The thirties are a decade I like to call the “striving decade.” We’re all pushing forward to accomplish things – to move up the career ladder, to find a life partner, to have children, to completely switch careers, etc. We have goals and they seem like they exist in a pressure cooker (at least for me, they do.) As an article in Jezebel once said, the 30’s are the “do or die decade.” (In our minds, at least.)
I recently was reading an article about OCD sufferers in Real Simple, and the therapists talked about how they coached their clients through their OCD affliction. They mentioned something that I found fascinating. It’s the idea of emotional payoffs from goals.
When we set goals for yourself, how often do you think how you want to feel after you’ve accomplished the goal? I realized that I rarely do. Or if I do, it’s a very vague sense of “Oh, I’ll be so much happier once I’ve gotten a job in a writer’s room on a TV show.” But that’s not enough. You have to specifically identify the emotions. In this instance, the emotional payoff I want from that job is to feel like I’m using my best skills in a job, happy because I’m exercising my creative muscles, and content to be around like-minded people.
This idea of emotional payoff from goals could explain why a lot of people wake up one day and realize they’ve accomplished a lot, but still feel empty. And you begin to get that feeling that nothing you do will be enough.
So the key question to ask when you’re setting those New Year’s Resolutions is:
What emotions do you want to feel when you attain a goal?
I like to increase the joy of reaching a goal by assigning a reward along with it. The cost of the reward should reflect the size of the goal reached.