Why do I feel like a failure?
The downside of big goals (and how to flip it).
You know that pop science theory where there are several possible futures you could end up in? And you’ve ended up in this one because of the choices you made? Well, sometimes I think I’ve taken a wrong turn down the trousers legs of time, as dear old Terry Pratchett used to say. The present I’m living in doesn’t match the future I thought I was headed for. Sometimes my mind slips from one to the other and I feel sad for the future that never came.
The inevitable conclusion? I feel like a failure.
Except of course it’s just not true.
I love the life I unintentionally created. Through choices I didn’t want to make at the time, I’m in a great place with a fulfilling future gently revealing itself as time goes on.
Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of my present that I’d cheerfully wish away if could, mostly around the health of those close to me. But I don’t know what else would go if did. I might just end up chucking the baby out with the bathwater. So I don’t.
Of course, there isn’t really another future that I occasionally catch glimpses of. Just like I can’t edit my current life to keep the good bits and erase the bad. Although there are theories and beliefs which do allow for this, I don’t subscribe to them so they’d probably ignore me if I tried. For me, there’s a more mundane explanation than the supernatural-natural power of the mind and oneness with the universe. It passes the Occam’s Razor test too: the simplest explanation is probably correct.
It’s just my mind teasing me with the dreams of my youth & (although I hate to say it), my middle-age.
This got me thinking.
What’s the point of goals?
Most of what we do in the moment, (when we’re not being mindful of course), is about getting safely into tomorrow and beyond. Your unconscious is constantly trying to work out what’s going on right now, planning for possible futures, using lessons learned in the past.
Feelings like happiness, love, hunger, sleepiness, encourage you to take advantage of a good now, whilst anger, worry, embarrassment, guilt, fear make you want to get the hell out of a possible future your mind thinks could turn nasty.
These are all short term behaviour patterns, designed to get you to deal with the immediate future by behaving accordingly. But there’s more to life than tomorrow. If all we did was get into tomorrow, we wouldn’t progress. We’d still be hunter-gatherers in the savannahs of somewhere or other.
In short, the goal of a goal is to get you to build a brighter future than where you are now. It’s a powerful motivator. It creates desire.
Flipping the downside of big goals
We mistake this power, this dream, this desire and believe it to be prediction.
And when you arrive in a different future than the one of your dreams, you feel like a failure. If you’re not careful, you’ll regret your life & the choices you made. I know.
And yet, without that earlier dream you wouldn’t be where you are now.
The dreams of your youth did their job. They got you this far. A place you would never have reached without them. Goals were never really designed to bring you the dream, just to give you enough drive to progress and do more than simply stand still.
So now what?
If you’re still on track for the dreams of yesteryear then by all means keep going! And if you’re not, perhaps it’s time to let that dream evolve into whatever you need to dream now. You’ve not yet become the ‘you’ you’re going to be.
The past is gone and your future’s not yet written.
You’re the author.
Would you like to borrow a pen?
If you’d like to have a chat about how you can overcome feelings of failure or regret, drop me a line here.
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