Why it Feels Weird to Achieve your Goals

man who just hiked a mountain looking down

Have you ever hit a goal that used to seem like a faraway dream? Whether it was getting that promotion, buying that dream car with your hard-earned money, or traveling to that dream destination — after the excitement of it all died down, did you feel a little lost, tense, or confused?

I remember striving for a promotion to a management position in Santiago, Chile, where I could run my own team fairly autonomously and of course, live abroad. To 23-year-old me, this was the ultimate dream.

Then I got it. I was offered the position so I flew to Santiago. I was greeted with dozens of smiling faces who were thrilled by my presence. My company put me up in a 14th-story penthouse in Las Condes, a ritzy commune of the city, with two balconies overlooking the Andes Mountains. It was quite literally a dream come true. I went from working hourly to creating my own schedule, maneuvering my way around this stunning new city independently, and getting the opportunity to live in a Spanish-speaking country — the ultimate trifecta of my goals at that time!

That’s why, about a month after I arrived, as I sat poolside on the rooftop of my posh Andean apartment building, I was alarmed by the feeling of discomfort. I almost felt disappointed. But how could I? I was literally living my dreams in one of the most gorgeous places I could imagine. I had gotten the most important promotion of my life until that point, I was being recognized at my company for excellent performance, and I could basically do whatever I wanted. Yet I felt lukewarm about it. I sighed as my toes splashed in the refreshing water and I overlooked the Andes mountain range.

It wasn’t that I no longer wanted this life. No, I was very happy to have achieved the promotion and the move to Santiago. And it wasn’t that it was any less than what I imagined — on the contrary, it exceeded all expectations. As I journaled and thought and thought and journaled, it eventually dawned on me…

We don’t get our satisfaction in life from achieving great goals. While it feels euphoric to hit a big goal, this feeling lasts but a short time. True satisfaction comes from working towards our goals. The progress we make on a daily basis that inches us closer to that ultimate goal is what gets us out of bed in the morning, invigorates us to keep going through the pain and rejection, and keeps us up at night with excitement.

And if you keep moving forward, you will eventually hit that goal. It’s important to be prepared for what that’s going to feel like — it will be exhilarating. You’ll pop the champagne and dance the night away, celebrating your newest success. But then reality will set in, because once you have achieved this goal, this is now your new normal. Now you have the car, so it’s no longer in your dreams, it’s in your driveway. You’ll use it to get to and from the store, then you’ll spill some coffee on the seat, and you’ll have to take it to the mechanic eventually. It will no longer be shiny and new, you’ll no longer think about it as you used to before it was yours. Same with that promotion or travel destination — once you’re there, that’s your life. You’re living it; it’s your everyday routine.

I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t hit your goals, or that hitting your goals is negative. Far from it! You absolutely SHOULD hit your goals, and do it as fast as you want to! What you need to be prepared for is setting the next goal that’s beyond your current goal. Because although hitting your upcoming goal feels amazing, it is ephemeral and you will soon after need something to throw yourself into. Otherwise, we’d all be sitting around, feet kicked up, feeling proud of ourselves for graduating from the fifth grade. If accomplishing one achievement in our lives was enough to fulfill us, we probably wouldn’t have graduated high school!

Don’t put too much value on any individual goal, and bear in mind that you will be doing something greater than your next goal after you achieve it. You don’t have to know what that greater goal is going to be, sometimes you have to hoist yourself up to a new level before you can see beyond your current project. Nevertheless, a key to not getting stuck is to remember that life is made up of many different goals, big and small. Your journey to the next one is what fires you up each day, and one day, you will celebrate the accomplishment of that. It closes one chapter of your life and opens up a new one. Don’t sit in complacency in between.

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