“Will It Help Me Achieve My Life Goals?”
This question could help you make better decisions in your life.
Posted May 09, 2019
It’s one thing to say that you want to achieve certain life goals, whether education, career, financial, or some others. It’s an entirely different thing to actually do the work necessary to accomplish those goals. In other words, talk is cheap! You have to want it and you have to want it bad! Why? Because the chances are that you have a lot of forces in your life that don’t always align with your life goals and can, in fact, actively pull you away from them. Even worse, they can actually hurt your efforts to accomplish your goals. These conflicting forces might include wanting to stay out late with your friends, eating unhealthily, spending too much time staring at a screen, not exercising, not studying enough, the list goes on. When faced with these options, you have to make a choice about what’s most important to you.
Forks in the Road
I call these choices “forks in the road,” in which you have the option of two or more directions you can take. In fact, you are faced with potentially meaningful forks in the road every day in your life:
- “Should I go to bed early tonight?”
- “Should I eat this junk food?”
- “Should I put my phone away?”
- “Should I do my homework now?”
There are many influences that can determine which fork in the road you take; for example, fatigue, boredom, equally or more attractive alternatives, and a multitude of distractions that now inhabit your life.
There are also bigger forks in the road at various times in your life:
- “Do I want to stay in school?”
- “Should I change my major?”
- “Should I quit my job?
These “existential” questions are impacted by some of the immediate forces I described above, but also by bigger concerns including your current capabilities, what school you want to attend, what your dream job is, and whether you can afford to take a particular fork in the road.
There are no right-or-wrong answers to any of these questions. The so-called correct answer depends on your values, interests, and goals. At those many forks in the road that you face every day, you must decide what is important to you. You must look at each fork and decide which one you will take. The motivation you bring to your goals, your commitment and determination to achieve your life goals, the priority that you place on those goals, and the competing forces acting as a siren’s call for your attention, time, and energy will dictate which road you take and whether you ultimately accomplish your goals.
Efforts = Goals?
An important question for you to ask yourself as you are faced with these forks in the road is whether your efforts are consistent with your goals. In other words, are you putting forth enough effort to achieve your goals? I see a lot of people with big goals, but when I ask them whether their efforts equal their goals, few are willing to raise their hands. But one thing is for sure; if your efforts aren’t in line with your goals, you will not accomplish them. You have two choices, either increase your efforts to match your goals or reduce your goals to match your effort. Again, there is no clear fork to take here, just the fork that you choose.
The Question to Ask
If you have made a true commitment to pursuing your life goals and are willing to “put your money where your mouth is,” then when faced with difficult forks in the road, you can ask yourself one simple question: “Will it help me achieve my life goals?” This question takes all of the complexities of the many competing forces and boils them down to one simple notion that lies at the heart of striving toward your goals. This question also provides a clear distinction when you are tempted by other forces in your lives, most notably, screen time, sleep, and nutrition.
Once you’ve made a real commitment to your goals, this “Will it help me achieve my life goals?” question filters all of the forks in the road you face and makes your choice abundantly clear.
Especially for young people who are still figuring out their priorities and their commitments, one of the most common responses I hear when they are faced with a fork in the road is: “I don’t feel like it today.” This reaction often comes when they are confronted with a fork in the road between short-term fun and long-term commitment to their goals. I hear this when people are required to do extra work to get ahead, take on more responsibilities, when they are tired and aren’t in the mood to do the work, and when they would rather just enjoy themselves. Each of these situations is a test of your commitment to your life goals. The fork in the road that you take may very well determine whether you actually achieve your life goals.
“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” —Jonathan Field, 5-time martial arts world champion
It’s Not Just Your Commitment
As the saying goes, “It takes a village,” and that often applies to achieving life goals as well. When you make a commitment to pursue your life goals, you may not be the only ones making a commitment. Most notably, for young people, their parents are also making a significant commitment of time, energy, money, and sometimes making big sacrifices in their own lives. This commitment from parents makes the ongoing commitment of young people especially important. For sure, parents don’t always feel like, for example, writing big checks or waking up at 5:30 to drive their kids to early-morning sports practice, but they do it anyway because they want to support their children’s passion for something that is as positive and healthy. In turn, young people need to reciprocate in a similarly committed fashion by making choices that also best support their life goals. Without an alignment of commitment between children and their parents, there are going to be some very frustrated parents and some very unhappy kids. At these forks in the road, you should always go back to the basic question I suggested that they ask first: “Will it help me achieve my life goals?” Then, when you take the good road, everyone wins.