What happens after you attain your big goals

The impacts of identity on success.

You might have a goal to run a marathon or study for a new vocational skill or academic insight. These types of goals vary from intensity of effort and their duration. So, a high intense marathon training program might last a few months as opposed to a PhD which takes many years. Yet what happens to you after these goals are attained?

Once the immediate elation and emotional delight of goal attainment subsides, it is common for you to feel slightly or deeply deflated. After all that effort there is a void of mental and physical focus. How you prepare to deal with this phase should be a part of your overall goal setting planning, preparation and understanding.

Identify your identity.

A person who trains for a charity long bike ride will soon be known as a biker or cyclist first. This is the outward signal being sent to your neighbors each time you go out for a ride, with your work colleagues when you show up from your bike commute and your friends as you share anecdotes that refer to the times spent cycling. You share stories from equipment, weather, road conditions, time management, feelings of freedom and the impact on your health.

Only after a while will people understand your efforts was for a specific event. This also helps form part of your external identity. Yet your own personal sense of identity had never changed. You simply cared so much about a specific cause that helped to inspire and motivate your actions to partner with a relevant charity and activity to help raise funds and awareness.

There are many variations of the above scenario that might indeed change your own feelings about how you see yourself and how others see you. So, a leading football player will be known as a great striker for many years and then need to change their identity as a coach or trainer. However, that same striker had for a while been interested in motivation, sharing techniques and the rewards that seeing others improve gave them.

The same can be said for a business entrepreneur. The goal to run a business of over a million dollars once attained can lead to a change of identity. Here lies the dilemma.

How you set up your goals and understand the core motivators will help how you respond after their eventual success or failure. If you have put all your identity as a pilot and then failed your medical test just before your exam, it can lead to a feeling of helplessness and void.

Being more than what you do

If you are known just for what you do, then this will leave yourself and others with an esteem and value proportional to those actions. For example, a person that just sweeps the floor will soon be replaced for a lower paid worker or automated cleaner. The difference happens when you become a reason, a story a purpose. So, the floor sweeper that always has a smile, greats people constantly and is seen to take personal pride in their job that goes beyond just the task in hand helps boost the mood, motivation and atmosphere of their surroundings. That simply could never be replaced by an automated device.

The same approach for your goals is important. Instead of being known as a one trick pony focused on a singular goal, ensure the wider reasons for that goal pursuit is known, shared and part of your overall strategy. So, retaining good health and relationships plus community activity even whilst deep in a serious career or study will help you once those goals are attained or removed due to external impacts.

Concentrating on a wider purpose is important. Imagine the roof repair person. Do they just patch holes in roofs? No, a motivated roofer knows that are reducing CO2 by limiting heat out of the roof, they minimize the owner’s insurance premiums by protecting the building contents from rain and snow. Even these small details have a large impact on the abilities for that roofer to remain happy in their job for many years.

Grief after goals

If a goal has been attained or failed, there is the risk of feeling not relief but grief. This is part of a transition and natural process to move forward. Having all the time, effort and focus on a singular outcome may impact a person other emotional needs to connect to friends, family, community and peers. The time after and lack of replacement focus leads to the risk of emotional loss and grief.

The goal is dead, long live the new goal

You probably have heard the much-used quote that “It’s about the journey and not the destination”. This is true with goals. As they are attained or failed, new goals can be created. The new goals can be very different in scale, time-frame and the areas of focus. Yet these drivers help keep motivation and drive to a wider more meaningful life.

Mediocracy and Contentment

We often compare ourselves to the highest achievers and then believe we have just mediocre results. Yet, often to our friends and community they might measure you higher from your drive, abilities to grow, change and develop. So, remain true and honest to yourself whilst respecting great achievements do not have to be the greatest.

Further Reading:

Professional identification and career goals: Goal setting in the role transition process. - Lindsey Michelle Greco - University of Iowa