even essential. They encourage you to adopt goals that mean purchasing their products. For instance, you might end up buying gym membership or diet products because you feel like you “should” get in shape – even though you’re already pretty healthy.

If you find yourself thinking that’s just the way it is or everyone knows that, try questioning your assumptions.

  • Is it really better to buy a house, or would you be just as happy renting?
  • Will that new gadget/TV/game really enhance your life?
  • Do you need a new car?
  • Do you and your spouse really want to have a pricey meal out on Valentines’ day, or are you both just doing it because you feel like you should?

Some of society’s goals and priorities might well be in tune with your own. Others won’t.

How to Change: Don’t be afraid to be different! There are plenty of ways you can challenge the assumptions of society – that might mean living frugally, homeschooling your kids, avoiding designer labels, or whatever else you want to do.

You only have one life to live: your own. Don’t waste years of it chasing other people’s goals. Take the time to decide what you want, and go after it wholeheartedly.

Ali Luke

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